Meal replacements come in the form of beverages or bars, and cost a lot less than what a full meal would cost, especially if you're eating out. Are these meal replacements all they're cracked up to be or is it just another snack?
To be a true meal replacement, the food or drink must have all of the 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. If you check out the package details and the nutritional information on the label to find it lacking in any of these 3 areas, back out and try another option. Though we sometimes make the wrong choices when grabbing something to eat for lunch or snack, replacing a whole meal with a pre-packaged food is tricky business.
Our bodies require carbs, proteins and fats to function most effectively. If you are starting to workout regularly, proper diet is even more important. The more intense, and time consuming the workouts are, the more care and consideration should be taken to be sure you are getting the right nutrition for energy metabolisation and full recovery.
Without enough carbs, the body is unable to perform due to difficulty in forming energy for demands. Without enough protein, the body is unable to repair and rebuild connective tissue, including muscle. Finally, fats are essential to digest vitamins, ensure effective neural transmission, and of course, as an energy source as well. All three of these function together on and off the course, both before and after to keep your system running clean and clear. If you've missed a meal, taking a meal replacement is more than just filling your stomach.
What to look for in a meal replacement
First, check to see if there are enough calories in the item. For a meal, around 400-550 calories is usually enough. However, be aware that size comes into play here. Smaller frames and body weights need less than larger ones. More active people can also do with more compared to less active people as a result of how the body is conditioned to metabolise food.
Next, check out the portions of grams for carbs, proteins and fats. You'll want around 40 - 70 grams of carbs, 10 - 20 grams of protein, and 7 -10 grams of fat in each regular meal. Try to find something similar to this in a meal replacement.
Last, compare a couple of your options for the extras. These include vitamins and minerals. Technically, you can get 'enough' of them, but generally, pre-packaged foods are a little low on usable nutrients, so get as much as you can to be on the safe side.
Here is why we can't survive on meal replacements:
Pre-packaged foods are full of preservatives and processed ingredients, formed to last much longer than they ever would in nature. To be healthy, your foods should be as fresh as possible, yielding as many nutrients as possible in each snack and meal option. Meal replacements just can't do this for us.
Meal replacements make a serious profit on people who are unable to find the time or energy to prepare fresh meals. It is the responsibility of the consumer to ensure that they are paying the right price for the right product. Be sure to read the label before you grab that next meal replacement shake!