Meal Replacement Shakes: Miracle Solution or Marketing Hype?

Meal replacement shakes promise a convenient, quick fix for weight loss. But how effective are they? Let’s explore the history, purpose, and nutritional makeup of meal replacement shakes. And importantly, we'll answer the question of whether they are a necessary part of your diet.

Shake off weight with meal replacement drinks|Metrecal Steak Meal Replacement Ad from the 1960s

The History of Meal Replacements

Meal replacement shakes first rose to prominence in the 1960s, thanks to products like Metrecal. Originally designed for medical purposes, meal substitutes helped patients who were unable to consume solid foods due to various health conditions or surgeries. Their convenience and weight loss benefits quickly caught the attention of the broader public.

However, by the mid-1960s, the popularity of these shakes began to wane. Despite this, there have been several revivals over the years, including the launch of other meal replacement powders, ready-to-drink nutrition shakes, and meal substitute bars in the 1990s.

In the past decade, the meal replacement market has seen a resurgence, with both ready-made drink and powdered options gaining traction in markets like the US, UK, and Australia.

Woman Using Meal Replacement Powder Australia NZ

What do meal replacements do?

Meal replacement shakes aim to help you lose weight by cutting calories. They're often labelled as 'nutritionally complete,' promising to give you all the essential nutrients you need. They generally contain a blend of carbohydrates (albeit low sugar), protein, and a small amount of fat. They usually have fewer calories than a regular meal.

Lately, some brands have shifted their marketing focus. Instead of highlighting weight loss, they're promoting the convenience of meal replacement shakes for busy lifestyles.

At Roam, we also offer quick, on the-go options, but we advocate for these to supplement a balanced diet and an active lifestyle, not replace full meals on a regular basis.

Before you buy a meal replacement shake, consider what you're really after. Is it weight loss, convenience, or cost-effectiveness? A shake might not address the underlying issue you're facing. For instance, if you're too busy to eat proper meals consistently, that's a red flag.

Tackling the basics of your diet and exercise routine will bring more lasting improvements to your overall health.

Meal Replacements Shakes| For Men & Women| Australia

Meal Replacement Shakes in Australia and NZ

Popular meal replacement shakes have gained traction in Australia, largely due to their compelling marketing tactics. These leading brands often suggest that you can maintain your indulgent lifestyle while using their products to replace meals. It's a tempting offer, but it's a deeply flawed approach to health and longevity that capitalises on people's desire for quick fixes and indulgence.

Nutritionally, these leading meal replacement shakes are strikingly similar. One popular brand offers 209 calories, 30g of protein, 4g of fat, 11.2g of carbs, and 2.4g of sugar per serving. Another closely related brand isn't far behind with 204 calories, 28g of protein, 2.5g of fat, 16g of carbs, and 2.3g of sugar.

Despite these similarities, the marketing often targets men and women separately. These shakes are also touted to contain over 25 vitamins and minerals and claim to be suitable for replacing 1-2 meals a day.

What's the Catch?

Many leading meal replacement shakes use maltodextrin as their primary carbohydrate source. This ingredient is quickly processed by your body and has a high Glycemic Index (GI), which can lead to rapid spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar levels. This could make you feel hungry again soon after consumption and potentially lead to weight gain over time.

Additionally, these shakes often contain multiple thickening agents, which may not be ideal for gut health. While the inclusion of 25 vitamins and minerals might sound impressive, it doesn't guarantee that your body will effectively absorb all these nutrients.

Are meal replacements actually good for you?

While the idea of a nutritionally complete meal in a simple shake sounds appealing, there are drawbacks to skipping regular meals rich in vegetables and whole foods.

These meal replacement shakes do contain some fibre (6-7.5g per serving), but not all fibre is created equal. Whole foods like vegetables contain nutrients in proportions that work in harmony.  

There are better alternatives. Our advice may not be sexy, but it's simple and effective. Focus on meals high in vegetables and lean protein. For moderate carbohydrate intake, options like pumpkin and squash are excellent.

Lower carbohydrate vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower provide fibre and are rich in other essential nutrients. Aim
for 20-40 grams of protein in each meal to meet your protein needs, as calculated by our protein calculator.

The big takeaway? Don’t skimp on protein if you’re looking to lose weight, or feel full. Our 101 on Protein: Everything You Need To Know Guide has some handy
tips too.

Man shakes for Weight Loss and Meal Replacements

Can you lose weight with meal replacements?

Most dieticians express caution when recommending meal replacement shakes. The monotony of consuming the same liquid meal daily can affect your levels of satiety and overall enjoyment. While you may experience initial weight loss, it’s not uncommon to regain the weight when you transition back to eating regular meals.

This cycle makes meal replacement shakes an unsustainable long-term solution for weight management.

Your time, money, and effort are better spent on creating long-lasting eating habits (and exercise habits!) that leave you satisfied and guilt-free.

If you're looking for a more natural alternative for breakfast or lunch, check out the whole food meal examples below.

Wholefood Alternatives

  • Mango Coconut Vanilla Protein Smoothie Roam NZ AU

    Protein Smoothie

    Blend together a banana, a scoop of Roam Protein, a teaspoon of almond butter, and a cup of almond milk. Check out our recipes section for more inspiration.

  • Quinoa salad| Smart eating habits| Active life NZ

    Quinoa Salad

    Mix cooked quinoa with grilled chicken, 1/4 of an avocado, and a variety of veggies like spinach and cherry tomatoes.

  • Tofu salad| Dietary protein requirements| NZ

    Tofu Stir Fry

    For a vegan option, stir-fry tofu with veggies like bell peppers and broccoli, and serve it over a small portion of brown rice. The brown rice is richer in fibre than white rice.

These wholefood options not only match the nutritional profile but also offer a range of nutrients that work together for better health.

If you find yourself hungry in the afternoon or needing a snack at morning tea, opt for something high in protein but low in sugar and fat. Roam Protein is an excellent choice here, offering more than 22g of protein per serve, made with just five ingredients. Mix it with water or milk for a satisfying, nutrient-dense snack or for post-workout recovery.

So, what's the upshot?

While meal replacement shakes might seem like a quick fix for those with busy lives, they shouldn't be the cornerstone of your diet. Often, they don't live up to their weight loss promises.

A more effective and sustainable strategy is to combine high-quality protein options, like Roam Protein, with a variety of nutrient-rich foods. This balanced approach not only supports weight management but also complements an active lifestyle, making it a win-win for your overall well-being.

Meet Your Daily Protein Needs

Roam Protein is made with just five simple ingredients.
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