Can whey replace a meal?
Whey is a dietary supplement consisting only of proteins and amino acids. Much appreciated and used by bodybuilders, it can help maintain and grow muscle mass (1). By its composition, it's often low in calories, carbs, and fat, and more if you choose whey isolate. A meal can be substituted for a whey shake or meal replacement in certain circumstances, but be careful not to overdo it. It is always recommended to prefer eating whole and solid foods to having protein shakes during your meals. Today, whey is undoubtedly the most popular supplement in sports nutrition.
Should you consume whey as a meal replacement?
If you already cook 5-6 meals a day, you may not have the time or desire to eat whole foods with the meal. It is very easy to take a protein shake or protein shaker since you simply need to mix your protein powder with water or liquid of your choice and drink it straight away on the go, at work, or when you are in a hurry. However, it is important to distinguish between whey shakes and meal replacements, which are completely different nutritional supplements.
Whey will provide proteins and amino acids quickly when you need them most urgently. This protein powder is super fast to absorb. Therefore, it is not recommended to consume whey alone as a meal replacement as it will not provide you with anything other than protein. However, if you mix it with a carbohydrate source such as oats or fruit or a source of fat such as almonds, its absorption rate will be reduced and you will benefit from a more complete snack. Under no circumstances is whey considered a meal replacement.
Differences between whey and meal replacement
Whey shaker and meal replacement supplements do not have the same composition and therefore the same calorie and macronutrient content. As we saw above, a whey shaker will mostly contain protein and almost no fat or sugar so it won't affect your diet. Therefore, this type of supplement is preferred during a snack or during training to provide your muscles with a quick supply of proteins and amino acids. The latter can be as essential as the BCAA leucine compounds, which may have beneficial
effects in reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle protein synthesis when taken around training (2). The calorie content of whey protein shakes does not exceed 200 calories and is often between 100 and 150 calories per serving. Among the most popular protein powders we can mention Whey Gold Standard from Optimum Nutrition, ranks among the best every year.
A meal replacement is a dietary supplement in powder form that is mixed or in the form of solid food such as bars, cakes and other snacks, and is intended to completely replace a meal in your day. We will focus primarily on meal replacement shakes that are low in calories but a complete and balanced combination of protein, carbohydrates and essential nutrients. Typically used for people who want to lose weight and fat, these meal replacement shakes are higher in calories than a whey protein shake, but less than a healthy, balanced meal you can make yourself. They only allow you to eat a "meal" quickly to avoid, for example, junk food.
Whey cannot replace your diet
As you understand, whey cannot replace a meal in your diet but must be consumed to supplement your protein intake during the day and especially around training. A meal replacement can be used to replace a meal during the day, but there is no need to consume it if you already have a healthy, balanced diet! It's only more practical if you're in a hurry or on the go to avoid throwing yourself at sweets, fast food, or industrial meals.
Whey shake instead of meal: What are the risks?
It is always advised to prefer solid meals over powdered supplements. Indeed, due to its composition and low calorie content, a whey shaker cannot replace a meal consisting of a source of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vegetables. A healthy, balanced meal provides more vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the overall health of the body. Therefore the main risks will be a lack of calories as well as nutrients and minerals. With an average intake of about 100 to 150 calories per shaker depending on the brand, you risk being in a calorie deficit if you only consume this during a meal.
When and how to take whey?
Whey is a nutritional supplement in the form of a protein powder intended to fill your daily protein intake. It is mainly assimilated and absorbed much faster than other protein sources. For this reason, it is advised to take it during a quick need for protein such as during training or even more after a session. Whey mixes easily in a blender with water but you can also use a plant-based milk such as almond milk for example. The amount of liquid can be adjusted according to your preference in terms of more or less clear taste. The more liquid you add, the lighter the taste. In any case, the amount of liquid will not affect the effectiveness of whey.