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Can you use meal replacement shakes for weight gain? It’s not what they’re marketed for, but the nutritional information is exciting, offering tons of important nutrients and easy, convenient calories.
Today we’re discussing what meal replacement shakes are, how you can use them for gaining weight, and which are best for this goal.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are a popular type of dietary supplement that is rich in nutrients, consumed instead of a meal.
These are often weight loss diet shakes, but may also be used for other reasons like being busy or lacking proper meal preparation facilities (i.e. at work).
Meal replacements are nutrient- and calorie-rich weight gain shakes that help provide the resources your body needs. There are a wide range of these shakes on the market, and that means a wide range of nutritional values.
What’s in a Meal Replacement?
Meal replacements use extracts from other foods – either dairy or plant-based. Typically, combinations include protein powder, a starchy carb from wholegrains or pulses, and vegetable extracts for vitamins and minerals.
There are benefits to a wide range of ingredients in a meal replacement shake. Real food extract powders typically pack in vitamins and minerals, which help support your body’s processes and beat deficiency.
This is especially important if you’re using them to replace meals, where whole foods offer the most important nutrients.
1. Dairy-Based Meal Replacements
“Normal” (I.e. not plant based) shakes usually start with a protein source – either whey protein isolate, milk, or casein proteins. These are complete, meaning they don’t lack any amino acids, which is why they’re the staple of these shakes.
They’re also perfect for gaining weight. Casein is a slow-digesting protein, while whey protein is a fast digesting protein. You may be wondering – is casein or whey better for weight gain?
Milk protein is the answer – it’s a mixture of the two and even boosts the quality of vitamin and mineral absorption from this kind of meal replacement shake.
Secondary nutrients – carbs and healthy fats – can come from many sources. Extracts from wholefoods are the best. Dextrose and maltodextrin are low quality alternatives, but you typically want carbs from wholegrains, beans, and pulses. Healthy fats are best from coconut oil and MCTs, avocado, olives, and even dairy itself.
Checking out the ingredient list is one of the best ways to figure out what to look for and which meal replacement shake is best.
2. Plant-Based Meal Replacements
Plant based meal replacements like Huel and others typically use a blend of popular plant foods and wholegrains. Rice, pea, hemp, and beans are all common choices in plant-based shakes.
These offer a complete blend of amino acids to support muscle and connective tissues. This is important for weight gain, in particular, to support both quality and quantity of weight gain. It also provides a range of high-quality carbohydrate sources – among the best on the market.
The additional ingredients – chosen for minerals – are likely to be the same as in non-plant-based shakes.
Fruits and vegetables are the perfect source for high-quality micronutrients, and they’re always good to see on the label!
Meal Replacement Shakes Nutritional Information
Most meal replacements aim to balance macronutrients like a real meal: high protein and carbs, with a relatively low fat content. This is perfect for any diet, offering a stable basis to work around, while providing the most important nutrients in a good ratio.
Typically, you want to get the highest protein and carb shake possible. Fats can improve calorie content significantly, but protein and carbs help support muscle gain in particular.
Recommended: Here’s an overview on the types of whey protein.
The Best Meal Replacement Shake for Weight Gain
The best meal replacement shake for weight gain is Kaizen Naturals Complete Meal, as it offers 21 essential vitamins and minerals, 25 grams of protein, 26 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat per serving. All of this makes this a high calorie, high protein shake to gain weight.
We’ve worked with a huge range of different products so that this list would cover everything you need to know, and the list of high calorie meal replacement drinks includes:
- Kaizen Naturals Complete Meal
- Ample Original: Low-carb Meal Shake
- Labrada Lean Body Nutrition Shake
- Ensure® Plus Milk Chocolate Nutrition Shake
- SATURO DRINK
- Boost Very High Calorie
- INVIGOR8 Superfood Protein Shake with Immunity Boosters
Let’s see how each of these drinks can help you put on weight:
1. Kaizen Naturals Complete Meal
Kaizen Naturals Complete Meal is the best meal replacement shake for weight gain. It has a lot of protein, 21 essential vitamins and minerals (at 25-250% of your needs) and a macronutrient ratio we love. You’ll get 25g of protein, 26g of carbs, and 5g of fat per serving.
This is the perfect meal replacement shake for muscle gain. It’s high in carbs and protein, which build muscle, while containing relatively few fats.
This makes it a faster-absorbing shake that is perfect before or after an exercise routine. This is a specialist role – it’s not a real meal replacement – but it’s a perfect blend of protein shake, mass gainer, and nutrient support to drive better muscle growth and weight gain.
The servings themselves are relatively small, and you may want to double up. They offer 240calories per scoop, which would become 480 calories per double scoop, and you’d double all of those great macros we just mentioned. This is a fantastic shake – even if it’s likely to be a little thicker than Kaizen intended.
Kaizen offer the one of the best meal replacements for weight gain because of this balance, the carb and protein focus, and the strength of the vitamin and mineral profile.
These add up quickly, and even one shake in a day can add a huge nutrient boost to your weight gain diet. That is why kaizen has made our #1 spot: versatility, wonderful macros, and great micronutrients!
2. Ample Original: Low-carb Meal Shake
Ample is a low-carb meal shake, perfect for Keto dieters and others trying to watch their carb intake. It has a 400-calorie energy content, with 25g of protein, 28g of dietary fats, and 11g of carbohydrates, making it one of the best meal replacement protein shakes to gain weight (and weight management).
This makes Ample a relatively modest shake by calories alone. Where it shines is in the additional vitamin and mineral content.
It packs a healthy boost of vitamin D, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These are backed up by a few great superfoods like cinnamon, added dietary fiber from Psyllium, and a powerful probiotic blend.
Ample isn’t the best meal replacement shake for weight gain – it’s not going to support muscle growth like some others, with low carb content and protein:fat ratios.
However, it’s a great clean energy shake. This is a great choice for early mornings to power through the late-morning lull and add easy calories to your diet.
3. Labrada Lean Body Nutrition Shake
Labrada nutrition shake is a protein-rich meal replacement drink, offering a huge 40g of protein per carton.
It also contains caffeine, which makes it a great replacement to your usual coffee throughout the day – especially if you’re trying to increase protein intake during the working or academic day.
Lean body has 22 essential vitamins and minerals (most of them, but not quite all), and 0g sugar (or artificial sweeteners). This is a great balance that makes it a clear choice for building high-quality weight (and weight management) without too much fullness and without wasting calories.
This makes Labrada a lower-calorie choice at 280 per container. This is an easy one to fit into your diet, however, and you can get the calories elsewhere – this is about protein.
Labrada’s shake is a great protein, vitamin, and mineral drink, just be sure to get your carbs alongside these drinks!
4. Ensure® Plus Milk Chocolate Nutrition Shake
Ensure Plus is a nutrition drink, focusing on a wide range of essential nutrients.
It’s also one of the most common clinical choices (i.e. in hospitals under doctor supervision) due to the balanced nutrient profile – as well as being gluten-free, kosher, halal, and lactose-free, all leading to it being one of the top best meal replacement shakes to gain weight.
Ensure offers 350 calories, which is a relatively mild content, but is good relative to the size of a bottle. The nutrients themselves are great: 16g protein, 48g carbohydrate, and 11g fat. This makes them a balanced meal replacement supplement for the average person’s needs – around those 30-40% daily intake marks.
This makes Ensure a good meal replacement for weight gain – especially due to the 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This is a classic ratio for pre- and post-workout protein shakes for weight gain.
It also provides a great range of vitamins and minerals, including the vast majority of essential nutrients, arguably the best on the market – again, around 25-50% of your daily needs for most vitamins and minerals.
5. SATURO DRINK
Saturo offers all 26 vitamins and minerals, as well as a very well-balanced macronutrient profile, making it a good contender for the meal replacement drinks for weight gain.
It has roughly 420 calories per serving, with 25g of fat and protein alike, and 42g carbohydrate. This is a great balance and ensures well-rounded intake.
The fat content is a little higher than optimal for muscle mass gains, but it provides a great “during the day” shake due to the slower digestion and release of energy.
It actually has one of the strongest vitamin and mineral profiles, with a minimum of 25% of your daily needs, and up to 63%.
Saturo is one of the best, most well-balanced meal replacement shakes to gain weight. It doesn’t stand out in any one area, but is the best all-purpose choice with a great mid-high calorie content and an eye to the nutrients that your body really needs.
It’s high on our list for this balance and the versatility it offers throughout the day.
Saturo isn’t the highest calorie, nor the best pre- or post-workout shake, and it’s not even the highest protein. What it does is combine all 3 of these functions perfectly to provide a great overall product for real results.
6. Boost Very High Calorie
Boost Very High Calorie nutrition shake offers 530 calories each, which is the highest on our list. It’s a powerful high-energy shake that provides 22g of protein per serving, along with 52g of carbs and 26g of fat. This makes it a great meal replacement supplement for weight gain, offering plenty of extra calories.
The protein is a little lower than we’d like, but the sheer calorie density makes this a great choice. It’s one of the most powerful “snack” that you can add between meals for a convenient alternative to a mass gainer shake or protein supplement.
It’s rich in just about everything you need with tons of extra vitamins and minerals in that “goldilocks zone” of 20-50% of your daily needs.
Huel is one of the most popular plant-based meal replacement shakes on the market. It has a huge following and offers complete nutritional support: protein, fats, carbs, and all 26 essential vitamins and minerals. This makes it a compelling choice.
The macro split is protein-rich, with a 36-30-30% between protein, carbs, and fats. The remaining 3% is added fiber.
This makes Huel a good balance to support general energy and nutrient intake. It’s a little high in fat for muscle mass gain, which would be better spent on more complex carbs and protein.
The vitamin and mineral profile of Huel is powerful, with roughly 20%-70% of your RDA of each of the essential micronutrients.
This is a great intake and puts Huel as one of the most effective choices on our list. It’s a powder form, allowing you to customize your shakes further, which is a great benefit.
8. INVIGOR8 Superfood Protein Shake with Immunity Boosters
I’ve included Invigor8 because it’s a protein and superfood shake that pairs perfectly for making your own meal replacement protein shakes for weight gain. It’s the basis for these shakes and blends perfectly with carb powders (like the Transparent Labs carb powder) or blended complex carbs (like oats or banana).
This is a protein-rich powder that also includes added chicory fiber, a blend of green veggies, high-quality essential fats, digestive support, immunity support, cognitive function protectors, and probiotics, all of which is needed for being great meal replacement drinks for weight gain.
This provides a great background for blending, letting you experiment with your own flavors and nutrient choices.
You can add carbs or fats in your own proportions, from your own sources, and with the knowledge that your protein and nutrient intake is going to be great – no matter what you add!
What Makes a Great Meal Replacement Shake for Weight Gain?
The best meal replacements offer a lot of calories, carbs and protein to drive muscle mass, and the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
It focuses on a good balance of ingredients, but prioritizes those which drive muscle growth (protein and carbs).
Some ingredients include more fats which slows down digestion.
This is a blessing for all-day energy, but doesn’t contribute to high-quality muscle gains in the same way. Lower-fat meal replacements are better for muscle gain and to gain weight, as well as doubling up as a pre- or post-workout protein shake with added nutrients for best results.
Let’s take a quick look at each of the most important factors for a great meal replacement shake for weight gain and muscle mass growth…
1. Calories: Energy for Muscle Growth
Calories are the most important factor in a meal replacement shake for weight gain. It makes sure that it’s contributing to a calorie surplus, which makes weight gain happen. Low-calorie meal replacement shakes are no use for building muscle and increasing your energy intake.
Using a meal replacement shake instead of a meal requires a huge calorie content. This is rare on the market.
However, you can use weight gain shakes as an addition to your normal diet – especially as a snack or during a lull during busy days of study, work, or family commitments.
Meal replacements that fit either of these goals, with a high calorie content, are worth your time.
2. Macros: Protein and Carbs for Weight Gain
The macronutrient profile of a meal replacement shake should be rich in protein and carbs. These are the main calorie and nutrient sources that go towards muscle gain. Higher values on either of these is a great benefit and makes a meal replacement shake better for weight gain.
Fat content should also be present, and ideally from a high-quality source – with omega-3 or MCT fats.
3. Vitamins and Minerals: Key to Healthy Weight Gain
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, more is better. Meal replacements are typically moderate in all fields, and we want to look for around 1/3 of your daily requirement (or more) as a mark of excellence.
4. Value: Calories and Protein Per Dollar
The value of a meal replacement shake is in the calorie and protein content per dollar.
This is key to getting the best from your shake, as well as helping you get more calories overall when comparing each buy. This means being able to buy more, or just saving money for other things.
You don’t just want good nutritional values – you want them at a good price. Some economy products offer excellent performance on this one factor as a way of overcoming weaknesses in other areas.
5. Taste, Texture, and Mixability
The taste and texture of a high calorie meal replacement shake changes the experience – which can be a major deal breaker.
If you’re adding them to your diet, you don’t want to grit your teeth through an unpleasant taste or texture.
A good drinking experiencer can elevate a meal replacement shake above contemporaries. You have to drink them often, after all.
A smoother texture and better taste is always subjective, but it’s a feature that can make a meal replacement shake stand out.
6. Synergies: Ingredient Combinations for Better Results
Synergy is when two ingredients work better together than apart – like milk protein and key electrolytes.
There are hundreds of possible ingredient synergies and each one makes a meal replacement shake more powerful without adding any extra calories or ingredients.
Synergy-rich products are well-designed and offer the best results for their calorie and macronutrient content. This can be a huge advantage over alternatives as it gets you better results. Keep an eye out for these combinations.
Frequently Asked Questions
High calorie meal replacement shakes are getting popular, and there are a lot of questions around them. Are meal replacements good for gaining weight? Which one should you use? Can they help you gain muscle mass?
Let’s take a look at these questions and the most important things you need to know about meal replacement shakes for muscle gain.
The best meal replacement shake for weight gain is the Kaizen Naturals Complete Meal drink.
This is a great example of all the things that a meal replacement shake should be – especially for those of us looking to use them for weight gain and muscle mass.
The combination of calories, macros, and micronutrients are a perfect balance. The speed of absorption and dose-controls are perfect benefits that all of us can benefit from.
Honorable mentions go out to Saturo and Huel for offering a more sustainable meal replacement for all-day energy and a slower absorption rate. They’re not as good for building muscle, but are still great choices if you’re looking for something more sustained and “meal-like”.
High calorie drinks for weight gain can be added to existing meals, if you’re smart about the timing and how they fit into your diet.
They’re not just to replace meals – they’re a fantastic nutrient source for building mass in a healthy, balanced way!
You Might Like:
- Mass Gainer Vs Meal Replacement for Weight Gain
- Huel vs Mass Gainer: Can It Help Build Muscle?
- Keto Friendly Mass Gainer Supplements
- What Type Of Whey Protein is Best For Weight Gain?
- How Often to Drink Protein Shakes to Gain Weight?
Rohan Arora is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and has been actively involved in sports and fitness for over 8 years. He now leads the team of fitness specialists and personal trainers who help people around the world with personalized workout and nutrition plans, along with providing the right information on sports supplements.