Whey is a dietary supplement made up only of protein and amino acids. Very popular and used by bodybuilders, it can participate in the maintenance and development of muscle mass (1). By its composition, it is often low in calories, carbohydrates and fats, and even more particularly if you opt for a whey isolate. Replacing a meal with a whey shaker or meal replacement can be done under certain circumstances, but be careful not to overdo it. It is always recommended to favor the consumption of whole, solid foods rather than protein shakes during your meals. Today, whey is arguably the most popular supplement in sports nutrition.
Should we consume whey as a meal replacement?
If you are already preparing 5-6 meals a day, you may not have the time or the inclination to eat whole foods with a meal. A protein shake or shaker is of course very practical to consume since you simply need to mix your protein powder with water or the liquid of your choice and drink directly when you are on the move, at work or if you are in a hurry. However, it is important to distinguish between whey shaker and meal replacement which are completely different dietary supplements.
Whey will provide fast protein and amino acids when you need them urgently. This protein powder is characterized by its ultra-fast absorption rate. Therefore, whey alone is not recommended to be consumed as a meal replacement since it will not provide you with anything other than protein. However, if you mix it with a carbohydrate source like oats, fruit, or a fat source like almonds, its rate of absorption will be reduced and you will have a much more complete snack. Under no circumstances is whey considered a meal replacement.
The differences between whey and meal replacement
A whey shaker and meal replacement supplements do not have the same composition and therefore the same calorie and macronutrient content. As seen above, a whey shaker will mostly contain protein and almost no fat or sugar so as not to impact your diet. This type of supplement is therefore preferred during a snack or around training to provide your muscles with a rapid supply of proteins and amino acids. The latter may be essential like the BCAAs made up of leucine, which may have beneficial effects in decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle protein synthesis when consumed around training (2). The calorie content of a whey protein shake is no more than 200 calories and is often between 100 and 150 calories per serving. Among the most popular protein powders we can cite Whey Gold Standard from Optimum Nutrition, which is ranked among the best each year.
A meal replacement is a food supplement in the form of a powder for mixing or in the form of solid food such as bars, cakes and other snacks, intended to replace completely a meal in your day. We will mainly focus on meal replacement shakers that have a low calorie content but a complete and balanced composition of proteins, carbohydrates and essential nutrients. Typically used for people looking to lose weight and fat, these meal replacement shakers have more calories than a whey shaker, but less than a healthy, balanced meal you can prepare for yourself. They just allow you to have a “meal” to eat quickly so you don’t have to fall for fast food, for example. The calorie content of a meal replacement can range from 200 to 400 calories on average per serving.
Whey cannot replace your diet
So you will understand, whey cannot replace a meal in your diet but should be consumed to supplement your protein intake during the day and especially around training. A meal replacement can be used to replace a meal during the day, but you don’t need to eat it if you already have a healthy and balanced diet! It’s only more convenient if you’re in a hurry or on the go so you don’t have to throw yourself on sweets, fast food or industrial meals.