Let’s talk about under armor.
No, not the clothing with paper-thin branding. The stuff your grand-uncle wears while he golfs.
I mean your body. What can you do to make it a temple? Built strong, with every detail defined. How do you build it?
You need bricks. A high caloric intake with good macros and vitamins and minerals is the best way to stock your building yard.
How can exercise help, if there are no resources to build with?
I recommend the solution, Meal replacement shakes.
These shakes have all the bricks, beams, and rebar that your body needs. Let’s look at the shipping manifest, and see what we need to order in first.
To Gain Weight, Eat more Fuel
The first order you need to place is for more calories.
If you consume more calories than you burn you gain weight. As simple as that.
Even thin men, myself included, need 2500 calories every day just to maintain weight. Here are some rough guidelines.
A 6000 calorie and over diet is unsafe.
If you are a young man, no matter your build, you’re likely going to lose weight at anything below 2000 calories.
Somewhere between 2000 and 5000 is best. Please, take to a nutritionist before you max yourself out at 5000 calories. That amount of food is gorging yourself.
Everything you want to change in your life needs to be addressed in the same way. Small, doable, goals.
Take your current calorie intake for example. Whatever it is, add 600 calories to it each day. That corresponds to a gaining one pound every week. Every pound of fat is around 3500 calories. In one year, you can gain 50 pounds, more than most ever need. We’ll discuss gaining muscle weight over fat weight later.
You have probably seen bulky Youtuber dudes stuffing bananas, peanut butter, and milk. To get those extra caloric intake.
Truth is, I’m doing the same.
The story doesn’t end there. I know you would rather you gain a pound of muscle than of fat. The steps to achieving that are to exercise and balance your macros.
Your muscles build with resistance. Find something to resist, even if its as simple as your body’s gravitational pull, and resist it. Push-ups. Exercise as often as you can.
Nutrition is complicated. This is a quick introduction to macro proportions. The bulk of your foot is composed of protein, carbs, and fats.
Protein is a common thread linking all reasonable diets. Carb and fat diets just don’t exist, unless your doctor is telling you to eat cake.
Protein comes along in many wholesome foods. Eggs, meat, oats, fish, yogurt, peas, and sprouted grains.
Naturally, carbs and fats are there too. Which is good. A man can’t live on protein alone. We will discuss carbs and fats later.
Protein is Necessary for Proper Muscle Growth
Here is a quick and dirty run down on protein.
Your body needs amino acids, which there are 20. Of those, 9 are essential. Meaning your body cannot produce them, you must get them from food.
The amino acids for muscle growth are Branched Chain Amino Acids. (BCAAs) All three BCAAs are essential.
Find a protein source that has all essential amino acids and BCAAs and you are doing golden. Whey protein is a classic choice, you can’t go wrong with it.
As for the amounts. Here are some rough guidelines.
You need 0.7 grams of protein per day, per pound. This ensures that your muscles don’t atrophy from lack of building supplies.
Athletes use the guideline of 1 gram per day, per pound. Its easier to remember, and if you mess up it doesn’t set you back.
Going further, there are studies of bodybuilders that ate up to 1.4 grams of protein per day, per pound. This amount may be beneficial to people trying to retain muscle while losing excess weight.
Protein shakes are popular for a reason, they provide large amounts of protein free from other considerations. If you need help just getting more protein in your diet, many people have chosen protein shakes as a replacement for a meal. There are plant based protein shakes as well. Soy protein is one of the most popular. Some other plant based protein shakes include pea, and brown rice. Those two together make many high quality protein shakes.
Fats have Great Fuel Value
It is a mistaken notion that you should avoid all fats. Fats are underrated and misunderstood. They are a great source of fuel and some are healthy. Our tongues know it; fats taste good.
Fats are either unsaturated, saturated, or trans.
Broadly defined, unsaturated fats are healthy.
Saturated fats lean towards bad, but are fine in moderation.
Avoid trans-fats, they are linked to cancer.
You may be aware of the Keto diet. It is a high fat, low carb diet. Keto dieters are very concerned with the quality of ingredients. Because of the high amount of caloric intake in Keto meal replacement shakes, compared to others, they were among the first I looked at to find the best weight gaining shakes.
Complex Carbohydrates are Fuel
The rest of your fuel intake should be made up of carbs.
Carbohydrates, like everything in nutrition, are complicated. There are three types of carbs. Two of them are directly used as fuel for you body.
Sugar is a carbohydrate. A single tablespoon of brown sugar provides 50 calories.
Starches are the second type, they eventually get broken down into glucose and used as fuel.
Fiber is the last type. It isn’t calorie-dense like other complex carbs. (Providing at most 2 calories every gram) So something may be high in carbs, but low in fuel value. Fiber may be the reason.
Meal Replacement Shakes
Understanding macros is a great way to start understanding your diet. Now comes the how-to. Everyone and their handsome Doberman hound have their favorite meal replacement shake recipe, down to exactly what brand of peanut butter you need to be using.
I want to go one step ahead of those people. I want to take it to the next level with a personal chef.
Almost, more like a personal nutritionist.
Meal replacement shakes have been growing in popularity, bad ones have been weeded out, and some remain. Of those, there is one that will fit your goals. Traditionally, meal replacements have been used for weight loss. It’s only been recently that meal replacements have been designed for gaining weight as well. Weight loss or gain, meal replacements are excellent to help people with their weight management.
Why use Meal Replacement Shakes
It’s hard to eat a lot of food, all day, its easier to just drink something and get it over with.
In my experience, the best ways to control your diet are to log your food and prepare meals at the start of the week. I cannot recommend those techniques enough. Both of these together give you concrete evidence that you are in a calorie surplus.
Keeping a journal is difficult. That’s where meal replacement shakes can help. Since the calories are written on the label all you need to do is multiply that number by how many times you take it.
Replacing one meal a day with a meal shake makes it 33% easier to track your intake. I don’t recommend replacing all your meals. There is a joy to eating real food and you want your diet to be varied.
I’m a thin guy with a high metabolism, a skinny hard gainer, I have a difficult time putting on weight. I wasn’t losing any, so I just needed to eat a little more to gain weight.
So, what I did in college is I added a single meal replacement shake to my diet. I didn’t change anything else. This gave me the extra 500 calories a day to start gaining weight.
I recommend you try that, just add one meal replacement shake a day to your life. You probably aren’t drinking enough fluids anyway, so you’ll get two birds with one stone.
Choosing a Meal Replacement Shake
Before I get to my list I want to describe the criteria that I’ve chosen the shakes with.
Here are four primary considerations in order of importance.
- High Calories
- Good macros
- Nutrient Dense
- Quality, Affordability, and Branding
Lastly, I like meal shakes that avoid evil. Nobody makes food out of engine oil, so bad ingredients in the food are a personal matter. Trans-fats should be avoided, of course. I also like avoiding gluten, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and synthetic ingredients. The more wholesome the ingredients, the less wasted stomach space. Other benefits include absorbability, digestibility, and bragging rights.
High in Fuel
This is a no brainer. A proper meal shake starts with between 300 to 400 calories. Since meal shakes were developed as a way to lose weight, a lot of meal shakes have low calories.
High protein is a must. I aim for around 25 grams per serving. As for the other two, its a matter of diet. Most diets recommend low fat and high carbs, and the popular keto diet recommends the other way. I can’t recommend a diet to you, but what I am looking for is that the carbs and fat put together is double the protein.
Vitamins and Minerals
It is easy to load up on carbs, fats, and protein. Your body needs a lot more than those, it needs vitamins and minerals. If a meal shake can provide essential vitamins and minerals I consider it higher than other shakes.
Quality refers to ingredient sources. If a meal replacement shake company’s CEO handpicks the rice from the mountains of Tibet, I prefer that shake to someone that slopped in a generic whey protein powder from a depressed cow.
That comparison leads to my next point. Is it affordable? Almost all meal shakes are more affordable than fast food. Not the CEO harvested rice variety, but we don’t need that. What we need is one meal for five dollars. Branding is a matter of taste, and you may say you don’t care. But, your friends are going to see you with your meal shake at the gym. Make an impression if you can.
Make the Meal Replacement Shake Personal: Milk
I wanted to talk about milk. Milk is an excellent way to add to a top-notch calorie meal replacement shake. Many shakes are lower on caloric intake, but you can break their mold. Mix in a high-calorie liquid base and make the meal replacement shake yours.
This is the best opportunity to take your favorite milk and use it. Don’t have a favorite? Let me recommend mine.
My favorite is oat milk. It has 130 calories every 1 cup. Also, it has the healthiest fat profile I’ve ever seen. 5 Grams, 0.5 saturated. 1.5 Omega-6, and 2.5 monounsaturated. Naturally, free of trans fat. Add in 10 essential vitamins and you have oat milk. It tastes like oatmeal. I love oatmeal.
Other options include ultra-filtered milk, like Joyya, these have higher fuel value and high protein (16 grams) so you can really optimize your weight management with a meal replacement shake. This is the best choice for many people.
Normal 3.5% milk provides 160 calories and 8 grams of protein.
Goat milk has a tad more protein, 9 grams, but triple the amount of trans fat.
1% Chocolate milk is just as good as normal whole milk, but it tastes better. The difference in fuel value is based off of levels of sugar.
Most all plant based milks have low caloric intake. The best is Soy milk, at 100 calories per cup.
Avoid skim milk. We all love your grand-mother and her delightful sponge cake. Truly we do. Leave the skim milk for her.
Best Weight Gain Shakes
Let’s get back on track: This isn’t a milk review, its a meal replacement shake review. Meal replacements help people with weight loss, and weight management. Used right, they can help anyone to gain weight as well. Meal replacements aren’t going anywhere, here is my list of the best ones. I hope that it can help you make an informed choice.
Conor Young founded Ample when he found that a lot of his friends felt drained after using other meal shakes.
Ample is a wholefoods high-fat shake meal replacement that is designed for energy and proper digestion.
Does it work well for weight gain?
The Ample 600 calorie meal bottle has the consistently highest fuel value over other replacement shakes.
As for the macros we have, 40 grams of fat per serving. It is among the best high protein replacement shakes with 34 grams of protein. The Ample protein shakes are made of a blend of grass-fed whey protein powder, collagen, and pea protein.
It even has some Vitamins and Minerals to boot!
You can mix a calorie boosting milk, even though this is the few products that don’t need it.
It doesn’t been a blender either, the powder is already in the bottle. Add milk, water, or coffee and pump it like a shake weight. Charging out the door at 5:00 AM to get your morning Brazilian JiuJitsu class.
It comes in 400 and 600 calorie bottle. With milk, those can easily become 500 and 700, even higher. This gives you a lot of versatility with the product. Even the lowest caloric intake bottle with water works better than most all meal replacement shakes. And the 600 bottle with almond milk is like bringing a stocked air-craft carrier to the 16th century to sink the Spanish armada. It’s more than you need.
Taste: it tastes like a cookie milkshake.
- Highest Calorie
- Wholefood Ingredients
- Great Digestability
- Comes in one flavor.
Garden of Life
High caloric intake comes with the territory of being high-fat replacement meal shakes.
Because Keto dieters are concerned with quality food sources, they can do the worrying for you.
Garden of Life takes quality ingredients to the next level. I can’t stress this enough. Every product is organic, and their dairy sources aren’t just ‘Grass Fed’. That would be too easy. They are Truly Grass-Fed, Trademark.
All this comes with a price: the price.
This meal replacement drink has 4 grams of fiber. Fiber helps with digestion, ensuring that every calorie is absorbed into your body.
I love this product, and others are Garden of life makes. They stand out from even the best in meal replacements.
- By far: Best Quality of Ingredients
- More Fiber
- High Caloric intake
- Less affordable
Real Gains Weight Gainer
Right out of the gate, or rather, blowing it off its hinges. We have Real Gains weight gain meal drink.
It has 600 calories per meal, low sugar, tons of carbs, 84 grams. It is pumped to the max with protein at 50 grams. Low fat, only 6 grams. This will help you gain weight fast, it has proven results.
Why only second place? The ingredients are low quality, sure. More importantly, I value my time, the inconvenience of this meal shake replacement makes my mornings slower. You can’t take this on the go.
It is difficult to mess up with a product like this though. It is absolutely stocked with essential amino acids. Including the three BCAAs.
I love the branding, this is a product one is proud to use. It is a product designed for hardcore weighted exercise routines.
- Extremely High Protein
- Best caloric intake
Huel aren’t meal replacement shakes. It’s just a meal. That is there branding.
There is a lot of fuel in Huel, placing it among the best available meal replacement shakes. (Sorry Huel, I’m not your brand department)
They are a British company. Leave it to the British to describe in-depth every detail about Huel. If you like knowing what you are eating, this company will keep you in the know.
Their meal price comes to about 2$ for each meal. Cheaper than crumby fast food. It is the best meal price one can hope for, practically free.
It tastes like bland cold watery porridge. At least it doesn’t taste bad.
Put in something to spice it up and you’re fine. Huel is among the best meal replacements.
- Very Affordable
- Lots of Vitamins and minerals
- The company informs you about nutrition.
- Poor taste
Labrada Nutrition Shake
Labrada meal shakes are a no-nonsense meal replacement shakes. It gets straight to the point, even with its packaging. Build Muscle, Burn Fat is right on the top of the box.
By its self, it is among the highest calorie meal replacement shakes. Less than Ample, but not by much. And nothing that good milk can’t make up for.
I may be a bit of a wimp, but I don’t like the ingredient list. Saying, ‘Trade Mark’ after an ingredient seems weird. I like saying, ‘whey protein’, ‘peas’, ‘coconut oil’, and nothing besides.
Everything that is no-nonsense is difficult to describe. But. It’s also easy to use.
It’s worth noting that this product is extremely low fat, only 1.5 grams. If you are on a low-fat diet, this is the best choice.
If that doesn’t bother you, fire up that blender because you’re going to need it.
- More Affordable
- Higher Calorie
- Lots of Vitamins and Minerals
- Lower quality food sources
Boost VHC lives up to its name, it is very high calorie. There are tons of reviews saying that they gained weight using this. It has 21 grams of soy protein. Soy protein isolate has all the BCAAs, you can build lean muscle mass with this product as long as you exercise.
With all that said, why isn’t this drinkable meal replacement higher up on the list?
There’s only one catch.
The taste turns the stomach, it needs doctoring up. Pour into a glass and add some flavor boosters.
But hell, you push through sets of 100 chin-ups, you don’t need a dash of sugar to coax your way through a drink.
- Extremely High Calorie
- Lots of Vitamins and Minerals
- Bad taste
Ensure Plus Nutrition Shake
Ensure swings for the fences with this replacement meal shake. Sure it is labeled as a nutritional supplement but we know how to use it to are advantage.
It has 350 calories. Which, by its self, is on the higher end of caloric intake.
The only catch is it has less protein, only 13 grams. They are from whey protein, so one can build muscle with it but I would recommend getting more protein from elsewhere.
The taste is pleasant for a meal replacement drink.
- Fine taste
- Higher Caloric intake
- 27 Essential vitamins and minerals
- Lower Protein
Ketolife Ketogenic Meal Shake
Keto products can get expensive, this one is far more affordable.
They save money by using pre-blended keto mixes. Don’t let that put you off though. The ingredients that go into those mixes are as wholesome as your grandmother’s birthday.
There are some bad reviews for digestibility, however.
Adding milk to each serving of this powder will get you up to about 400 calories. Milk has milk sugars, lactose, so you can get your carb-fuel there.
This replacement shake meal tastes unusually good, as compared to other meal shakes.
- Excellent Taste
- Affordable Keto Shake
- Wholesome Ingredients
- Less digestible
Bringing it all Together
All that being said, which do you choose to start replacing meals with shakes?
I recommend trying Ample first. It meets all the requirements for a weight gain meal shake. Despite not being marketed as a mass-cultivating formula it is competitive with them. The convenience and wholefood ingredients raise the bar.
The benefit of high digestibility meals you won’t get sick from the product. Nothing worse than buying 20 meals you haven’t tried. Then the first one makes your morning bus ride feel like your stomach is getting pumped by a gas siphon.
The extra vitamins are a nice touch, but you can do better. Add some oat milk to the replacement shake and make it yours.
Sculpting your body is a lifelong pursuit. Take it one day at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself. My Jiu-Jitsu teacher always slows me down. “Just show up and be willing to learn.”
Persistence is the key to success. I hope you can find higher levels of achievement with a replacement shake in your meal plan.
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