The term medical meal replacement can be defined as a calorie-controlled, pre-packaged product in the form of a bar or a beverage (ready-to-drink or powder) used to replace a meal. Medical meal replacement supplements contain an average of 160 – 250 calories, are low in carbohydrates, and are enriched with vitamins and minerals to provide your complete daily requirements.
The terms medical meal replacement and protein shake/ supplement are very different. A protein supplement or shake, for example, is one that you buy at the grocery store. However, protein shakes/ supplements don’t meet the requirements to replace a meal, nor are meal replacement products the same as protein drinks and powders that have the sole purpose of adding more protein to the diet. Instead, most medical meal replacement products provide a more balanced ratio of protein, carbohydrate, and fat typical of a meal comprising of prepared foods.
If you compare an Optifast® label to a premier protein label, the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) appear similar. However, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals ) are not identical. When you replace your entire daily intake with over-the-counter supplements, you will not get 100 % of the essential micronutrients your body needs to function properly which can lead to problems.
Potassium is a vital nutrient that is needed for the normal functioning of all cells. For example, it regulates the heartbeat, ensures proper function of the muscles and nerves, and is vital for synthesizing protein and metabolizing carbohydrates. For example, if you choose to do 5 premier protein shakes, you will get 70 % of your recommended daily amount (RDA) of potassium. As a result, the potassium levels in your blood will drop. You are at risk for developing a fatal heart arrhythmia, may experience muscle cramps or weakness, and potentially experience psychological symptoms such as hallucinations and delirium.
Sodium is also another vital nutrient that is needed for our bodies to function properly. It helps keep the water (the amount of fluid inside and outside the body’s cells) and electrolytes balanced. Sodium is also essential in how nerves and muscles work. If you again were to do 5 premier protein shakes, you would only get 70 % of your RDA of Sodium. A low sodium level can cause headaches, confusion, and seizures.
If you go on a diet lower than 1000 calories or replace your entire intake with medical meal replacements such as Optifast ®, it is essential that your kidney, liver, and electrolyte levels be monitored closely by a trained medical professional.