The 7 Best Meal Replacement Protein Powder to Build Muscle
Traditional protein powders and meal replacement shakes are two of the most popular types of dietary supplements currently on the market. While many people may think that protein and meal replacement powders are the same thing though, that is not actually the case. Today, we will look at the best meal replacement protein powder, and also analyze the key differences between them.
Sure, they may both be packed full of essential nutrients and are designed to be quick and easy to use, even while on the go. However, that is where the similarities end, as each supplement is designed to offer its own unique health benefits and affect your body in different ways.
- Protein powders: are designed to boost your protein intake. Most of the calories come from proteins, and do not have any micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) or other essential nutrients.
- Meal replacements: are designed to replace a meal. They have a balanced macro split (protein, carbs, and fats), and they include all essential vitamins & minerals.
That said, there are a few products that combine protein drinks and meal replacement powders in a single supplement, you just need to know where to look. With that in mind, let us show you the very best meal replacement shakes high in protein that is currently on the market.
Our Top Picks for Protein Meal Replacement Shakes
Best High Protein Meal Replacement
#1 – Instant Knockout Complete
Best Vegan Meal Protein Powder
Best Low-Calorie Meal Replacement
- Protein Powder vs Meal Replacement
- #1 Best High Protein Meal Replacement – Instant Knockout Complete
- #2 Best Vegan Meal Replacement Protein Powder – Rootana
- #3 Best High Protein Low-Calorie Meal Replacement Shake – LyfeFuel Daily Essential
- #4 Best Low Carb Protein Meal Replacement Shake – HLTH Code Complete Meal
- #5 Best High Calorie Meal Replacement Protein Powder – Naked Mass
- #6 Best Meal Replacement Protein Powder With Whey – Complete 360 Meal
- #7 Best Protein Shake To Use As A Meal Replacement – LyfeFuel Performance
- Protein Shakes As Meal Replacements: What Is The Difference Between Meal Replacement And Protein Powder?
- Can You Use Whey Protein As A Meal Replacement?
- Final Thoughts On How To Drink Meal Replacement Shakes & Protein Shakes
Protein Powder vs Meal Replacement
As previously shown, protein powders and meal replacement are two different things, but they can often be used interchangeably.
Here, we will highlight the main differences between meal replacement powders and protein shakes, so you know which one fits you best.
Who should take protein powders? Those looking to increase protein in their diets. Primarily people doing weight lifting or sports.
When should you take protein shakes? Usually, protein shakes are consumed straight after the workout and often before bed. They can also be used as part of a healthy breakfast.
How many calories are in a protein shake? Most protein shakes have between 100-150kcals and provide around 25g of protein.
More: In a protein shake, around 80% of the calories come from protein, and it has marginal amounts of carbs and fats.
High Protein Meal Replacement Shakes
Who should take meal replacement shakes? Anybody can use meal replacement shakes to replace any meal they wish. They are an excellent addition to a healthy and balanced diet.
When should you take meal replacement powders? Most people replace either breakfast or lunch with a shake.
How many calories are in a meal replacement shake? It can vary a lot, but most meal shakes have between 150-400kcal, and 20-35g of protein per shake.
More: On the contrary, in most meal replacement shakes 20-30% of the energy comes from protein, and the rest comes from fats and carbohydrates. Meal replacement shakes that are high in protein can have up to 40% of calories coming from protein.
#1 Best High Protein Meal Replacement – Instant Knockout Complete
- 35g of protein per serving
- Super filling
- Designed by MMA athletes
- Vegan, soy-free, 26 vitamins & minerals
- Extremely effective for weight loss and building lean mass
- Fuels your workout performance and improves recovery
- Only comes in Vanilla
- Not the cheapest
Instant Knockout Complete meal replacement shake is sold as a fat-burning meal replacement for weight loss.
It has been carefully designed with athletes in mind, particularly those like MMA fighters who need to stimulate fat burning at the same time as building and maintaining lean muscle mass.
It has 35 grams of protein, which is comparable to many pure protein shakes, and comes from pea protein powder, organic brown rice protein, and chia seed protein. Between them, this plant-based protein blend has all the essential amino acids the body needs to grow and recover (1)(2).
Besides, the Instant Knockout Complete meal replacement formula also features oat flour and golden flax seeds. This delivers 35 grams of carbs, as well as large quantities of healthy fats like MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), fibre, and vitamins and minerals per serving.
This will help to fuel your muscles and give you plenty of energy during workouts, and then replenish your glycogen stores and keep your heart, mind, and body healthy as you recover (3).
Despite containing all the nutrients it does and being very filling, Instant Knockout Complete also contains just 400 calories per serving. This means it is an effective meal replacement shake whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or achieve more acute weight management.
It may not be the cheapest meal replacement powder on the market, but the fact that it can be both a protein shake and a meal replacement shake in one product still lets it offer great value.
Throw in its great vanilla flavor and Instant Knockout Complete meal replacement powder is easily the best meal replacement option for people seeking a product that also doubles as a protein shake.
#2 Best Vegan Meal Replacement Protein Powder – Rootana
- No artificial flavors, colours, or sweeteners – not even stevia
- Balanced macros
- No processed carbs
- Dark Chocolate is delicious
- 20g of protein per serving
- Not gluten-free
- Not as high in protein shakes as others
Rootana is designed first and foremost as a vegan meal replacement and may well be the very best value meal replacement shake currently on the market. However, its 20 grams of plant-based protein per serving also allows it to double up as a protein shake as well.
Its main source of protein is pea protein isolate, which is said to be the best vegan protein as it is a complete protein that has all the essential amino acids you find in whey (4). It then gets extra protein from the golden milled flaxseed, oat flour, and sunflower seed oil in its formula as well.
The Rootana ingredient list is then rounded out by coconut sugar and sunflower lecithin. This allows Rootana to deliver 400 calories, 44 grams of complex carbs, 16 grams of healthy fat, 7 grams of fibre, and high doses of antioxidants, and 27 vitamins and minerals per serving.
Every ingredient included is proven to offer health benefits, like boosting recovery and energy levels, helping to fight diseases, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease, slowing the signs of aging, and improving brain health and mental functions.
Available in a range of delicious flavors that includes cacao – the best! -, original, and vanilla, all of which are free from any artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors. On top of that, Rootana is incredibly quick and easy to mix and use on the go.
This makes it the best meal replacement shake for a whole host of people, whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, keep your body strong, supple, and healthy, replace a healthy meal, or simply have a nutritious snack to keep hunger at bay while following a healthy diet.
#3 Best High Protein Low-Calorie Meal Replacement Shake – LyfeFuel Daily Essential
- Ideal for women
- Extremely nutrient rich
- Vegan, soy-free, no artificial sweeteners, gluten-free
- Has added digestive enzymes, probiotics, and adaptogens
- Highest in protein
- Only Vanilla and Chocolate available
LyfeFuel Daily Essentials is an ideal meal replacement shake for those who are sticking to a very low calorie diet but also want to up their protein intake and ensure their body gets all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and function properly while they build muscle or lose weight.
This vegan meal replacement protein shake delivers 18 grams of protein per serving through a plant based protein powder created from organic brown rice protein and pea protein. This is vital for those who are trying to preserve their muscles and keep them strong while in a calorie deficit.
Its other ingredients include flax seed powder, pomegranate extract, grape seed extract, spirulina powder, and various berries, probiotics, digestive enzymes, greens, and fibres.
This allows LyfeFuel Daily Essentials to contain just 2 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and 110 calories per serving, while packing in 27 different vitamins and minerals and a range of other nutrients.
Without a doubt, LyfeFuel’s meal replacement is one of the most nutrient-dense formulas in the market and one of the healthiest options you can buy. It’s also the ideal meal replacement shake for women, as it’s low in calories, but super rich in essential nutrients.
Available in a choice of either chocolate or vanilla flavour, both of which are reasonably priced, there is an option to suit people of a range of different tastes and budgets.
This makes it the best meal replacement shake and protein shake combo for those who need to keep their calorie intake down and increase their consumption of protein and other nutrients.
#4 Best Low Carb Protein Meal Replacement Shake – HLTH Code Complete Meal
- Only 4g of net carbs
- High quantities of calories, healthy fats, and protein will fill you up and fuel your workout goals
- Great for fat burning
- Best for: Keto, low-carb, atkins diets
- Includes digestive enzymes, probiotics and 9g of fibre
- High in fats – optimal for keto
- Not vegan friendly
HLTH Code Complete Meal is a great protein shake and low carb meal replacement shake combo.
It contains 27 grams of protein – from grass-fed whey protein – and 400 calories per serving. This allows it to fuel your muscles in a workout and during recovery, enabling you to build more lean muscle mass. The 27 grams of fat per serving then ensures it can totally curb your hunger and replace a complete meal.
What makes HLTH Code Complete Meal unique though, is that it has just 13 grams of carbs per serving, 9 grams of which is from dietary fiber. This means only 4g of net carbs!
This makes it one of the lowest-carb meal replacements or protein drinks around, so it’s ideal for those on a low-carb, Atkins, or keto diet.
The HLTH Code Complete Meal formula includes ingredients like a Protein Blend (high quality whey protein, grass-fed collagen, egg whites), Healthy Fats Blend, Digestive Enzymes Blend, and various probiotics. Unfortunately, it does also include a range of sweeteners and flavours.
Sold in a choice of Chocolate Macadamia and Creamy Vanilla flavours, HLTH Code Complete Meal and its unique formula is one of the best meal replacement shakes for people trying to boost their protein and calorie intake while still keeping their carb intake as low as possible.
#5 Best High Calorie Meal Replacement Protein Powder – Naked Mass
- Best for gaining weight and mass
- 1,250kcal per serving!
- Clean formula, without fillers, artificial additives or sweeteners
- Premium protein blend
- Super effective
- Not nutritionally complete
- Only for building mass
Naked Mass can be used as either a protein shake or a meal replacement shake.
However, this is a high-calorie shake designed as a mass gainer.
Mass gainers focus above all else on helping you to bulk up and build muscle by rapidly raising your calorie intake. Naked Mass achieves this as it contains an eye-watering 1,250 calories per serving, as well as 50 grams of protein and 252 grams of carbs in each and every shake.
It also has very big quantities of 18 different amino acids that totals 11.5 grams, which further increases its muscle-building capabilities. Admittedly though, it is lacking a bit in both fat and essential vitamins and minerals, and is high in sugar at 54 grams, of which 35 grams are added.
Despite what it delivers, the Naked Mass formula is extremely simple and only contains three ingredients; organic tapioca maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate, and micellar casein.
There is also a vegan version that swaps out the whey and casein for a vegan protein blend of yellow pea protein and organic brown rice protein and adds organic coconut sugar and organic cacao. Both versions are completely additive, GMO, soy, and gluten free.
Naked Mass certainly won’t be for everyone, but it may be the best meal replacement shake for those who want to increase their daily calorie intake and pack on size in a hurry. The normal and vegan versions both come in chocolate, vanilla, and unflavoured choices too.
#6 Best Meal Replacement Protein Powder With Whey – Complete 360 Meal
- Incredible value for money
- 30g of protein per 400kcal
- Ultra low in sugar – 1g
- Available in multiple delicious flavors
- Includes ashwagandha to boost your mental performance
- Award winning and claims to offer 159 different health benefits
- Ships to the US but 2-5 days
- Not gluten-free
Complete 360 Meal is a whey protein powder meal replacement shake made by Protein Works Nutrition. With 30 grams of protein, 46 grams of carbs, 10 grams of fat, 10 grams of fibre, and 382 calories per serving, it is said to offer 159 health benefits and keep you full for 3 to 5 hours.
Its nutritionally complete meal replacement formula contains whey protein concentrate, soy lecithin, flaxseed powder, fat reduced cocoa powder, avocado oil powder, probiotics, MCT powder (medium chain triglycerides), ashwagandha extract, and an extensive range of vitamins and minerals (5).
With an extremely affordable price tag, a choice of double milk chocolate, strawberries n cream classic, and vanilla creme flavours, and the ability to be mixed and used in as little as 30 seconds, it is no wonder that Protein Works Nutrition’s Complete 360 Meal has won awards.
While containing a number of sweeteners and flavourings and being a little light on some of its vitamins and minerals prevent it from being the best meal replacement shake with protein overall, it is definitely one of the best meal replacement shakes for people who specifically want to use whey.
#7 Best Protein Shake To Use As A Meal Replacement – LyfeFuel Performance
- 25g of plant based protein, just 150kcal
- Best for: post-workout protein intake
- Contains far more essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than traditional protein shakes
- Greens and other nutrients that will increase your recovery rate
- Improves recovery, health, and decreases injury risk
- Only 2 flavors
- There are cheaper protein powders
LyfeFuel Performance is designed to be used as a post-workout recovery protein shake.
This is the ideal vegan protein shake for those who are looking to increase their protein intake.
It has 25 grams of protein per serving, which is great to help repair your muscles. However, at just 150 calories, 6 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of fibre per serving, it will not fill you up or have the ability to replace whole meals that true meal replacement shakes offer.
However, the nutrients it contains do allow it to function as far more than just a traditional protein shake.
Its formula contains pea protein, brown rice protein, quinoa, pea starch, coconut sugar, maca root powder, high oleic sunflower oil, tapioca, a Betta Berries Blend, Green Balance Blend, and Digestive Enzymes blend, d alpha tocopherols, and natural sweeteners and flavours.
This is far more ingredients and nutrients that are present in protein shakes and it is even more than many meal replacement shakes will offer as well. It is also available in a choice of chocolate and vanilla flavours, as well as either an original or vegan meal replacement shake.
So, while it will never replace full meals like most meal replacement drinks can, this makes LyfeFuel Recovery one of the best meal replacement shakes for those who prioritize post workout recovery but still want to boost their nutrient intake to improve their overall health.
Protein Shakes As Meal Replacements: What Is The Difference Between Meal Replacement And Protein Powder?
Standard protein powders and meal replacement powders may look very similar to one another on the surface, but they are actually quite different, and each has been designed for its own specific purpose.
A protein shake is designed to help improve muscle growth and physical performance and will help you to recover and develop more quickly after a workout. It will consist largely of protein and amino acids, with small amounts of carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals added in at the end.
A meal replacement shake, on the other hand, is designed to enable people who are struggling to find the time or money to maintain a healthy diet through traditional means.
It will let them replace a complete meal and control any hunger cravings, without missing out on any of the essential nutrients they need to keep their body healthy or functioning correctly.
While protein shakes and meal replacements can each offer some of the benefits of the other, if you have a specific goal in mind it is very important that you choose the correct supplement.
Can You Use Whey Protein As A Meal Replacement?
Whey protein cannot effectively be used to replace a good meal replacement shake.
It may have enough protein and calories to give you more energy, fuel your muscles, help them recover after a workout, and take the edge off of any hunger pangs, but it will be too low in many of the essential vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that meal replacement supplements usually contain.
This means a protein shake simply cannot be used to properly replace a nutritious meal, which is the primary benefit that many meal replacement shakes offer.
Final Thoughts On How To Drink Meal Replacement Shakes & Protein Shakes
Drinking meal replacement shakes and protein shakes both have their own benefits, but only a select few products are able to combine the effects of the two.
While there are a few great choices currently on the market, none are as effective as Instant Knockout Complete.
A high protein, fat burning meal replacement drink that is made to aid weight loss, preserve muscle mass, and keep you healthy, it is full of quality ingredients, vitamins, and minerals, all of which help to make it the very best meal replacement shake protein powder combo there is.
If, for some reason, it doesn’t feel like the right product for you, one of the other entries on our list of the best meal replacement shakes high in protein almost certainly will be. For everyone else though, we highly recommend that you give Instant Knockout Complete a try for yourself.