If you happen to be one of the many women who is always on the go; balancing a full time job, wife and mommy duties, or just have a hard time getting in the quality calories and nutrition that you need on a daily basis… then a ready-to-drink (RTD) protein / meal replacement shake could be the answer to your diet and nutritional prayers.
Of course, eating real, unprocessed foods is always ideal, but sometimes it can be difficult, and it may not even an option for some of us. This is where a RTD meal replacement shake could come in handy.
Meal replacement shakes are designed to do just that – replace a meal. Not only do they contain protein, an essential building block for muscle and key to virtually every bodily function, but they also contain fiber, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and other essential ingredients.
Types of Ready-To-Drink Shakes
Considering all of the different products out there, choosing a ready-to-drink shake can be a bit overwhelming. For women in particular, it can be especially confusing since many RTD meal replacement and protein shakes are designed for male athletes and bodybuilders.
For example, just because something has 50g of protein doesn’t make it healthy. 50g of protein is way too high for most women, and you can clock over 500 calories in one protein shake if you’re not careful.
To avoid confusion, let’s discuss the types of ready-to-drink shakes:
- Low Calorie / Low Carb – “Lite” RTD shakes contain less calories (usually 150 or less), carbohydrates, refined sugars, and fats. Great for women who are watching their weight!
- Standard Meal Replacement – Middle of the road in terms of calories and carbs. They’re designed to replace a typical “healthy” meal. These shakes normally contain 200-250 calories and will have a small amount of carbs (about 25) and sugar (about 10-15).
- Recovery / Performance – These shakes are designed for pre or post workout activity and will contain significantly higher amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fat and sugar to provide energy or to recover from rigorous physical activity.
- Protein Only – Many RTD shakes contain protein only. These ready-to-drink protein shakes ARE NOT classified as “meal replacements” since they lack other important ingredients.
Best 5 “Lite” Meal Replacements
If you’re a calorie conscience woman, but aren’t overly aggressive in the gym, a “Lite” (low calorie / low carb) meal replacement is an excellent choice. These products have lower calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and fat content… making them perfect for average, ever day ladies who are trying to watch their weight. For those who are slightly more active, I’ve also suggested some light RTD’s with higher protein.
One of the most popular ready-to-drink meal replacements for women, EAS AdvantEdge Carb Control was recently reformulated and tastes better than ever. This was one of the first RTD’s that I ever tried, and I highly recommend them to average, every day women who are trying to cut calories without the need for lots of protein. With only 2.5g of fat, 3g of carbs, 100 calories, zero sugar, and 17g of protein, it tastes great and comes with an affordable price tag. I like Chocolate Fudge the best, but EAS offers several other flavors such as Vanilla and Caramel.
With 40g of whey protein, Natures Best Isopure Zero Carb RTD’s are definitely more appropriate for post workout, but what I really love about them is they’re not thick, creamy or chalky. Available in a variety of mildly sweet fruit flavors, they taste just like a flavor infused water and are super refreshing! One downside is that they come in large glass bottles, which may not be the best to lug around. They do tend to be a little steep on the price end as well, but since most women only need about 20g of protein per meal, you can drink just half… so technically you get 2-for-1. Score! Isopure Zero Carb contains only 160 calories with no carbs or sugar.
Unlike some RTD protein shakes, this one includes milk and casein protein, which is an excellent source of calcium as well. Casein isn’t the best option for post workout because it’s a slower digesting protein, BUT… it also contains milk protein and it’s a great ready-to-drink meal replacement to use anytime throughout the day. Pure Protein contains only 170 calories, 1.5g of fat, 4g of carbs, 1g of sugar and 35g of protein. This meal replacement shake is pretty darn good when it comes to taste and price, but once you open the can it’s kind of hard to split or save some for later. Looking for something with even less calories? Pure Protein makes a 23g version with only 110 calories – and it includes a resealable bottle!
This is another great ready-to-drink meal replacement shake containing milk and casein protein, but still low in calories – clocking in at just 140… with 4g of fat, 7g of carbs, 3g of sugar, and 20g of protein. This RTD is a well-balanced, low-carb meal to go! Gluten and lactose free, it’s the perfect option for weight conscience individuals – whether you’re a regular at the gym or not. It might not have as much protein as some of the other products I’ve recommended, but once again, 20g is perfect for most women and this one takes TOP PRIZE for flavor. Super delicious with a mid-range price point I definitely won’t complain about.
This ready-to-drink protein shake packs a whopping 51 grams of whey protein, but still contains low sugar (3g), carbs (6g) and fat (2g), with 250 calories. Because the protein is so high, this is another RTD worth splitting up into two separate servings or sipping on throughout the day. Like all of the products I’ve suggested so far, MET-Rx Protein Plus is a great low fat / low carb meal replacement that contains numerous vitamins and minerals. It’s another rich and creamy shake as far as taste goes, and it’s certainly one I enjoy – Frosty Chocolate being my favorite. Price? Not too shabby… it’s a little higher than others, BUT it has 51g of protein per serving. Split it in half and you have yourself another great 2-for-1 deal!
Other RTD Protein Suggestions
Since most women are focused on cutting calories and staying slim, I primarily targeted low calorie / low carb meal replacements on this list. These are certainly the top RTD protein shakes for women, but if you’re trying to put on some muscle mass, or you’re into super high intensity workouts and need extra carbs and calories, then a standard meal replacement shake may be a better choice (list coming soon!).
While it’s probably not a good idea to replace every meal, a ready-to-drink meal replacement is definitely better than skipping a meal; or even worse, visiting a vending machine for a highly processed snack. Not only will a RTD protein shake be cheaper than stopping by the drive through, but it will demolish fast food nutritionally – HANDS DOWN!