You’ve probably all seen the sci-fi shows where the inhabitants of the future get all their nourishment through liquids, or sometimes those strange jelly-like cubes, and whole foods seem to hold little to no importance in this new, convenient world. Now, this may seem like some distant future in the stars, but I can assure you that those products exist around us even now, as meal replacements.
Meal replacement shakes have been around for ages, come in different forms, and serve different purposes. Some are designed to provide a complete meal, others for convenience for busy people throughout the day, and others to supplement your nutritional intake.
We’ve already discussed whether or not you can live entirely on meal replacements in this article. Whilst we’ve concluded that this is an unsustainable plan that could have some negative effects on your body (particularly in terms of metabolism), there is still the question of how many meal replacement shakes can I have in one day?
The answer to this, of course, is that there is no limit to the amount of shakes you can have in a day - it’s more a question of how many you should have. Certain meal replacements will have a limit on the number of servings that should be consumed over the course of 24 hours, and this will be clearly stated. Usually, this is to ensure that you are not taking in more than the daily upper limit of certain vitamins and other nutrients.
The ingredients could affect your daily limit
When deciding whether or not to skip dinner in favour of a meal replacement, you want to make sure that your nutrition isn’t going to be affected and that you’re not accidentally ingesting anything that might damage your health over time, such as heavy metals and other contaminants. Whilst meal replacements might seem like they are a wellspring of vitamins and minerals, they can hold hidden dangers - such as high levels of mercury - depending on how and where the raw ingredients are sourced. Choosing a product which is rigorously tested for contaminants will help to ensure that you are not putting anything in your body that shouldn’t be there. Vivo Life’s WHOLE vegan nutritional shake, for example, is third party tested for heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides.
Keep your goals in mind
It’s also worth thinking about your goals and how meal replacements might help or hinder your ability to reach them. If you’re looking for a calorie deficit, replacing one meal a day with a shake will help to ensure that you aren’t sneaking in more calories than you’re intending, but with most shakes averaging 150-200 calories, replacing more than one meal might deny your body the energy it needs to function correctly. It should also be taken into consideration that most meal replacement shakes are formulated differently from protein powders so as to replicate the nutritional profile of a meal. They have a tendency to contain a lot more carbohydrates, which might affect your macros depending on your fitness goals.
We’ve covered how meal replacement shakes can work for weight loss here.
Don’t forget the joys of whole foods
Lastly, replacing too much of what we eat with an endless stream of shakes is unlikely to spark joy. Food is exciting, it’s creative, it’s full of colour and vibrancy and, importantly, different tastes and textures. Depriving yourself of a whole foods diet with lots of meal replacement shakes can make mealtimes boring, making you more likely to revert to empty calories, snack, or skip meals entirely due to taste boredom, especially when you consider that drinking a shake is definitely not as satisfying as eating a meal. Whole foods also contain digestive enzymes which are vital for healthy gut function, and breaking down what we eat, just in case you needed another reason to tuck into that salad!
We often recommend adding extra ingredients to your shake to add some variety and excitement - read more about what you can add to your meal replacement shakes here.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually start most days with a shake, and I’ve even been known to have one for lunch as well if I’m super busy! The difference for me is this: rather than drinking a straight up meal replacement, I use WHOLE (the caramel biscuit one is my favourite!) because it was designed with flexibility in mind. With 20g of plant protein, essential vitamins and minerals as well as the ever necessary Omega 3 fatty acids, I can start my day with a healthy nutritional boost I can flavour however I like. You can work WHOLE around your goals and macros as it has a lower carb content than most traditional meal replacements, so you can build your own shake or smoothie bowl without the fear of taste boredom or being tempted to reach for the doughnuts in an hour or so.
In short, replacing one meal a day with a shake is the best option, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor, or needing a specialist diet to combat the symptoms of certain conditions. However, in this instance, your GP will likely recommend a particular type of meal replacement.