When we think of weight gain, we tend to think of protein powders which are designed to bulk you up and build muscle, whilst meal replacement shakes are usually associated with weight loss, although the market is now more focused on the nutritional content of meal replacements, and ensuring that they replicate (as much as they can) the nutrient profile of a complete meal.
This means that meal replacements can be great for those who are looking to boost their nutritional intake, supplement to meet their dietary goals, or want a convenient and flexible alternative to a traditional meal, be that breakfast, lunch or dinner. We don’t have to immediately jump to thoughts of very restrictive diets and the occasional bowl of cabbage soup anymore; there are healthier ways to achieve your goals.
Given their lower calories and carbs and the way they’re usually marketed, we don’t usually associate a meal replacement shake with weight gain. However, there is one very simple thing to remember when it comes to weight management. If you are looking to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume, and the opposite for weight gain. It makes sense, therefore, that meal replacement shakes can indeed be used for weight gain. As ever, there are certainly things to be aware of before you implement any major changes to your routine or begin to incorporate meal replacement shakes into your diet.
What should you look for to gain weight with meal replacements?
If you are looking to gain weight, having a meal replacement shake as a snack in addition to your regular diet will help to increase your calorie yield over the course of the day. However, you should also take into account any artificial sweeteners, flavourings, and other ingredients, as these may have adverse effects on your health. You can find out more about some of the artificial ingredients you might see in meal replacement shakes in this guide. Try to find a brand which offers third party testing of its powders, like Vivo Life, as this is a great way to ensure that your shakes do not contain pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals such as mercury.
You’ll also want a meal replacement product which is high in protein, and low in sugars, as your body will use the proteins for muscle protein synthesis, whereas the sugars are much more likely to be used in immediate energy. As men usually require around 2,500 calories a day, and around 2,000 for women, looking to increase this calorie requirement with a shake can help with weight gain. Vivo Life’s nutritional shake, WHOLE, contains 21g of protein and 25 essential vitamins and minerals - having this as a mid afternoon snack will not only help with the increase in calories, it’ll give you a good boost of plant-based nutrition. Plus, it tastes good!
I’ve previously looked into the benefits of nutritional shakes for elderly people, and how they can help with weight gain and maintenance. Much of this information is also beneficial to younger people, as there is no ‘one size fits all’ meal replacement shake for weight gain. It is, of course, possible to make your own meal replacement shake, or to add ingredients to a shake to better tailor it to your needs.
For example, healthy fats like avocado, are a great way to gain weight and they can also add a wonderful creamy texture to a shake. Peanut butter is another excellent addition to a shake to add more calories. If you’re already using a plant-based protein powder or meal replacement shake then there are a number of things you can add to those to boost your calorie intake - plus, you can tailor how your shakes taste every day!
Meal replacement shakes can also help you to gain weight in a healthy and controlled way. Having a nutrient dense option available can help to prevent you from reaching for the snack drawer and the empty calories associated with many convenience foods.
A note on your exercise routine
If your exercise routine is maintained during the time you are using more calories, or adding a meal replacement shake into your routine, then you will likely gain weight. If you are looking to bulk up, then adding a high protein meal replacement and upping your strength exercises will help to build lean muscle. As always, a healthcare professional should be consulted before any major changes to your diet, especially if you have a long term or chronic illness which may affect weight gain.
What’s the bottom line?
Well, if you eat more calories than you expend throughout the day you will gain weight. Complementing a whole foods diet with a meal replacement shake as a snack or as a breakfast on the go can benefit any desire to gain weight in a healthy way.