5 benefits of using keto shakes as meal replacements

A keto shake combines healthy fats and keto-friendly protein in a readily-mixed form that you can use for extra calories or as a meal replacement when you’re on the go.

Keto shakes are a lifesaver when you aren’t able to prep a keto-compatible meal: most snacks and fast foods are laden with carbs and sugar, which will pull you out of ketosis and wreck the benefits of the keto diet.

Great keto shakes go beyond just providing fat and protein, though. Here are five ways you can use a keto shake for better results when on a ketogenic diet.

Keto shake benefits

1. A keto shake can provide a keto-friendly meal when you’re traveling

Most keto shakes are at least 60-75% fat, in terms of their caloric content, and the high-quality keto shakes use sources like powdered grass-fed butter, MCT oil, coconut oil, and powdered avocado oil to deliver their fat content.

The protein, which makes up the remainder of the calories, comes almost exclusively from high-quality sources like collagen peptides or whey protein. Here are some of the benefits of a top-rated keto shake.

2. The right keto shake can help keep your body in a state of ketosis

The entire point of a ketogenic diet is to force your body to produce and burn ketone bodies for energy instead of carbohydrates.

Many people trumpet wide-ranging health benefits from ketosis, but one of the toughest parts about the keto diet is actually staying in ketosis.

Your fat intake must be very high: in the classic ketogenic diet (originally developed to treat epilepsy in children), the proportion of your calories that must come from fat is a stunning 90% (1).

3. Keto shakes have super low carb content

Many people report being able to stay in ketosis with less than this proportion of total calories from fat, but the fact remains that your fat intake must be very high and your carbohydrate intake must be very low—classically, below 20 grams total in a day (2).

It can be very hard to find premade foods that meet these criteria if you are not at home and can’t make your own food, but this is exactly where a keto shake can come in handy.

With many of the top keto shakes delivering 75% of their calories or more from fat, with a few or even zero grams of carbohydrates, they are great for helping to keep you in a state of ketosis.

4. Staying in ketosis can help you lose weight

One landmark study comparing the ketogenic diet to a standard low fat diet was published in 2004 in the Annals of Internal Medicine (3).

This study showed that, after a year of follow-up, the participants who were in the ketogenic diet had better adherence to their diet and greater amounts of weight loss than a standard diet.

One reason for this might be that ketogenic diets are usually unrestricted in terms of caloric intake: as long as you are staying within the macronutrient ratios of the diet, you can eat however much you want.

The hunger-suppressing effects of ketosis may also play a role in the greater success of the ketogenic diet, so chalk one up for keto shakes over a traditional meal replacement shake in that category too.

5. Keto shakes could improve your performance in endurance events

On the other end of the health and performance spectrum, ketosis has been explored as a potential method of boosting endurance performance.

It’s not well-suited for explosive, anaerobic sports like sprinting, which rely on burning carbohydrates exclusively, but in events like cycling races and ultramarathon running, some athletes have found that using keto shakes to stay in ketosis improves their performance.

Scientific research suggests that some athletes may benefit from ketosis in long endurance events too: A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism in 2016 using 39 elite cyclists found that some athletes performed better thanks to the metabolic shift towards burning ketone bodies instead of carbohydrates (4).

A keto shake is the perfect solution for athletes, since it’s easily transportable and consumable.

Keto shake side effects

Watch out for dairy allergies. In terms of immediate side effects of keto shakes, the only concerns would be for people who are severely lactose intolerant or who have dairy allergies, as many keto shakes use milk-derived ingredients as sources of fat and protein.

Aside from rare allergies, keto shakes are very well-tolerated. The real concern is adverse effects from staying in ketosis for a long time.

Staying in ketosis can have some mild side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, these side effects can include headaches, bad breath, weakness, cramping, and gastrointestinal problems (5).

Indeed, even the clinical trials for weight loss that have used ketogenic diets have noted a higher rate of mild side effects in people on a ketogenic diet.

Notably, though, this does not prevent adherence from being better among study participants in the ketogenic diet, nor does it result in worse weight loss results—quite the opposite on both counts. For many people, the risk of mild side effects is worth the benefits of the ketogenic diet.

Keto shake dosage

Aim for 250-450 calories per shake. For regular use as a meal replacement or caloric supplement, you likely want a keto shake that provides between 250 and 450 calories per shake. That should be enough to get you through the morning or the afternoon without hunger pangs, but also not providing so manly calories that you defeat the intent of your diet.

Keep the macros fat-heavy. In terms of macronutrient content, you can tilt your macros slightly more towards protein with your keto shake, but you should still hew close to the generally accepted recommendations of 70-75% of your calories coming from fat, 20-25% coming from protein, and the remainder coming from carbs.

Keep the carbs as close to zero as possible. Since you’re likely to pick up carbs elsewhere in your diet (such as from healthy vegetables), it’s best to keep the carb content of a keto shake as close to zero as possible.

This is easy with great products on the market that offer as little as one gram of carbs per serving. A keto shake with minimal carb content not only frees up carbs for elsewhere in your daily caloric intake, but also prevents the insulin spike and crash that happens after taking something like a normal sports drink or a sugar-heavy energy drink

A good-quality keto shake can be taken every day as an alternative to, or in addition to, a standard meal. Most often, people swap out their typical breakfast or lunch for a keto shake, or use it as a post-workout supplement to recover after hitting the gym. 

Keto shake benefits FAQ

Q: How do you make a keto shake? 

A: To truly work as a part of a keto diet, a keto shake needs over half of its caloric content to come from fat. To this end, you’ll want to start with a good base of fats, like MCT oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and/or avocado oil.

Then, you’ll want a good source of protein that’s low in carbs and has a well-balanced amino acid profile. This might be something like collagen peptides, bone broth protein, or another low carb protein powder.

Then, you need to boost the nutrition quality of the shake; this is where green drink powders can come in very handy, as they add both antioxidants as well as essential vitamins and minerals.

Finally, you need to make sure the keto shake tastes good, but without adding any extra carbs. If you are making your own, you can try adding ingredients like stevia or cocoa powder to give it some sweetness without kicking up the carbohydrates and sugar content.

Q: Can you drink protein shakes on the keto diet? 

A: Protein shakes should generally be modified if you are on a keto diet, because the standard protein shake formulation is low or completely devoid of fat, has a moderate amount of carbohydrates, and is very heavy on protein.

This is fine if you don’t care about ketosis, but if you do want to keep your macronutrient ratios in check, a keto shake is a better option. That’s because a keto shake is designed to be higher in fat, lower in carbohydrates, and keep the protein content in check.

Keto shakes are still a strong source of the same amino acids you’d get in a typical protein shake, but they won’t throw off your macro ratios the same way an off-the-shelf protein shake will. 

Q: Can you have a meal replacement shake on the keto diet? 

A: Meal replacement shakes are fine for a keto diet as long as they are specifically formulated to stay within the macronutrient ratios prescribed by the diet.

Unfortunately, most pre-made meal replacements are not even close to being in line with keto diet recommendations. Typically, these off the shelf meal replacements are very high in protein, have a modest amount of protein, and very little fat.

A keto shake is a better option, as these are specifically formulated to have more fat, modest amounts of protein, and almost no carbohydrates of any kind.

It’s far easier to swap out a meal with a keto shake and still stay within keto diet guidelines; indeed, many of the products we reviewed are specifically designed as meal replacements, with vitamins and minerals added to boost the nutrient content of the shake. 

Related: Our best keto shake picks

Summary

Keto shakes serve as high-fat, low-carb meal replacements for people on low carb or ketogenic diets. They’re loaded up with healthy fats and a broad range of amino acids from keto-friendly protein sources, all while keeping the carb content super low.

A good keto shake is incredibly convenient if you’re traveling or just too busy to prep a healthy keto-friendly meal, and they’re a great way to ensure you are staying on your macro targets to keep yourself in ketosis.

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