Supplements

Complete Nutrition vs Meal Replacements – What’s the Difference?

While meal replacement shakes have been around for years, you might be hearing more about complete nutrition shakes. So, do meal replacement and complete nutrition shakes work? Both are convenient and can be part of a healthy diet pattern, but each offer unique benefits based on your goals. Read on to learn more about complete nutrition and meal replacement shakes and how they work.

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What is complete nutrition?

Complete nutrition shakes offer the benefit of healthy nutrition on the go. It can be so time consuming and complicated to plan all of your meals and snacks for the week or even for the day. With a complete nutrition shake, you can get all of your macros (and micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals) in one complete package. They aren’t specifically for those who want to lose weight, but they can be for anyone with a busy schedule who still wants to stay healthy. 

Complete nutrition means balanced calories, macros, vitamins, fiber, and minerals in one easy drink. 

  

What are meal replacement shakes?

Traditional meal replacement shakes were aimed at those who wanted to lose weight. They typically range between 200-300 calories and aren’t necessarily focused on macros. The convenience and ease of a meal replacement meant less work counting calories. Meal replacements can take the place of one or two higher calorie meals from a typical diet, which can lead to faster weight loss. 

While the low calories of meal replacement shakes can be effective for weight loss, they aren’t right for everyone. If you want the convenience of a meal replacement but more nutrition and higher macros, complete nutrition shakes fill that need, especially for those focused on building or sustaining mass. 

Complete nutrition is great for the busy, health-conscious person on the go. 

  

What does the research say?

Research has supported the use of meal replacement shakes as part of a calorie restricted weight loss plan, making them popular since the 1990s.1 However, while effective, low calorie meal replacements are often a temporary solution and not a long-term lifestyle change. Meal replacements make weight loss easier, but they don’t necessarily teach how to create sustainable patterns and macros for a complete diet. 

  

Take Home Message

While meal replacement shakes and complete nutrition shakes both offer benefits, one is more useful for weight loss while the other can be used by anyone focused on a healthy lifestyle.

Complete nutrition shakes are ideal for the busy, health-conscious person who is on the go and wants to feel confident that they can stay on track with their eating.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


  1. Rothacker, D. Q., Staniszewski, B. A., & Ellis, P. K. (2001). Liquid meal replacement vs traditional food: a potential model for women who cannot maintain eating habit change. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics101(3), 345.lete  


Claire Muszalski

Claire Muszalski

Writer and expert

Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.

Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.

Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.

Find out more about Claire’s experience here.


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