Not long ago, we were pretty much relegated to limited choices when it came to nutritionally complete meal options that addressed the specific and comprehensive needs of those engaging in rigorous training. Thankfully, the opposite is true today with the advent of many new meal replacements (MRP's) fortified with quality protein, vitamins and minerals, and some with fiber and healthy fats. Modern MRP's offer users many advantages that make maintaining a healthy diet regimen a snap. Among them are:
Make no mistake -- today's MRP's are nothing like the older, canned versions, nor are they like the mass-marketed meal shakes you find in the grocery store. For one, a majority of the calories in the premium MRP's come from high quality protein, rather than sugar or corn syrup. They are also not loaded with preservatives. Modern-day sports nutrition meal replacements have been consistently improved to serve the needs of athletes for optimum results. Perhaps the first among these was the original MetRx MRP developed by Dr. Scott Connely. Then came EAS Myoplex. And now, such great-tasting products like Intake Performance, among many others, have added to the credibility and popularity of this growing category. There is no shortage of flavors or brands to choose from, so, how do you decide? Well, ProSource recently commissioned a taste test involving 10 volunteers, asking them to give their impression on nine of our top-selling MRP's. These tasters, including veteran supplement users, athletes, bodybuilders, and trainers, have a wide-ranging knowledge of the product category, and know what it's like to depend on a meal replacement for essential nutrient support of a workout regimen. Specifically, they know that, while nutritional content is key, no MRP is going to emerge as a long-term solution if it doesn't taste great. This group of taste testers was further augmented by five supplementation experts from the ProSource Product Testing Team. Over the course of two days, the panel of 15 taste testers was asked to try a sample of one MRP every hour, allowing them to cleanse their palate with water in between samples. Tasters where not told which product they were evaluating, and were instructed to give as much detailed information as possible regarding taste, texture, and overall satisfaction. The samples were mixed in shaker cups according to directions, and poured into plain paper cups. Each of the nine samples were all approximately the same flavor -- chocolate. So, which one tasted best? Or was too gritty? Or too sweet? Below are the results of how each product fared in the taste test, along with some basic nutritional notes:
- Available in individual packets, convenient for carrying to work or traveling
- Mix easily with a shaker cup -- most no longer require a blender
- Contain a blend of high quality fast, medium, and slow digesting protein
- Makes metabolism-boosting protein rich meals more convenient when trying to eat every 2-3 hours
- Can be used for weight loss, maintenance, or muscle/mass gains
- Offer a blend of simple and complex carbs for sustained energy levels, and fiber
- Minimize unhealthy fats, while some are fortified with healthier monounsaturated fats
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals. Some even add glutamine, glutamine peptides, and Branched Chain Amino Acids for those engaged in more intense training
- Provide consistency for those counting macronutrient levels (i.e. protein, carbs, or fats)
- Cost effective -- most are less than $2.50 per serving
MRP's are considered one of the most effective supplements available to athletes today. They provide the ideal ratios of proteins, carbs, and in some cases healthy fats to support dramatic physique transformations, plus offer loads of important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. More athletes swear by MRP's than any other supplement available for reshaping their physiques. They represent the most tried and true solution to getting real results. But the key to maximizing the power of MRP's is CONSISTENT use. By replacing two to three meals on a daily basis, you can achieve dramatic reductions in body-fat along with significant increases in lean muscle mass in a little as a month. This is why taste is so important. If you burn out on a product because of poor taste, you will inevitably not use it consistently. We've conducted this taste test to help you find the best products to do the job.
#9.) ProLab Lean Mass Matrix
Has 5 grams of fiber and plenty of complex carbs to help keep you feeling full all day. Also contains 2 grams of glutamine. Contained the highest amount of calories in the group, and is a particularly good choice for those looking to add serious mass. Testers complained the product was a little too gritty, and the flavor didn't taste nearly as good as some of the others.
#8.) Ultimate Nutrition Isopreme
One of the lowest sodium scores in the group. Fortified with 50% of many vitamins and minerals. Testers ranked its taste and texture average to fair.
#7) EAS Myoplex Original
Myoplex remains one of the top-selling MRP's. Like a few of the other products tested, the sodium content may be an issue for some at 310mg per serving. Earned good scores in both the taste and texture categories.
#6) IsoPure by Nature's Best
Having the highest amount of protein in the group at 50 grams (although it has a larger serving size), the lowest sugar at 1 gram, and the least amount of cholesterol at 10 mg, is one reason Isopure remains popular among our customers. The major complaint about this product is that its whey protein is the ion-exchanged form, which is generally regarded as a much lower grade of protein. The problem is that ion-exchange processing method destroys some of whey's most valuable microfractions and growth factors, and also results in a slightly bitter taste as opposed to the superior CFM form of whey isolate, which represents the purest, cleanest tasting protein source available. As far as taste and texture, it ranked equal to EAS MyoPlex Original.
#5.) Lean Body Original by Labrada
Lean Body is a great low-fat favorite with zero trans fat. Another major downside is that it's one of just a few MRP's that still contains aspartame. Most consumers prefer sucralose for its better taste and the fact that it's not associated with the potential side effects of aspartame, such as headaches and inflammation. A few panelists thought that just a little more flavor would make this a real winner.
#4.) Right for Men by Bill Phillips Eating for Life
The father of EAS Myoplex betters his original product with good carb and protein choices, plus added digestive enzymes for protein and a probiotic blend. It did, however, contain the lowest amount of protein of the group and was a little high in sodium, at 400 mg per serving. Panelists agreed that it was one of the better scoring choices for taste and texture.
#3.) NutriPure Supreme
ProSource's own MRP takes the prize for the lowest amount of sodium in the group, and contains added glutamine peptides, branched-chain amino acids, and taurine that are particularly beneficial to strength-training athletes. In addition, its protein blend consists of some of the highest quality sources available making it a leader in bioavailability and amino acid profile. While panelists ranked it as one of the better tasting MRP's, it was slightly beat out by two competitors in the flavor department.
#2.) Meso-Tech by MuscleTech
A rich-tasting MRP with added creatine, AKG, and glutamine peptides. It did contain the highest amount of sugar in the group at 6 grams. It also contained the most cholesterol at 85mg. Some panelists said it tasted almost too sweet, but its rich, smooth consistency gave it an edge over the competition in the taste department.
#1.) InStone's Intake Performance
The hands-down winner in this test was Intake Performance. Remarkably, 14 out of 15 testers ranked this as the best tasting MRP! It is a true rarity to get that many people to all agree on something but just one taste of this nutritional masterpiece and it's no wonder. This is a case of a truly superior product in an ultra competitive category. Its taste, texture and consistency were ranked as the best by a significant margin. But even more impressive is that Instone managed this feat while also using the lowest amount of carbs (just 14 grams per serving) and with the highest quality proteins, it has helped make this product the best in both taste and nutritional value. In addition, it also contains a beneficial blend of healthy fats including Flax, DHA, and CLA designed to help accelerate fat-loss while maintaining muscle, plus an effective blend of key digestive enzymes.