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What is a meal replacement?

Meal replacements are products that focus on providing the nutritional contribution that a solid food intake would supply. These products are in a powder format that is reconstituted by supplying it with water or another liquid, such as milk or juice. They have a very desirable taste and can be taken at any moment. 

Why take a meal replacement?

Their main purpose is our need to stay healthy despite the hectic pace of our lives. The majority of people usually find it somewhat complicated to eat their meals on a regular basis, typically only eating one or two which could be considered complete. This poses a risk to long-term health, since it tends to lessen the intake of micronutrients needed for proper nutrition.

What a should a meal replacement provide?

In order to maintain a balanced diet, both at the macro and micro-nutrient levels, a meal replacement should be able to replace an adequate quantity of both, roughly equivalent to what one would get from solid foods with a regular calorific framework. In other words, the ingestion of the total nutrients calculated for the individual's nutritional guidelines and that actually can produce an excess of these when needed.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are chemical substances that produce energy and are obtained from food. The three macronutrients in the diet are: carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.

The diet should be made up of these three components, in proportions corresponding to the requirements of each individual, as well as their objectives with regard to bodyweight (increase, maintain or reduce) and finally the type of activity they plan to do.

Proteins

Protein is an essential macronutrient for human life. Such is its importance that we could not live without it, or rather the amino acids that constitute it. Thus, protein consists of amino acid chains, which are the unitary blocks that have each been assigned essential functions within our bodies. These processes include: tissue regeneration, production of cellular energy, neurotransmitter synthesis, macronutrient metabolism, maintenance of the normal function of the organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys.

There is a group of amino acids called "essential amino acids" whose synthesis cannot be carried out in our bodies and require an external addition of the appropriate sources of protein. These type of proteins are known as "complete proteins" given that they incorporate the entire spectrum of amino acids, both essential and non-essential. Among the sources where we can find them are those of animal origen. Those of vegetable origin tend to be lacking in or have a very low proportion of one or more of these essential amino acids.

Those with a training regime involving more than 3 sessions per week of any type of physical activity, will need a better supply than the rest of the population.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are substances whose function is to provide energy. This energy can be administered in various ways. Our bodies can store it in the form of muscle glycogen by filling up the deposits located in the muscles or as hepatic glycogen. These are limited energy stores and it will be necessary to increase their intake if our activity demands it.

The body actually uses glucose, which has the same relationship to carbohydrates as amino acids do to protein. When the body doesn't have enough, it leaves room for other macronutrients to do the job, which is also the case with protein. This is due to the fact that our bodies have resources that can produce glucose from amino acids in the absence of carbohydrates. But when this process takes place we are limiting the work for which they were designed, which is very inefficient from the point of view of sports.

The brain, kidneys, and muscle tissue all require glucose in order to function. Although as has been discussed they are able to use another substrate, albeit one which would have to involve other conditions, such as ketosis (the production of ketone bodies and their use).

Carbohydrates are mainly divided into two types, based on their molecular structure: simple and complex. The simple type is made up of units of glucose. Our bodies ingest it and it is metabolised almost instantly, providing glucose very rapidly to the bloodstream. On the other hand, if the structure is composed of unions of glucose chains, we are talking about complex carbohydrates, which supply energy in a much more gradual manner. The fact that glucose is provided in this way causes the pancreas to secrete insulin in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Simple carbohydrates produce a rapid increase of glucose in the blood stream, the level of which is measured using the glycaemic index (GI).

Fibre is another type of carbohydrate. It plays a role in maintaining the health of the intestinal tract. It is an undigestible substance that passes through the digestive system, helping to remove waste until it is finally excreted. The presence of fibre in the diet is associated with the reduction of certain pathologies such as obesity, cholesterol or heart problems.

Fats

Fats or lipids, are the group that provide fatty acids. Among these, there are also certain elements called "essential fatty acids", which much like essential amino acids the body is not able to synthesise, making it therefore necessary to provide them through food. There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. They have certain differences at the molecular level and it is among those of the unsaturated group that one finds the essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6.

Fats have important functions in our bodies:

  • As an energy source and resource
  • Supporting the correct functioning of the brain and nervous system
  • Maintaining the health of the skin and other tissues
  • A vital aid in maintaining cell membrane integrity
  • They provide a mechanism for transporting the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Hormone synthesis

What are micronutrients?

This is the group of vitamins and minerals which are obtained from certain macronutrients, provided they are already rich in them. We need them in small amounts, unlike with macronutrients. They are essential for the proper functioning of the body, since they are involved in practically every chemical reaction that takes place.

Such as: regulating the metabolism, heart rate and cellular and skeletal system maintenance. A lack of these micronutrients can generate certain complications and lead to the development of high-risk pathologies.

Within this group of vitamins there are two further sub-groups, the fat-soluble and the water-soluble: B, C, D, E, K.

In the mineral group there are: magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride.

Benefits of meal-replacement supplements

The main benefit is the additional nutrition required to maintain an optimum level of health, through a balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. Due to their format they are very easy to carry around and can be consumed at any time and in any place, thereby avoiding the problem of skipping meals.

Choosing a meal replacement product

Taking as reference the previously explained, if due to our circumstances, and especially face to achieve the marked goal, within the dietary plan, we will seek a kind of substitute supplement of food that we provide:

  • Complete proteins, ie, it should contain complete proteins from animal sources, such as milk whey.
  • Carbohydrates, mostly of the complex type. Sources of oat flour or maltodextrins within its composition.
  • Fibre supply
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals

Meal replacement brands

There are plenty of brands that produce meal replacement products, such as:

  • HSN Sports Evomeal: a perfect balance between proteins and carbohydrates. Ideal to replace a breakfast or as a snack.
  • HSN Sports protein pancakes: pancakes rich in protein and carbohydrates, made from oatmeal.
  • HSN Sports protein waffles: delicious waffles with a high protein and carbohydrate content, made from oatmeal. Ideal for breakfast, lunch or as a snack.
  • USN Diet Fuel Ultralean: one of the best meal replacement shakes for use during diets, due to its low carbohydrate and sugar content .
  • Clarou Oatein: a delicious shake, rich in CFM protein and oatmeal.

Meal replacement proteins

Those of us who are on a weight-control diet, look for meal-replacement shakes that are rich in proteins but low in carbohydrates and fats to take between meals. These smoothies help satiate the appetite, maintain muscle mass and promote fat loss in a healthy manner.

Some examples of meal replacement products are:

  • Evodiet: Perfect to complement a diet plan designed to reduce or maintain weight. Less than 5g of carbohydrates per shake.
  • Ultra Loss: Meal replacement supplement, high in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, green coffee and L-carnitine
  • Adipo Block Detox: a protein shake of great value, thanks to its detoxification abilities.

Meal replacement shakes

If we are looking for inexpensive meal replacement shakes, one option of interest may be to create our own recipes. One place to start would be with:

To make our shakes even more nutritious we can add fruits (banana, apple, strawberries...), nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts...), vegetable fibre (psyllium husk, flax seeds) and so forth.

Meal replacement sachets

There are meal replacement products available that imitate our regular dishes but which are meant to be the "light" version. They are intended for those of us who are looking to lose weight the healthy way.

For example their are meal replacement sachets for puddings, soups, omelets, custards, etc.

These alternative food sachets are designed to have fewer calories than the original meal and usually with a higher protein content.

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