Join FREE Newsletter

My Account Logout Contact Us Subscribe Now! Login Contact Us
Home Product Tests  Warnings  Encyclopedia News Where to Buy
 
 

Product Review: Meal Replacement & Weight Management Powders and Shakes
 

Initial Posting: 7/24/16  Updated 8/6/16
Meal Replacement Supplements Reviewed by ConsumerLab.com
Sections: Jump to a section by clicking on its name.
Summary: What You Need to Know About Meal Replacement Powders and Shakes

  • Do they help? Meal replacement shakes -- ready-to-drink or made from a powder, have been shown to help people on diets lose more weight, improve blood sugar control for people with type 2 diabetes, and boost protein intake to increase muscle mass. It can also offer a more healthful alternative to snack foods when you are unable to have a regular meal. In particular, meal replacements offer protein in a convenient form, along with carbohydrates (and often fiber) as well as fats. The products, however, are not meant to replace all of your meals and consumption of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. (See "What It Does").
  • What type? Most products provide about 10 to 20 grams of protein (from a variety of sources) per serving but vary widely in the amounts and types of carbohydrates and fats they include. They may also have a range of vitamins, minerals, and botanical ingredients. Serving sizes also range widely, from about 25 to 60 grams providing about 90 to 400 Calories. (See "Comparison Chart").
  • Which brand? ConsumerLab.com found that 4 of the 11 meal replacement products it selected and tested were not accurately labeled and/or had an unacceptable contamination (See "What CL Found"). Among those which were Approved based on their quality, CL then compared the products on features such as protein, energy, fiber and cost and made its Top Picks. You can compare specifics of the products using the Results Table.
  • How to Use? Products sold as powders are typically mixed with water or other liquids, but be aware of what you are adding (calories, carbs, etc.) (See What to Consider When Using).
  • Cautions: Do not substitute a meal replacement product for all of your meals or be fooled into thinking that you can skip eating whole foods. In addition, be aware that you may need to increase your fluid and calcium intake if you are increasing your protein intake. (See Concerns and Cautions).


What It Is:
There are many different reasons for using a meal replacement shake from a bottle (i.e., "ready-to-drink") or which you make from a powder. For example, you may not have time for a meal but want something more healthful rather than a snack food. Or you may be on a diet and it's easier for you to use a single product with the right balance of nutrients and calories than having to select the right foods yourself. Or maybe you want to boost your protein intake with the convenience of a meal replacement rather than a strict protein product (see ConsumerLab.com's separate Protein Powders, Drinks, and Shakes Review).

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that most adults who perform light to moderate activity get roughly 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day from a varied diet in which approximately 60% or fewer calories come from carbohydrates, at least 10% come from protein (meat and vegetable proteins), and about 30% come from fats — with less than 10% of calories coming specifically from saturated fat. Healthcare professionals tend to suggest a somewhat higher percentage of calories from protein (15% to 20%) and a lower percentage from carbohydrates, although recommendations vary. Nutrition powders and drinks can help provide some of these nutrients but they are not recommended as a total substitute for food, as they lack some of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients found in whole foods and sometimes fall short on fat and carbohydrates. 

Meal replacement powders typically come in canisters or packets ready to be mixed with water, milk, juice, or other beverage. Meal replacement drinks often come in ready-to-drink cans or bottles. These products are marketed as dieting aids, meal replacements, and energy boosters. Unlike, protein powders, they generally provide a more balanced ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as one might get from a healthful meal.

Unlike nutrition bars (see Nutrition Bar Product Review), which need to contain a good amount of carbohydrates to give them a reasonable texture, feel and taste, meal replacement powders and shakes do not. Consequently, makers of these powders and shakes have a great deal of flexibility in the nutritional content of these products. For example, it is quite possible to find powders and shakes with half the fat and carbohydrates of most nutrition bars, while often offering twice the protein. Of course, the nutrition numbers can change significantly depending on the type of liquid with which you choose to mix the powder (see ConsumerTips™ for the nutrient content of milks and juices).

What It Does:
Meal Replacements for Weight Loss:
A review of six randomized, controlled clinical studies comparing the effects of partial meal replacement plans (consisting of a reduced calorie diet providing between 800 and 1600 calories daily in which one to two meals per day were replaced with a liquid, vitamin and mineral fortified meal replacement product) with conventional, reduced-calorie diets found that after three months, those who used a meal replacement product lost an average of about six pounds more than those who followed a reduced-calorie diet without meal replacement (approximately 13 1/2 lbs. versus 71/2 lbs., respectively) (Heymsfield, Int J Obes Relat Metab Discord 2003). Among the four studies which continued for another 9 months, people who consumed meal replacement products had a total average weight loss of about 15 lbs. by the end of one year, while those who maintained a reduced-calorie diet without meal replacements had a total average weight loss of about six lbs. It should be noted that the authors of the review were each associated with either Slim Fast or the "Slim Fast Nutrition Institute," and that most of the studies in the review appeared to use SlimFast products and/or were funded by Slim Fast.

When it comes to weight loss, the source of the protein in meal replacement shakes may not be as important as the nutrient composition and overall calories consumed. One clinical study among obese woman who, each day, drank either three soy-based or three casein-based meal replacement shakes containing similar amounts of protein -- about 21 grams -- found that the two groups lost similar amounts of weight (about 28 pounds) over 4 months (Anderson, Metabolism 2007). Both groups followed an intensive low-calorie (1,074 — 1,194 calories per day) weight loss program which also included one pre-packaged entrée and five servings of fruits and/or vegetables daily. 

Meal Replacements for Improving Type 2 Diabetes:
A long-term study of 30 men and women with type 2 diabetes in the U.K. found that following a very low calorie diet reversed diabetes (fasting plasma glucose fell below 7 mmol/L) in 40% of patients (87% if based on those who had been diabetic for less than four years). Participants in the study were taken off all antidiabetic medication and, for the first 8 weeks, consumed a very low calorie daily diet of just 3 shakes (OPTIFAST from Nestle -- which was not involved in the study) consisting of 43% carbohydrate, 34% protein, and 19.5% fat, and providing 624 kcal per day, as well as up to 240 grams of nonstarchy vegetables providing up to 76 additional kcal, and at least 2 liters of calorie-free beverages. Normal physical activity was maintained and one-to-one weekly counseling support was provided. Over the next two weeks, shakes were gradually replaced with solid foods and a diet providing adequate calories for weight maintenance. The reversal of diabetes was sustained for the next 6 months during which participants continued with an individualized weight maintenance diet and physical activity was encouraged. On average, participants lost 31 lbs during the first 8 weeks and remained close to the lower weight for the duration of the study (Steven, Diabetes Care 2016). (Note: OPTIFAST in the UK differs from that in the U.S., having a higher fat concentration and serving size.)

A study among 104 obese men and women with type 2 diabetes found those who replaced two meals per day with a meal replacement shake (Slim Fast Soy) had an average weight loss of about 10 lbs. after one year compared to an average loss of about 5 lbs. in those who followed a diet in accordance with the American Diabetes Association criteria for weight loss and metabolic syndrome (consumption of fewer than 30% calories from fat, 10—20% from protein and 55—65% from carbohydrates); fasting blood sugar levels were significantly lower in those drinking the meal replacement during the first six months of the study, but were not significantly lower than levels in those following the ADA diet at the end of one year (Li, Eur J Clin Nutr 2005).

A small, one-day study in people with type 2 diabetes found that drinking whey protein before a high glycemic meal resulted in improved insulin response compared to those who did not receive the protein. In the study, 15 men and women (whose diabetes was well controlled with the medications sulfonylurea or metformin) drank either 50 g whey protein (in 250 ml water) or plain water before a high glycemic meal. Over a three hour period following the meal, glucose levels were 28% lower, early insulin response was 96% higher, and overall insulin response was 105% higher after ingestion of whey protein compared to placebo (Jakubowicz, Diabetologia 2014).

Increasing Muscle Mass and Strength:
Protein is necessary to build, maintain, and repair muscle. Meal replacement products which are high in protein can help you boost your protein intake. Be aware, however, that while getting more protein can help you increase muscle mass, it won't increase strength unless used as part of appropriate exercise program. (This is discussed in greater detail in the Protein Powder and Shakes Review.)

Quality Concerns and What CL Tested for:
Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nor any other federal or state agency, routinely tests meal replacement powders and drinks for quality prior to sale. Some labeling discrepancies can be spotted by calculating the expected calories in a product, based on the protein, fat and carbohydrate contents on the label and seeing if the total calories match the calories actually listed on the label (see ConsumerTips™). However, most problems, and the magnitude of such problems, can be determined only with laboratory testing.

To see which problems might exist with current meal replacement powders and drinks, and as part of its mission to independently evaluate products that affect health, wellness, and nutrition, ConsumerLab.com again purchased a variety of these products (see How Products were Evaluated). The products were first evaluated to make sure that their listed ingredients and claims were in compliance with FDA labeling regulations. Products were then tested for the accuracy of their label claims regarding total calories, total carbohydrates, total sugars, total protein, total fat (including a breakout of saturated fat and trans fat), sodium and cholesterol. All products were tested for possible contamination with lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. Products claiming to be gluten-free were tested for gluten levels. (For details, see Testing Methods and Passing Score).

What CL Found:
Among the 11 meal replacement powders and drinks selected and tested by ConsumerLab.com, 7 met quality standards and were Approved based on their quality and labeling. Through ConsumerLab.com's voluntary Quality Certification Program, in which products undergo the same testing, an additional 2 products were Approved.

Four products selected by ConsumerLab.com failed to pass tests for the reasons described below:
  • Naturade® Total Soy® - Chocolate contained 290.5 mg of sodium per 2 scoop serving, which was 32% more than its listed 220 mg. It met its claims regarding other nutrients.
  • Metagenics® UltraMeal® Rice - Vanilla contained 12.6 grams of protein per 2 scoop serving, which was only 84% of its listed 15 grams. It met its claims regarding other nutrients.
  • Nature's Plus® Spiru-Tein® - Vanilla contained 16.8 grams of carbohydrates which was 53% more than its listed 11 grams. Part of this was accounted for by the 11.2 grams of sugar found rather than the 8 grams listed. The additional carbs boosted its calories per serving to 123 rather than the 99 calories listed.
  • Vega™ One All-In-One Nutritional Shake - French Vanilla was found to be contaminated with 5.3 mcg of the heavy metal cadmium per single scoop serving which also contained 131 mg of sodium -- several times more than the 30 mg listed on its label. Although not likely to cause injury to most adults at the level found, cadmium is a kidney toxin, a probable carcinogen, can soften bones, and may affect the testes and fetal development. The amount found exceeds the daily limits in Canada for a person weighing less than 120 lbs. and, in California it exceeds the Prop 65 limit of 4.1 mcg per daily serving — which requires products to bear a label warning of potential developmental toxicity and male reproductive toxicity. A likely source of the cadmium is one or more of the many botanical ingredients listed on the label, as previous tests by ConsumerLab.com suggest that heavy metal contamination in meal replacement and protein products tends to only occur when botanical ingredients are added to formulas.
Comparing products and picking the best:
Depending on your needs, here are some features to consider and how the products compare.(Refer to the comparison chart below and Results Table (further below) for more details about each product.)



Protein
As shown in the comparison chart above, all of the products provide a significant amount of protein (blue bars) — which is what tends to distinguish meal replacement products, for example, from dessert-type shakes. The product in this Review providing the greatest amount of protein per serving is IsAgenix IsaLean Shake (22 grams — from pea and hemp protein concentrates). It accomplishes this, in part, by also having the largest serving size (61 grams of powder per packet), while serving sizes for other powders tend to be about 25 to 40 grams. It also has the second highest amount of calories (250) per serving and moderate to high amounts of fat (8 grams) and carbohydrates (22 grams) of which 8 grams is fiber — more than any other product. 

Interestingly, the one product which has "protein" in its name, Special K Protein — Vanilla Cappuccino, actually contains many more grams of carbohydrates (28 grams) than protein (10 grams) per 10 fl oz (1.25 cup) bottle. The word "protein" in its name is perhaps there to distinguish it from original Special K rice cereal which has less protein (6 grams per cup).

Fiber
While IsAgenix has the most fiber per serving - as noted above, Atkins Day Break — Strawberry Banana has the second highest amount of fiber (7 grams, 140 calories). In fact, most of its 10 grams of carbohydrates are fiber. Another product which is high in fiber is SlimFast Advanced Nutrition. In fact, nearly all of its carbs (6 grams) are fiber (5 grams). Two other products in which most carbs are fiber are Vega One All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which provides 6 grams of fiber out of 10 grams of carbs, and Garden of Life RAW Organic Meal (5 grams of fiber out of 8 grams of carbs). Metagenics UltraMeal Rice and Special K Protein also provide a good amount of fiber (5 grams) per serving, although this is out 26 and 28 grams of carbs, respectively.

Products particularly low in fiber are Jarrow Formulas The Slim Whey (less than 1 gram), FitMiss Delight (1 gram), and Nature's Plus Spiru-Tein (1 gram).

Note: Food labels do not have to disclose the type of fiber, i.e., soluble (which counts toward calories) and insoluble (which doesn't), but Soylent and Garden of Life each include this information, voluntarily, on their labels.

Calories/Energy
The product which provides the greatest amount of energy per serving, i.e., the greatest amount of calories, is Soylent. Each 414 ml bottle (1.75 cups) has 400 Calories. It does this by providing the greatest number of carbohydrates (37 grams) and fats (21 grams) per serving of any of the products (fat has more than twice the calories per gram as carbs or protein). In fact, all the other products provide much less fat per serving, ranging from none in Nature's Plus Spiru-Tein Vanilla to 9 grams in Atkins. Despite its high carb content, Soylent, however, has relatively little fiber — making it a less healthy choice as a meal replacement considering USDA recommendations of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories.

Fats
While every product contains significant amounts of protein and carbohydrates, some products contain little or no fat (such as Nature's Plus Spiru-Tein (0 grams), Garden of Life and Herbalife (1 gram), and FitMiss Delight (1.5 grams). Fats are needed by your body, so to the extent you may be relying on these products for nutrients, be sure you are getting fats from other sources. Fortunately, none of the products in this review contain trans fats and most are very low in saturated fat.

Vitamins and Minerals:
As indicated in the last column of the Results table (and provided in more detail in the Ingredients table), many of the product provide significant amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Gluten Free Claim:
All but two products claimed to be gluten free, and each of those claiming to be gluten free met this claim.

CL's Top Picks:
The product you choose depends very much on your purpose for it. However, when looking for a meal replacement, we at ConsumerLab.com would look for one with a reasonable balance of protein, carbs, and fat, some fiber, some vitamins and minerals, accurate labeling of nutrition facts, lack of contamination, and, hopefully, a reasonable cost. With that in mind, the following are our top picks among the products in this review which passed our tests of quality:

For a pick-me-up: Special K Protein. Despite its somewhat misleading (since it has more carbs than protein), Special K Protein has a good balance of nutrients, including fiber, provides a good amount of energy (180 calories), and is reasonably priced ($1.90 for a 10 fl. oz. bottle). However, the majority of its 28 grams of carbohydrates is from sugar (18 grams), which is a bit high, and the flavor we chose, Vanilla Cappuccino, contains 65 grams of caffeine. If you want it without caffeine, other flavors are available, such as Red Berry, Chocolate Delight, or French Vanilla.

Interestingly, this product is comparable to the very popular Ensure Original. (ConsumerLab.com has tested in Ensure in the past and found its labeling to be accurate). Ensure Original provides about the same amount of protein and fat as Special K Protein. Ensure provides more carbs (40 vs. 28) and, consequently, more Calories (220 vs. 180), but, like Special K Protein, most of the carbs in Ensure is sugar (23 grams). Both products provide an array of vitamins and minerals. Ensure Original, however, provides no fiber, while Special K Protein provides 5 grams.

For extra protein: IsAgenix IsaLean Shake Natural — Berry Harvest. As noted earlier, this product provides the most protein of any of the products in this Review. It also provides fiber, is low in sugar, and offers 250 calories. It's more expensive than most products ($3.62 per 61 gram packet) but you're getting a larger serving.

For dieting: There is likely no "magic" meal replacement formula for losing weight from a diet. What seems to be most important is that the dieter is able to stick with a reduced calorie diet over a sufficient period of time. A reduced-calorie meal which is convenient and satisfies the senses and hunger is what is needed. Having some fat in the meal helps with this (as well as being nutritionally important), and fiber may also help, as it slows digestion. Two lower-calorie products which seem to fit this bill are Atkins Day Break Strawberry Banana and SlimFast Advanced Nutrition — Creamy Chocolate. They are both come in 11 fl. oz. ready-to-drink containers and are relatively inexpensive: Atkins costs $1.50 and SlimFast costs 16 cents more — but provides twice the protein. 

Test Results by Product:
Listed below are the test results for 13 meal replacement powders and drink products. Products are grouped by the type of protein they contain. ConsumerLab.com selected 11 products. Two products (each indicated with a CL flask) were tested at the request of their manufacturers/distributors through ConsumerLab.com' voluntary Quality Certification Program and are included for having passed testing.

Also shown are the labeled serving sizes as well as the labeled amounts per serving of: protein; total carbohydrates, fiber and sugar; total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat; sodium and cholesterol; and calories -- all of which were checked in testing. Any product making a "gluten free" claim was tested for gluten. Contamination with the heavy metals lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury above allowed limits is also shown. The "Protein" column lists the type of protein in each product. The full list of ingredients is available for each product by clicking on the word "Ingredients" in the first column.

Products listed as "Approved" met their ingredient claims. Those that did not are listed as "Not Approved" with an explanation of the problem found in red font.

Be sure to see ConsumerTips for Buying and Using and also see the Ingredients table which shows what else is claimed to be in a single serving of each product, including the types of sweeteners.

Among products which were Approved for quality, ConsumerLab.com calculated the cost to obtain an equal amount of protein (20 grams) and this is shown in brackets in the last column in the Results Table below. This is one indication of value and, based on this, top choices among Approved products in each category are:

RESULTS OF CONSUMERLAB.COM TESTING OF MEAL REPLACEMENT & WEIGHT LOSS POWDERS AND DRINKS
Click on beneath a product name to find a vendor that sells it.
To find retailers that sell some of the listed products click here.
Product Name (Serving Size and Suggested Number of Daily Serving on Label)

Click on "Ingredients" for Full Listing
OVERALL RESULTS:

APPROVED or NOT
APPROVED
Did Not Exceed Contamin-ation Limits for Heavy Metals1

Gluten-Free2
Nutrition or Supplement Facts on Label
(Figures Are Per Serving Unless Otherwise Noted)
Test Results Different From Listed Amounts Are In Red
Cost for Daily Suggested Serving on Label

[Cost per 20 g of protein]

Other Notable Features3

Price Paid
Protein
(grams)

Claimed Protein Source
Total Carbo-
hydrates

Fiber

Sugar
(grams)  
Total Fat

Saturated Fat

Trans Fat (grams)
Sodium

Cholesterol

(mg)
Calo-
ries  
Milk-based Protein (Including Whey and Casein)
Atkins™ Day Break® - Strawberry Banana (11 fl. oz. bottle, no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.
Ingredients
APPROVED

N/A
10

Milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate
Total Carb: 10
Fiber: 7
Sugar: 0
Total Fat: 9
Sat.: 2.5
Trans: 0
Sodium: 250
Chol.: 15
140 $1.504

[$3.00]

Vitamins A, C, D & E, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, phosphorus  

$5.99/4 bottles
Jarrow Formulas® The Slim Whey - Green Tea (1 heaping scoop [25 g], twice daily)

Dist. by Jarrow Formulas®  
Ingredients
APPROVED

15

Whey protein concentrate
Total Carb: 3
Fiber: <1
Sugar: <1
Total Fat: 2
Sat.: 1
Trans: 0
Sodium: 40
Chol.: 40
90 $3.77

[$2.51]

Calcium, potassium, HCActive™, matcha green tea powder  

Contains no wheat, gluten free

$33.95/16 oz. [450 g] container (approx. 18 servings)
SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition - Creamy Chocolate (11 fl. oz. bottle, no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by SlimFast®  
Ingredients
APPROVED

20

Milk protein concentrate
Total Carb: 6
Fiber: 5
Sugar: 1
Total Fat: 8
Sat.: 1.5
Trans: 0
Sodium: 220
Chol.: 10
180 $1.664

[$1.66]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E & K, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, chromium  

Kosher, gluten free

$6.63/4 bottles
Soy-based Protein
Herbalife® Formula 1 Healthy Meal - French Vanilla (2 scoops [25 g], once to twice daily5)

Dist. by Herbalife International Of America, Inc.
Ingredients
APPROVED

9

Soy protein isolate
Total Carb: 13
Fiber: 3
Sugar: 9
Total Fat: 1
Sat.: 0
Trans: 0
Sodium: 95
Chol.: 0
90 $1.07-$2.13

[$2.37]

Vitamins A, B12, C, D & E, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic, biotin  

Gluten free

$31.95/26.4 oz. [750 g] container (approx. 30 servings)
Naturade® Total Soy® - Chocolate (2 scoops [36 g], once daily)  

Dist. by Naturade a division of Prevention, LLC
Ingredients
NOT
APPROVED


13

Soy protein isolate
Total Carb: 16
Fiber: 2
Sugar: 8
Total Fat: 3.5
Sat.: 0
Trans: 0
Sodium: 220
Chol.: 5

Found 290.5 mg sodium (132.1% of listed amount)
130 $0.77

[$1.18]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, & E, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium  

Gluten free, yeast free

$11.50/1.2 lb. [540 g] container (approx. 15 servings)
Soylent (414 ml bottle, no recommended daily serving size)

Dist. by Rosa Labs
Ingredients
APPROVED

20

Soy protein isolate
Total Carb: 37
Fiber: 3
(Soluble: 1)
Sugar: 9
Total Fat: 21
Sat.: 2
Trans: 0
Sodium: 300
Chol.: 0
400 $2.424

[$2.42]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E & K, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium molybdenum, chloride  

$29.00/12 bottles
Rice-based Protein
Garden of Life® RAW Organic Meal - Vanilla (1 scoop [34 g], no recommended daily serving size)

Dist. by Garden of Life LLC
Ingredients

NOTE: An older version of this product was recalled in early 2016 due to Salmonella contamination. Organic moringa leaf powder was identified as the likely source of contamination and it is no longer a listed ingredient.  
APPROVED

20

Organic sprouted brown rice protein
Total Carb: 8
Fiber: 5
(Soluble: 2; Insoluble: 3)
Sugar: 1
Total Fat: 1
Sat.: 0
Trans: 0
Sodium: 10
Chol.: 0
120 $1.504

[$1.50]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E & K, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, organic RAW sprouted protein blend, organic RAW fiber blend, organic flavor blend, organic RAW fruit & vegetable blend, organic RAW green blend, RAW probiotic & enzyme blend  

Suitable for vegans, gluten free, yeast free

$41.99/33.5 oz. [949 g] container (approx. 28 servings)
Metagenics® UltraMeal® Rice - Vanilla (2 scoops [52 g], twice daily)  

Dist. by Metagenics
Ingredients
NOT
APPROVED


15

Rice protein concentrate

Found only 12.6 g (83.8% of listed amount)
Total Carb: 26
Fiber: 5
Sugar: 13
Total Fat: 5
Sat.: 1
Trans: 0
Sodium: 40
Chol.: 0
190 $5.68

[$3.79]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D & E, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, chloride  

Gluten free

$39.75/25.67 oz. [728 g] container (approx. 14 servings)
Mixed Protein Sources
FitMiss® Delight - Chocolate Delight (1 scoop [24.7 g], no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by MusclePharm® Corp.  
Ingredients
APPROVED

16

Whey protein concentrate, SolaThin® potato protein, whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate  
Total Carb: 4
Fiber: 1
Sugar: 1
Total Fat: 1.5
Sat.: 0.5
Trans: NL
Sodium: 100
Chol.: 50
90 $0.814

[$1.01]

Vitamin B12, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, proprietary greens & fruit blend, digestive enzyme blend  

Gluten free

$28.98/2 lb. [907 g] container (approx. 36 servings)
IsAgenix® IsaLean® Shake Natural - Berry Harvest (1 packet [61 g], no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by Isagenix International, LLC
Ingredients
APPROVED

22

Pea protein concentrate, hemp protein concentrate
Total Carb: 22
Fiber: 8
Sugar: 7
Total Fat: 8
Sat.: 1
Trans: 0
Sodium: 250
Chol.: 0
250 $3.624

[$3.29]

Vitamin C, calcium, iron

Kosher, contains no wheat, gluten free

$50.73/14 packets
Nature's Plus® Spiru-Tein® - Vanilla (1 scoop [34 g], no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by Natural Organics Laboratories, Inc.
Ingredients
NOT
APPROVED


14

Rice protein, pea protein, Isolated soy protein
Total Carb: 11
Fiber: 1
Sugar: 8
Other Carb: 26  

Found 16.8 g carbohydrates (152.6% of listed amount) and 11.2 g sugars (140.3% of listed amount)
Total Fat: 0
Sat.: 0
Trans: 0
Sodium: 140
Chol.: 0
99

Found 
123
(124% of listed amount)  
$1.004

[$1.42]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, & E, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc selenium manganese, chromium, molybdenum  

Suitable for vegetarian, gluten free, yeast free

$31.89/2.4 lb. [1,088 g] container (approx. 32 servings)
Special K™ Protein - Vanilla Cappuccino (10 fl. oz. bottle, no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by Kellogg Sales Co.
Ingredients
APPROVED

10

Whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate
Total Carb: 28
Fiber: 5
Sugar: 18
Total Fat: 5
Sat.: 0.5
Trans: 0
Sodium: 230
Chol.: 15
180 $1.904

[$3.80]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E & K, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, chromium, molybdenum  

Gluten free

$7.59/4 bottles
Vega™ One All-In-One Nutritional Shake - French Vanilla (1 scoop [41 g], no recommended daily serving size)  

Dist. by Sequel Naturals Ltd.
Ingredients
NOT
APPROVED
Found 5.3 mcg cadmium per serving (0.13 mcg per gram)

20

Pea Protein, hemp protein Saviseed™ (sacha inchi) protein  
Total Carb: 10
Fiber: 6
Sugar: <1
Total Fat: 6
Sat.: 0.5
Trans: 0
Sodium: 30
Chol.: 0

Found 131.1 mg sodium (537.1% of listed amount)
160 $3.004

[$3.00]

Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E & K, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, pantothenate, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, selenium  

Suitable for vegans, non-GMO, gluten free

$29.98/15 oz. [414 g] container (approx. 10 servings)

Tested through CL's Quality Certification Program prior to, or after initial posting of this Product Review.

* Product identical in formulation and manufacture to a product that has passed testing but sold under a different brand. For more information see CL's Multi-Label Testing Program.

NL = None listed

1 Only products that contain whole herb(s) and/or more than 250 mg of minerals daily were tested for lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.
2 Gluten testing was conducted only on products with a "Gluten-Free" claim. FDA requires less than 20 ppm (mcg/gram) gluten for "Gluten-Free" claim. However, ConsumerLab.com's imposes a stricter requirement on products with larger serving sizes because gluten sensitivity is a function of total exposure. Consequently, ConsumerLab.com requires products with suggested serving sizes greater than 5 gram or 5 ml to contain no more than 5 ppm of gluten if labeled Gluten-Free.
3 Not tested but claimed on label.
4 Based on 1 serving daily.
5 Label states: "For Weight Loss: Replace two meals daily with a Formula 1 shake and eat one nutritious meal. For Healthy Nutrition: Enjoy a Formula 1 shake every day as a healthy meal."
6 "Other Carbohydrate:" is a voluntary declaration by the manufacturer and refers to complex carbohydrates and/or sugar alcohols not separately listed. As no sugar alcohols are listed as ingredients in this product, this likely refers to maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate listed as an ingredient.

Unless otherwise noted, information about the products listed above is based on the samples purchased by ConsumerLab.com (CL) for this Product Review. Manufacturers may change ingredients and label information at any time, so be sure to check labels carefully when evaluating the products you use or buy. If a product's ingredients differ from what is listed above, it may not necessarily be of the same quality as what was tested.

The information contained in this report is based on the compilation and review of information from product labeling and analytic testing. CL applies what it believes to be the most appropriate testing methods and standards. The information in this report does not reflect the opinion or recommendation of CL, its officers or employees. CL cannot assure the accuracy of information.
Copyright ConsumerLab.com, LLC, 2016. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced, excerpted, or cited in any fashion without the express written permission of ConsumerLab.com LLC.

ConsumerTips™ for Buying and Using:
Look out for serving sizes:
Suggested serving sizes vary widely among powders and drinks, ranging in this Review from about 25 grams to 61 grams per serving among powders and from about one to two cups for bottled shakes. Keep this in mind when comparing the nutritional content of products as well as cost.

Protein: Whey, casein, soy, rice, pea, hemp?
An increasing number of protein sources are now commonly found in meal replacement products. Whey and casein are both derived from milk (the protein in milk is 80% casein and 20% whey). Soy is vegetable-based. The pros and cons of these protein sources are discussed in detail in the Protein Powder and Shakes Review. However, keep in mind that many products are made from a mixture of protein sources and the relative amounts of each type are generally not well revealed.

Ingredients you may neither expect nor want:
Some products contain ingredients that you may or may not expect, such as added vitamins, minerals, herbs or other special added ingredients. Recommended Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) have been established for many vitamins and minerals, so it is advisable to keep track of the amounts that you may be ingesting from the powders and drinks as well as from other foods and supplements (see ConsumerTips™ in the Multivitamin/Multimineral Product Review for Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) and ULs or see the summary at www.ConsumerLab.com/RDAs).

You should also be aware that products, particularly those promoted for "energy," might include caffeine-containing ingredients, such as coffee extract, guarana, mate, or cocoa. Be aware that caffeine can enhance the action and increase the side effects of other stimulants.

Powders and drinks may also contain an array of sweeteners. Some are sugar-based such as sugar, fructose, honey, lactose, maltose, and fruit juices. Some have reduced calories, such as the sugar alcohols lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. And some have no calories, such as saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, and sucralose. Be aware that some products may have a "net carb" calculation on their labels. In this calculation, the manufacturer deducts the weight of any carbohydrate (including sugars) that supposedly does not raise insulin levels, although it may still contribute calories. The FDA has not approved this practice.

Because of all the possible ingredients, nutritional products should be carefully evaluated before being used by children, pregnant or nursing women, or others with dietary restrictions, such as people with diabetes or hypoglycemia.

Make sure things add up:
To make sure that the calories listed on a product match up with the listed nutrients, you may do the following calculation: multiply the listed weight of each component by the number of calories per gram as shown below, and add them together for the total number of calories.
Carbohydrate (excluding dietary fiber) 4 calories per gram
Protein 4 calories per gram
Fats 9 calories per gram

For example, a product labeled as containing 25 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat would have 100 calories from carbohydrates (25 x 4), 60 calories from protein (15 x 4), and 45 calories from fat (5 x 9), for a total of 205 calories. Carbohydrates would, therefore, contribute about 49% of the calories, protein would contribute about 29%, and fat would contribute about 22%.

If your total is more than a few calories off from what the product label states, the product may be hiding something. (Note that manufacturers are allowed to round numbers and certain sugar and fat substitutes may have fewer calories than normal sugars and fats, so don't expect the calculated calories to match the label exactly; allow leeway of up to 10% of the total calories).

Know the nutritional content of the liquids with which you mix a powder:
The nutritional profile of a drink made from powder is obviously going to depend on the liquid with which it is mixed. Below is a listing of the nutritional content of some of the more common liquids used, besides water. Figures shown are based on one cup of liquid (8 fluid ounces), but be aware that the suggested amount of liquid per serving will vary by product. In general, most powders suggest about one cup of liquid per 40 grams of powder.

Nutrients in Common Liquids Mixed with Nutrition Powders
Liquid (one cup) Calories Carbohydrate Fat Protein
Whole Milk 146 11 g 8 g 8 g
Skim Milk 86 12 g 0 g 8 g
Chocolate Milk, Reduced Fat 190 30 g 5 g 7 g
Orange Juice 110 25 g 1 g 2 g
Apple Juice 117 29 g 0 g 0 g
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2006. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 19. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.

Proper Storage:
If in a dry, powder form, protein is quite stable and should not degrade unless temperatures exceed 115° (46° Celsius). However, once a container is opened, the protein can be affected by humidity. Moisture levels above 10% can cause protein to begin to degrade. To reduce exposure to moisture, especially in humid climates, it's best to store powdered products in several small containers rather than one large container. Do not store these supplements in the refrigerator, because if you remove them and leave them open, moisture may accumulate due to condensation. 

On the other hand, liquid and ready-to-drink meal replacements are generally more sensitive to heat and can become unstable and degrade quickly. If you live a hot climate, it may be preferable to refrigerate these, particularly after opening.

Cautions and Concerns:
Some researchers caution that people may overestimate the effectiveness of meal replacement products for weight loss, feel that they can compensate by eating more of other foods, or may be less likely to believe they need to incorporate fruits and vegetables and/or exercise into their weight loss plan when consuming meal replacement products (Hartmann, Appetite 2016).

If using a meal replacement product significantly increases the protein in your diet, be aware that increased protein results in increased protein metabolism and urea production, which in turn increases urine output. The combined factors of a high protein intake and an inadequate fluid intake can result in severe dehydration, which has deleterious effects on performance. Overall, remember to increase fluid consumption if your diet requires a higher than normal amount of protein. High-protein diets can also increase calcium turnover from bone, resulting in calcium loss. However, this can be stabilized by the daily consumption of 300 mg of calcium (the equivalent to one 8 oz. glass of milk) on top of your basic daily calcium intake.

To further assist consumers, ConsumerLab.com licenses its flask-shaped CL Seal of Approved Quality (see The CL Seal) to manufacturers for use on labels of products that have passed its testing. ConsumerLab.com will periodically re-evaluate these products to ensure their compliance with ConsumerLab.com's standards.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only. It is not an endorsement of any product nor is it meant to substitute for the advice provided by physicians or other healthcare professionals. The information contained herein should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Consumers should inform their healthcare providers of the dietary supplements they take.
back to top

Update:
Several ConsumerLab.com members have reported that the company which sells one of the meal replacement products which failed testing has notified them, in response to their questions, that the product's label is being updated to reflect the higher amount of sodium it contains -- as uncovered by ConsumerLab.com. However, that company appears to be downplaying (but not disputing) the cadmium contamination found by ConsumerLab.com. For details, see the Update in the full review.
#236#

Follow ConsumerLab.com on Twitter    |     Become a Fan on Facebook
Join | Sign In
Home | Product Tests | Brands Tested | Health Conditions | Encyclopedia | CL Answers | Clinical Updates | Where to Buy Products
News | Recalls & Warnings | RDAs | Raw Materials Tests | Testing Programs | The CL Seal | CL Survey | About Us
In The News | Group Subscription | Gift Memberships | Join Free Newsletter | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Testimonials | Contact Us/Help

©2017 ConsumerLab.com, LLC. All rights reserved. A single copy of a report may be printed for personal use by the subscriber.
It is otherwise unlawful to print, download, store or distribute content from this site without permission.
ConsumerLab.com name and flask logo are both registered trademarks of ConsumerLab.com, LLC.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and not to provide medical advice.

 

     
 
Join our FREE Newsletter and Become a Member to View
Meal Replacement & Weight Management Powders and Shakes!
First Name 
Last Name 
Email* 
Retype Email* 
ConsumerLab.com Member Benefits:

Instant Access to All Product Review Reports Covering Over 1,000 Products
Quality Ratings and Product Comparisons by Brand
Expert Tips on Using Supplements
 
Membership fee required for full benefits.
Price Checks on Popular Brands
e-Newsletter with Updates and Alerts
New and Archived Recalls and Warnings