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Best Meal Replacements for Muscle Gain

I’ve done hundreds of meal plans over the years; some focused on weight loss, but some are focused primarily on weight and muscle gain.  Many muscle building food plans require 6 or 7 meals per day, eating every 3 hours.

For the person trying to add muscle but finding it difficult to consume all these meals, a meal replacement is often needed.  At higher calorie levels, sometimes it becomes just too tedious to chew that much food. And who has the time or energy to prep every one of those meals?

Even if you use a food prep service like Factor, Trifecta, or Icon Meals, a typical plan only gives you 3 meals and 2 very small snacks.  A high-quality meal replacement can help fill the calorie void.

For lower calorie levels and cutting, most of these meal replacements would be too caloric and/or have too many carbs (except for Kaged Muscle Clean Meal).  But for hard-gainer men, they are perfect.

This “Best Meal Replacement” list consists of products that use whole foods to best mimic a real meal. Yes, you can create your own meal replacement by blending a whey protein, fruit, almond butter, and maybe throw in some oatmeal… but it is hardly convenient to drag your blender to work or on the road.

These meal replacements contain a wide variety of ingredients and nutrients to cover all your bases.  Some are more “natural” than others.  I prefer the ones with no corn, dextrose, or maltodextrin; stevia and monk fruit extract are also preferable sweeteners.  Unfortunately, a totally clean meal replacement with none of those ingredients is very difficult to find.   Animal Pak’s Animal Meal came the closet to this to win #1 Best Meal Replacement for Muscle Gain.

What are the top 5 Meal Replacements for Muscle Gain?

My picks are:

1.    Animal Pak – Animal Meal

2.    All Max Meal Prep

3.    Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

4.    Redcon1 MRE

5.    Axe & Sledge Home Made

I’ve summarized the ingredients, calories, and macronutrients of each of the meal replacements on my “Best” list below.  Many popular meal replacements didn’t make my list because they just contained too many ingredients that cause inflammation or other unhealthy effect in the body.

1. Animal Pak – Animal Meal

 505 calories/46 grams protein/49 grams carb/14 grams fat – 2 heaping scoops

 Free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.  A balanced and easy-to-digest whole foods meal replacement, containing a mixture of animal and plant proteins.  This is a super-efficient blend that contains an almost perfect 1:1:1 ratio of macronutrients, sourced from seven whole foods in powdered form:  beef, eggs, peas, sweet potatoes, oats, cassava root (yuca), and olive oil.   All-natural flavors come from sea salt, stevia, vanilla, cocoa, and monk fruit extract. Most people find this meal replacement to digest well with no intestinal distress. Contains no dairy.  Comes in Chocolate, Mocha Cappuccino, and Vanilla.

5 lb. tub $69.95

2. All Max Meal Prep

500 calories/50 grams protein/55 grams carb/9 grams fat (Blueberry Cobbler) – 4 scoops

Contains a protein blend of meat, eggs, and legumes (chicken, egg white albumin, salmon, beef, pea protein, chickpea, organic pumpkin seed, LENTEIN® water lentil, and almond protein); Whole grain blend of oats, sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, flax, nuts, and seeds; Fruit and vegetable medley containing dark greens, beet, carrot, banana, pear, berries, and citrus; superfood matrix containing mushroom, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, and matcha green tea; Electro Hydration Complex – sea salt, calcium, and potassium.  Comes in Blueberry Cobbler, Banana Nut Bread, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.  This meal replacement has so many fantastic ingredients; however, it is sweetened with Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium.  Unfortunately, it is also hard to find and frequently sold out.

5.6 lb. tub $69.99

3. Kaged Muscle Clean Meal

240 calories/28 grams protein/16 grams carb/4.5 grams fat – 2 scoops

This is another great whole-food meal replacement shake.  Not as high in calories as the others.  Contains a premium whey protein isolate, real food carbohydrate sources, quinoa and Swedish oats, a medium-chain triglyceride, coconut oil, and 21 organic vitamins and minerals (sourced from broccoli, spinach, kale, pumpkin, sweet potato, sunflower seed, kelp, chlorella, and maitake mushroom. Contains 6.5g of BCAA touting 123% better amino absorption.   This meal replacement fits a variety of uses since it is lower in carbs compared to most.  To add carbs for those wanting to bulk or gain weight can always add a banana or other fruit, or just double up on the scoops (4 scoops) for a higher calorie meal replacement. Comes in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla Cake, and Snickerdoodle.

2.58 lb. tub $49.99.

4. Redcon1 MRE

530 calories/47 grams protein/75 grams carb/4 grams fat – 4 scoops

Formulated with whole food protein sources: chicken, beef, egg, and salmon.  Also contains Pea and Brown Rice protein.  Carbohydrates are derived from powdered yam, sweet potato, pea starch, goji berry, and blueberry.  Even though this product contains a lot of great whole foods, it also contains dextrose, maltodextrin, milk creamer, and artificial sweeteners, sucralose, and Acesulfame Potassium; so, it is not as “natural” and clean as some of the other powders. I kept this product on my list simply because it tastes great and is very popular. Contains no whey, so seems to be easy-to-digest with no bloating.  This meal replacement works well as both a Pre- and Post-workout shake. Mixes easily and has a more milkshake-like texture (due to the milk creamer).  It is a tasty product; flavors available are Vanilla Milkshake, Dutch Apple Pie, Banana Nut Bread, Strawberry Shortcake, Fudge Brownie, Peanut Butter Cookie, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (a favorite), Blueberry Cobbler, and Cookies & Cream.  The flavor choices I think adds to the popularity of this meal replacement.  This shake is higher in carbs than the other mixes; for those that want a lower calorie option it comes in a Lite version.

7.44 lb. tub $79.99.

5. Axe & Sledge Home Made

420 calories/48 grams protein/48 grams carb/6 grams fat – 2 scoops

Home Made is another whole food-based meal replacement mix containing an optimal balance of carbs, fats, protein, fiber, and micronutrients to promote recovery and muscle protein synthesis. The protein blend is derived from a combination of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, egg white protein, collagen, brown rice protein, and pea protein. This product is made with low glycemic carbohydrates (whole grain oat flour and sweet potato flour), contains 8 grams of fiber, and only 3 grams of sugar.  For healthy fats, Home Made incorporates medium chain triglycerides (MCTS).  To aid in digestion Home Made features DIGESEB® digestive enzymes and FIBERSOL-2® (soluble corn fiber) to promote nutrient absorption, gut health, and satiety. Contains both natural and artificial flavors, gums, and artificial sweetener Sucralose.  Shake flavors include Vanilla, Sweet Potato Pie, Double Chocolate Brownie, Blueberry Muffin, Peanut Butter Cookie, and Lemon Cream Pie

6.5 lb. tub $79.99.

A quality meal replacement is just one brick in an effective building plan.   Any one of these great whole food shakes can get you one step closer to perfecting your physique.

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