Among all the varieties of supplements that are available on the market, meal replacements tend to be one of the most misunderstood. Often, people use protein powders or other similar products as if they were, in fact, meal replacements.
The truth, though, is that there’s a pretty big difference between a quality meal replacer and other protein powders. If you’re currently using a meal replacement, then, there’s an important question you need to ask yourself: Is your meal replacement making the cut?
Standard Protein Powders
Before we can really delve into what makes a “quality” meal replacement, though, we need to be clear about what makes these products different from your standard protein powders.
Put simply, protein powders are focused entirely on getting you a solid dose of protein. Other nutrients are largely afterthoughts. Which, if you’re having difficulty meeting your daily protein requirements or need a recovery snack after a workout, can be a very handy tool.
Meal replacements, however, should have a hearty serving of fats and carbohydrates as well – so that it resembles a proper meal. (We’ll talk more about this a little later, however.) You should also see a full serving of vitamins, minerals and other healthful micronutrients in your meal replacement.
To demonstrate these differences, let’s take a look at Gnarly’s own offerings. Both Gnarly Whey and Gnarly Feast start with organic grass-fed whey protein. Gnarly Feast, though, is stuffed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber – in addition to containing more total calories and more carbohydrates.
Again, the idea of a meal replacement is to simulate a complete meal – not just provide a burst of protein.
Picking A Good One
Now that we’re clear on exactly what qualifies as a meal replacement, we need to talk about how to find one that will work with your goals.
First, consider where the protein is coming from. As a complete protein that is absorbed rapidly into your system, you’ll want to narrow your search down to whey protein meal replacements. That is, of course, if you can have whey. For those of you who avoid dairy or animal products in general, Gnarly also produces Gnarly Vegan Feast.
Getting back to whey, however, you’ll also want to be sure that it’s organic grass-fed whey protein. Not only will this guarantee that your meal replacement is free from any GMOs, antibiotics or hormones, it will also ensure that you’re getting the best nutrition possible. Dairy derived from grass-fed cows is higher in healthy omega-3 and conjugated linoleic fatty acids than it’s feed-lot counterparts.
Next, it’s important to consider the source of the carbohydrates in your whey protein meal replacement. Very often, products in this class are loaded with sugar – which is less than desirable. Quick carbs will leave you feeling hungry and tired, in addition to having a negative impact on your overall metabolism. Instead, look for a product that uses complex, slow carbohydrates to give you a steady stream of energy without the danger of a crash.
Finally, stick with natural meal replacement shakes that are free from any and all artificial additives. This includes dyes, preservatives, sweeteners and flavorings – all of which could have a negative impact on your health.