Everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too. Both taste and weight loss are important to weight watchers.

Nutrition bars and meal replacement shakes help to strike a balance between these ideals. If you want to use meal substitutes to manage weight, finding out more about them will further your goals.

When it comes to choosing between meal replacement shakes and nutrition bars, this knowledge will help you to make a more informed decision.

Why you should eat diet shakes or bars

While food will give your body some of its needed nutrients, they need supplementation. Meal substitutes have the extra nutrients that the body needs.

Your body loses muscle mass every day, so you need to top it up. Meal replacements, especially those with whey, give the body added protein for this purpose. Nutritionists share that a sedentary adult needs about 0.4 grams of protein a day, while a more active one needs at least 0.6 grams.

Note that you lose protein during workout sessions. According to the Australian World of Sport, you need the extra protein in diet bars or shakes to repair the cells that you damage while you exercise.

Protein is one of the essential components of a healthy breakfast. Meal substitutes are healthy alternatives when you have no time to prepare lean bacon or eggs.

Eating nutrition bars for weight loss or muscle building

1. How nutrition bars work: A study on whey protein

With a whey or soy protein make up, bars that replace meals are a proven weight loss solution. Whey pushes weight levels down in several ways. Residue from cheese production, it builds lean muscle.

a. Appetite control


Nutrition bars decrease appetite and keep you feeling full for a longer time. D Paddon Jones et al, in research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that whey protein bars increase thermogenesis, which, in turn, promotes satiety.

These bars come in prepackaged portions, which helps weight watchers control the amount they eat. They lose weight without compromising their nutritional needs.

b. Raises energy

The same study also proves that whey increases metabolism. The higher thermogenesis of whey protein bars increases energy expenditure. Bars also build lean muscle mass and augment fat loss. Diets that are high in whey protein break down amino acids into smaller, easily absorbed components. This creates energy.

c. Muscle Development

A whey protein diet is high in albumin, a substance in the blood. A natural diuretic, albumin collects water from cells and surrounding tissue. You will feel less bloated, because your body retains less fluid. Albumin allows it to absorb nutrients and develop muscle.

The efficiency of nutrition bars

Nutrition bars are en vogue meal supplements. Those seeking to meet their weight management goals understand their usefulness.

Diet bars help weight loss or muscle-building goals to a limited extent. They have their draws and flaws.

1. Why nutrition bars may solve your weight woes

If you want to lose weight, but have a schedule that leaves no room for long exercise sessions, you may want to stock up on meal replacement bars.

They have the calories that you need for energy, though not as many as those in a meal. Containing all the vitamins and minerals you need, they help you to keep the pounds off.

Those wanting to lose extra pounds will find diet bars a tasty weight loss alternative. Made in a variety of chocolate, mocha, strawberry and other fruity flavors, they make losing weight pleasant.

Perhaps the most important advantage of diet bars is their convenience. You can throw them into your haversack and eat them as and when you need to. They are an easy way to lose or add weight.

If you want to build lean muscle, snack on a protein bar after a workout. According to nutritionists, some of these bars have as much protein as a chicken breast. Most have either soy or whey protein, both of which are proven to build lean muscle. They contain amino acids, compounds needed for protein synthesis. Researchers from the United Kingdom found that blood leucine peaked after whey ingestion. Blood leucine is an amino acid essential for building muscle. Their levels remained intact three hours later, proving that whey does add to protein intake.

2. Why nutrition bars may not work for you

Like whole foods, meal replacement bars give your body calories to burn. If you do not exercise and get rid of them, you may end up gaining weight.

Note that some nutrition bars are not easy to digest, as they are not fibrous enough. Your body will feel heavy from hauling undigested nutrients.

Producers fill diet bars with vitamins and minerals that promote metabolism and endurance. This said, they take time for the body to absorb, so they may not have a noticeable effect.

3. Chewing on the right meal replacement bar

apple cereals bar

Turning to diet bars will help you to manage your weight, but you will need to know what to look out for when choosing them.

Consider energy bars if your goal is weight loss, and protein bars if you want to build lean muscle.

a. Choosing energy bars

Take a close look at the ingredients in the energy bar in front of you. If the list is long and overwhelms you, put the bar back on the shelf. Turn away from bars with ingredients you cannot pronounce.

Never choose a bar with high fructose corn syrup, because the complex sugars in it are high. You will swallow large amounts of dextrose, fructose and sucrose. Pick bars that use natural sweeteners like raisins or berries. These are enough to sweeten it.

Do not put bars made with corn, canola or soy oils into your shopping cart. Though they come from vegetables, these processed, hydrogenated oils add to the risk of heart disease. Nutrition experts share that manufacturers often hydrogenate oils to lengthen their shelf lives. This increases the amount of trans fat, or tryglicerides, in them.

When choosing energy bars for the first time, turn to brands you are familiar with. IdealBar by IdealShape have a very popular meal replacement bar. Ask for a sampler box, if the manufacturer allows this. Try a few flavors and pick the ones that please your palate.

b. Choosing protein bars

Protein bars make healthy post-workout snacks for muscle builders.

Ingredients matter when choosing protein bars, as they do with choosing those for energy. Apart from considering the number of easily pronounced ingredients the manufacturer includes, think about the protein source used in the bar.

Avoid bars that contain soy protein isolate, because it is highly processed. Processed soy isolate is not health-promoting. Instead, it affects hormones. Studies show that it disrupts the endocrine system in women and raises the risk of breast cancer. Soy isolate may even interfere with protein digestion. Whey, conversely, encourages muscle development. Many studies prove that 20 to 25 grams of whey stimulates protein synthesis, or muscle-building.

Think about the sugar used in the protein bar. Again, if the manufacturer has packed it with complex sugars, put it down immediately.

weight watchersWhile weight watchers should choose energy bars lower in carbohydrates, muscle builders should not turn away from them. They help the body to replenish tissue after a tiring workout session. The bar a sedentary person chooses, according to nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, should have a protein to carbohydrate ratio of about 4:1. Pick bars with a 2:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio if you go to the gym often.

Choose bars with healthy fats. Almonds or other nuts are a nutritious, polyunsaturated fat source.

Drinking meal replacement shakes to lose weight or develop muscle

How effective are meal replacement shakes for weight loss and muscle building?

Nutrition powders are useful for weight management if you bear considerations in mind.

1. How diet shakes can help with weight management

You may decide to turn to powders, and not bars, to ease your weight management problems. Shakes do this in various ways.

a. Appetite control

Whey protein shakes help with weight loss because they act as appetite suppressants. Easily digested, they increase the amino acids in the body.

In one study, subjects ate a standard breakfast before consuming a whey protein shake or a placebo a few hours later. They then had pasta for lunch. Not surprisingly, those who took the shakes had less appetite for the pasta.

b. Decreases fat

Meal replacement powders, especially those made of whey, come from the liquid part, as opposed to the fatty part, of cheese making.

Nutritionists suggest that these powders have leucine. Research by the University of Utah on Mt Everest Climbers showed that leucine in protein shakes help them to burn fat at high altitudes, while preserving muscle tissue.

c. Added to food and beverages

Being quite tasteless, weight watchers can add whey protein diet powders to a host of food and beverages.

d. Nutrients

These shakes contain the essential nutrients the body needs. Diet shakes from Ideal Shape, made from whey, contain 22 essential vitamins and minerals.

e. Muscle building

weight lifterThe leucine in whey protein shakes stimulates protein synthesis and builds muscle.

In a series of experiments, researchers fed animals with different types of amino acids. They slowly eliminated non-essential amino acids from the animals’ diets. They found that leucine was the primary trigger for muscle growth.

2. Why shakes are not a complete weight management solution

While these shakes do have most of the nutrients you need, they cannot substitute whole foods completely. Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, who works with Mayo Clinic, remarked that meal replacement shakes may lack antioxidants and other substances present in whole foods.

Some nutritionists are skeptical about diet shakes as they are not sustainable weight loss solutions. They may help you lose weight in the short-term, but you may regain it when you return to a regular diet.

Drinking the right meal replacement shake

Diet shakes are essential for weight loss and muscle-building, but do choose them carefully.

1. Know what you are using them for

One rule of thumb when choosing a diet shake or protein powder is to know why you are using them. You can use protein powders, filled with amino acids, as meal replacements if you intend to lose weight.

Athletes need to drink whey protein shakes after they exercise, as this is when blood flow to muscles increases. Muscles are most receptive to nutrients, particularly amino acids, after a workout. It is also the time when they need repair. Studies by Eve Blomstrand prove that amino acids increase brain tryptophan, an amino acid needed for muscle growth.

Shakes also relieve stress. They build gluthathione, a compound that protects the DNA in your body from oxidative pressure. The tryophan and cystene in them build hormones, neurotransmitters and serotonin.

2. Know what ingredients they should not have.

The many diet shakes that flood the market will spoil you for choice. Producers pack poorly manufactured shakes with unwanted ingredients.

Avoid shakes with whey protein concentrates, as these are high in lactose. These can cause bloat or flatulence.

Gluten in shakes can increase inflammation and cause health problems like hormonal imbalances, fatigue, mood swings and skin irritation.

Shakes should not have dextrins, chemicals that will raise your glycemia, or blood sugar. To add, they should not contain milk solids, which may cause weight gain.

Some manufacturers put artificial sweeteners like sucrose and aspartame in the shakes they produce. They bring about side effects like migraines and bloat.

Certain shakes include xanthan, or gum, which thickens them when stirred. This can cause bloating, constipation or gas. Others use fillers, which may complicate digestive issues.

3. Find out how much protein you need.

If you intend to shed extra weight, buy a shake that is higher in protein. A healthy woman needs roughly 140 grams of protein per day to lose weight.

4. Powder quality

Choose a powder that has more natural ingredients, including, of course, whey. Make sure that they have no more than 10 ingredients, and that you can pronounce them easily.

Avoid shakes if their producers say that they have miracle ingredients, because this is probably a clever marketing strategy.

Take casein powders if you want to absorb protein calories slowly. These are ideal for those aiming to lose weight. Isolates, conversely, are better for those who want to build muscle, as they push muscles to starving cells quickly.

Meal replacement shakes or nutrition bars: Which suit you?

Diet shakes and nutrition bars can put you in a dilemma. It is difficult to decide which meal supplements are better for weight loss.

Bars, a solid supplement, satisfy your hunger for a longer time. Researchers S. M. Tieken et al, who studied the effects of solid and liquid meal replacements on hunger, found that solid meal replacements suppressed appetites for a longer time. Bars are more effective if you increase weight because you tend to snack between meals.

This said, note that bars have a higher sugar content. Manufacturers use sugar to bind them together. This makes them less suitable for weight loss.

Shakes will suit your needs better if your aim is to gain lean muscle. They deliver amino acids to needy muscles faster than bars do. Protein shakes burn fat at a faster rate than bars.

Should you have problems toggling a tight schedule, choose bars. They slip easily into a bag. Shakes, conversely, need preparation.

Your weight management needs and personal schedule will help you decide on a meal replacement. Their ingredients will influence your decision as well.

Here’s Dr. Oz’s take on Meal Replacement Shakes


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