Geverifieerd door Massi Fazli

Gecertificeerd Health Communicator & Clinical Dietitian

Protein Drinks vs. Ready To Drink (RTD): Which Is Best?
Weight maintenance

Protein Drinks vs. Ready To Drink (RTD): Which Is Best?

Choosing between a protein drink or protein powder over a meal replacement like a ready-to-drink protein drink (RTD) can be challenging. Many protein drinks advertise high protein content and low calories, making them an appealing choice. However, the critical difference in their nutritional composition is crucial for achieving weight loss goals.

One of the biggest challenges when following your daily macronutrient plan or diet is hitting the recommended protein intake. Protein is essential for building more muscle mass, burning body fat, and improving overall body composition. If you're trying to understand the differences between protein powder and ready-to-drink protein drinks as meal replacements (RTD), continue reading.

Ready-to-Drink (RTD) as a Meal Alternative

Options with meal replacements such as shakes, bars, or ready-to-drink drinks (RTD) appear as the ultimate time-saving solution. Tailored for busy days when you don't have time to prepare food or eat a full meal. These products can also be enjoyed as healthy and nutritious snacks, providing a balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals with all the essential nutrients your body needs.

The correct composition of a meal replacement - applicable throughout the EU is:

  • The energy content must not be less than 200 kcal and must not exceed 250 kcal per meal.
  • Fat content and composition, the amount of energy coming from fats, must not exceed 30% of the product's total energy content. The linoleic acid content (in the form of glycerides) must not be less than 1 g.
  • Protein content and composition in the food must not be less than 25% and not more than 50% of the product's total energy content.
  • Vitamins and minerals must provide at least 30% of the nutrient reference values (NRV) per meal. This requirement does not apply to fluoride, chromium, chloride, and molybdenum. The amount of sodium provided per meal must be at least 172.5 mg. The amount of potassium provided per meal must be at least 500 mg.

Nutritional contents must be clearly displayed on the packaging. Products that meet the above criteria can claim on the packaging that they offer weight control by meal replacement and can legally say:

  • Replacing two daily meals in an energy-reduced diet with meal replacements contributes to weight loss/weight reduction.
  • Replacing one daily meal in an energy-reduced diet with a meal replacement contributes to maintaining weight after weight loss.

RTDs are a valuable meal and ensure that you get what your body needs.

It's essential to note that protein drinks can vary significantly in size, ingredients, and nutritional content. Therefore, it is necessary to review the nutritional information and ingredient lists carefully to distinguish between them. Some drinks may have a volume as low as 120 ml, while others can be as large as 500 ml. The calorie content can also vary significantly due to variations in sugar and fat content. In addition, protein drinks typically contain between 10 to 28 grams of protein per serving.

While protein drinks may seem like a quick solution, they often lack the comprehensive nutrition that ready-made meal replacements (RTDs) offer. They can fall short on other important nutrients besides protein. However, protein drinks can still be a convenient and appropriate solution to curb hunger or support muscle building as needed.

It's important to understand that protein drinks are not subject to the same strict standards for nutritional composition as ready-made meal replacements (RTDs). Although certain protein drinks meet the criteria for an appropriate protein content, they do not always meet other important nutritional requirements that meal replacement products must fulfill. Therefore, they should not be considered a complete alternative to a well-balanced meal.

Therefore, a ready-made meal replacement ensures a more balanced nutritional profile. These products are designed to replace a full meal and contain a balanced blend of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

If you occasionally replace a meal with a protein drink, there's no cause for concern. However, if this becomes a regular habit, it could have significant consequences. Since a protein drink requires careful reading of the nutritional content and does not always provide adequate nutrition, you risk either consuming too few or too many calories to support sensible weight loss or weight maintenance, and your intake of essential vitamins and minerals may become inadequate, potentially having serious consequences for your health in the long term.


To replace a regular meal with a protein drink rather than an RTD can have several consequences:

  1. Issues with calorie intake: While occasional replacements of a meal with a protein drink are not necessarily worrisome, regular replacement can lead to challenges with calorie intake. This can result in either insufficient or excessive calorie intake relative to sensible weight loss.
  2. Missing essential nutrients: By prioritizing protein drinks over RTDs, one risks missing out on important nutrients necessary for the body's function. This can compromise the intake of essential vitamins and minerals crucial for a healthy diet.

For a healthier lifestyle, it is recommended to choose RTDs, as they offer a more comprehensive blend of nutrients tailored to support your overall goals. By avoiding confusion and prioritizing meal replacements, one can achieve the right balance of nutrients for optimal weight control.

 

As a clinical dietitian, I recommend preferring RTDs (Ready-to-Drink) over a regular "protein drink" for several reasons.

First and foremost, these products represent a healthier alternative, as they contain a comprehensive blend of nutrients that meet the body's needs.

While regular protein drinks often focus solely on delivering proteins, RTDs offer a more holistic approach by including other important nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. By choosing RTDs as meal replacements over regular protein drinks, you ensure that your body gets all the necessary nutrients to maintain general health. This is particularly important if you use meal replacements as part of a balanced diet or as a supplement to your daily nutrition.

The lack of a wide range of nutrients in regular protein drinks can result in imbalances in your diet and ultimately affect your health negatively. Therefore, it is crucial to choose RTDs that offer a more complete nutritional profile when you wish to replace a meal or supplement your diet with a drink.

These products are designed to provide you with the necessary nutrition in a convenient and effective way, making them an ideal choice for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle

 

Sources:
• https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/DA/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32016R1413&from=EN KOMMISSIONENS FORORDNING (EU) 2016/1413 af 24. august 2016 • www.foedevarestyrelsen.dk (2024) De officielle kostråd

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