This post contains affiliate links.
A Shakeology Alternative: Learn How to Make the Best Meal Replacement Shakes for a Fraction of the Cost
We’ve reviewed several Beachbody products here, and it’s no secret that we’re not big fans of Shakeology.
But it’s not that we dislike Beachbody or even the product itself (except for Vegan Tropical Strawberry – YUCK). It’s mostly the price that we can’t stomach. After all, these are products that lots of people feel compelled to sell in order to afford them. That just doesn’t sit right with us.
Of course, Beachbody isn’t the only health & wellness company that uses a direct sales (i.e., MLM) model. There’s Herbalife, Isagenix, Advocare, Plexus – just to name a few.
And listen. Some people swear by certain products. They’re able to meet their goals, and that’s awesome! Health is wealth, and you have to invest in yourself. We certainly aren’t advocating for you to quit a program that’s working for you. But if you are in the market for a nutritional program and:
- can’t (or won’t) spend $5 for a meal replacement shake
- don’t want to go “all in” with direct sales products in order to reach your goals
- don’t like secretive formulations or products that make unrealistic claims
then you’re in the right place. Vic has spent a lot of time researching this subject, and he’s going to tell you how to find the health benefits that Shakelogy and similar products promise for much less money.
One Part of the Plan
Weight loss products will never stop selling, and it’s easy to see why. Drink this shake and watch the pounds melt away? Take these supplements and wake up with superhero energy? Use these drops and never have to eat a vegetable again? Sign me up!
Certainly some of these products really can help. But keep in mind that even though shakes & supplements may have a place in your diet, you will still have to eat REAL food for a healthy lifestyle. I’m going to share some ideas that have helped me bridge nutritional gaps without breaking the bank.
Shakes are great for curbing cravings and getting the protein that you need in an easy way, especially when they’re used around workouts. After you crush your resistance training or power through an extra long run, the last thing you need to do is celebrate your hard work with a soda, a bag of potato chips, and Snickers bar. That’s where the post-workout shake comes in.
Here’s the bad news: shakes and supplements are only one component of nutrition. You still have to eat real whole foods, train effectively, and get adequate rest. But the bad news is really GOOD NEWS, and here’s why: it empowers us to make healthy lifestyle changes WITHOUT having to rely on any particular brand or product.
Meal Replacement Shakes
I’ve never liked the idea of a meal “replacement” shake (e.g., Slimfast). Don’t skip meals. Anything that you drink (with the exception of smoothies) is not going to keep you satiated as long as a meal that you chew. Instead, consider these shakes as a way to make it through cravings or as a healthy snack (versus Fritos).
It’s important to modify your meals when possible to include minimal processed foods. Shakes, of course, are processed; however, their nutritional profile and convenience are hard to match. You can offset this by combining your shake with some healthy snack options (apples, almonds, Greek yogurt, bananas, etc.), and by including shakes as one part of a balanced meal plan.
When creating your own meal replacement shake, you’ll to want to start with a good protein powder.
I’ve written a guide on how to analyze protein supplements to get the best value for your money. I do have my favorites, but there are so many options to pick from. Just crunch a few numbers and make sure that you’re not getting ripped off. (You’ll want to consider how many grams of protein per serving + how many calories per gram of protein.)
Choose Your Liquid
Your caloric needs and tastes are going to determine what you would like to add for a liquid. If you want to lose weight (and change your body composition), you’ll have to reduce your overall calorie intake. The type of calories you’ll want to reduce are refined carbohydrates (sugar, sweeteners, processed grains, etc.). Water is calorie-free, but it will negatively affect the texture and consistency of your shake. My liquid of choice is unsweetened almond milk. It’s low in calories and keeps for a relatively long time without refrigeration. Some other options to consider are low-fat milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and soy milk.
Once you’ve got your base down, you can add various ingredients to give yourself some extra sustenance. I’m a big fan of powdered peanut butter. Quick oats can also be a good addition if you don’t mind the texture. My absolute favorite thing to add is instant espresso powder. Not only do you get a mild energy kick from the caffeine, but it also adds a deep robust aftertaste that makes the chocolate flavored shakes very satisfying. If you’re sensitive to stimulants, the caffeine-free instant espresso gives the same wonderful coffee flavor.
PRO-TIP: You can use these mini cartons for almond milk or other liquids if you’re unable to refrigerate your shake.
This is an entirely different category of shake. Much has been written about the optimal nutritional profile and timing of a post-workout meal. You can do your own research (but don’t go down the rabbit hole). This is what works me me – perhaps you can use it as a foundation and modify it to meet your own needs.
Unless your workout is at least 45 minutes of high intensity activity, a post-workout shake isn’t going to be critical. However, I’ve found that if I don’t have a post-workout shake, I snack before dinner, usually on some type of refined carbohydrate like corn or potato chips.
Fortunately, the post-workout shake builds on the meal replacement shake concept with some simple modifications.
1. I recommend using low-fat cow’s milk or a pre-made protein shake. Muscle Milk Light is my favorite. If you’ve trained rigorously for at least 45 minutes, the extra protein is going to help in recovery. While it’s not absolutely necessary, the pre-made cartons of protein are very economical and super convenient. When you purchase them in bulk, you’re still going to be way ahead of the per serving price of popular meal replacement shakes.
2. Powdered peanut butter is a great choice for extra sustenance. Quick oats or ground flax seed can also be used, but I’ve never gotten over the texture in a shaker cup. I recommend the extra sustenance for especially strenuous training sessions such as a leg resistance day or prolonged cardio (60+ minutes running, elliptical, etc.).
3. Add creatine monohydrate to your shake. Buy it in bulk and add 3-5 grams to the shake. It’s a well studied supplement with proven benefits. It’s also cheap when purchased in bulk.
4. This is entirely optional, but consider adding glutamine. The evidence is inconclusive on whether this actually aids in post-workout recovery; however, you do typically find it as an ingredient in premium protein powders. Perhaps there’s something there? Fortunately it’s so cheap that I add 3-5 grams anyway. (I still succumb to clever marketing too…)
A Word About Superfoods
I’m a big advocate of EATING real superfoods (broccoli, avocado, blueberries, etc).
Don’t fall for the hype that dehydrated and powdered superfoods are going to yield the same health benefits of real foods. First, most of the “magic” shake companies don’t disclose the exact composition of the “superfoods” included in their shakes. Second, the processing of the foods destroys or removes many of the nutritional compounds that you benefit from, such as insoluble fiber. Take oats, for instance. As the oats are processed from steel cut, to old fashioned, to quick, to instant, they become less & less beneficial. This is because the fiber and structural properties of the oats are destroyed in order to make them easier to cook and digest. This is why eating real, non-processed foods will keep you feeling full for much longer.
Just the Beginning
I want to reemphasize that while nutrition is important, it is not the only thing. “Health” should be broken down into three broad categories: nutrition, training, and rest. Today we just talked about nutrition, which is the fuel for your body but you really must consider all three elements in order to build a synergy that reinforces your health. I’ll be putting together an article on this soon, so stay tuned.
All of the pricing info below was sourced on Amazon. You can find these products and others that we like via Sharon’s Amazon Influencer page (contains affiliate links).
For a basic shake, you’ll have to spend just over $1. If you include “superfoods,” the price only increases to about $2 per shake. If you whip up a very nutritious post-workout shake with all the extras, you’ll still spend less than $4 for a very fulfilling post-workout recovery meal.
$0.60 25g protein: $40 for 5 lbs of Combat Whey
$0.17 12g peanut butter powder: $12 for 30 oz PBfit Peanut Butter Powder
$0.40 8oz liquid (almond, dairy, etc)
Post Workout +Up
$2.50 20g protein: $18 for 12 containers of Muscle Milk Light (Costco’s price is slightly better deal)
$0.15 5g Glutamine: $27 for 1kg of BulkSupplements Pure L-Glutamine Powder
$0.10 5g Creatine: $20 for 1kg of Creatine Monohydrate Powder Micronized by BulkSupplements
Superfoods Powder (if you insist…)
$0.70 8g superfoods: $21 for 30 servings of Amazing Grass Green Superfood
With just a little extra time and effort, you can save a lot of money on shakes. And you can use that savings for a gym membership or equipment and real food (which you need to eat anyway)! Just something to consider the next time you’re tempted to buy into the next big thing.
Victor is a licensed Professional Engineer and a licensed Surveyor & Mapper in the state of Florida. He is an avid reader, a lifelong learner, a fitness enthusiast, and a coffee snob. He also has two beautiful daughters and a lovely wife, and he’s not just saying that because his wife is writing his bio.