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Many people drink meal replacement shakes to reduce the number of calories they consume with the goal of losing weight.
However, used differently, meal replacements can also help you gain weight.
This article explains provides a list of the best high-calorie meal replacement shakes for weight gain.
What are meal replacements?
As the name suggests, meal replacements are intended to be used in replace of a regular meal.
They may be come in the form of a bar, soup, powder that you mix, or, most commonly, a premixed, read-to-drink shake.
Meal replacements are commonly marketed for weight loss since they generally contain fewer calories than a traditional meals.
There is no standardized definition for the term meal replacement, but they usually provide a balanced ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, similar to what a typical meal would provide.
This makes meal replacements different from basic protein powders or bars, which have the purpose of adding more protein to your diet.
Meal replacements usually contain fewer calories than a standard meal so they aren’t the best choice if your goal is to gain weight.
However, they can be useful for gaining weight if you consume them as a snack between your regular high-calorie meals rather than using them to replace your meals.
They are also useful because you may not feel as full from them since liquid calories tend to be less satiating or filling than solid calories from food, making them great if you struggle with a poor appetite or early satiety.
Some meal replacements contain fewer than 200 calories but you should choose ones that provide at least 300 calories if your goal is to gain weight.
Here are the five best high-calorie meal replacement shakes for weight gain, each with at least 300 calories per serving.
A quick look at the best high-calorie meal replacements for weight gain
- Best overall: Ensure Complete
- Best tasting: Muscle Milk Gainer
- Best for elderly: Boost Very High Calorie
- Best for muscle gain: BPN Strong Food
- Best vegan: Soylent Complete Meal
How I chose these high-calorie meal replacements for weight gain
- Company reputation: I include products from reputable brands that have existed for at least five years.
- Nutritional value: Each product contains at least 300 calories and 20 grams of protein to support weight gain.
- We’ve tried them: I only include meal replacements that I have personally tried at least one flavor of so I can confidently speak to and recommend them beyond their label.
A note about price
Each product is assigned a dollar sign ranging from one to three ($ to $$$). One dollar sign indicates the product is more affordable compared with the others, whereas three indicates a higher price range.
Generally, the meal replacements we selected range from $1.60 to $4.25 per serving, but the price may vary depending on the product flavor, container size, and where you live or shop.
- $ = under $2.00 per serving
- $$ = $2.00–$4.00 per serving
- $$$ = over $4.00 per serving
My picks for the best high-calorie meal replacement shakes for weight gain
Ensure is a brand of premixed nutrition drinks.
Of the various Ensure products, Ensure Complete provides the most protein- and calories.
Although Ensure is commonly recommended for and used by older adults, it takes possession of the best overall high-calorie meal replacement for weight gain because it can meet most people’s needs.
High-calorie meal replacements range in calories, providing 200 calories per serving on the lower end and up to 600 calories on the higher end.
Providing 350 calories, Ensure Completed is the perfect middle ground for calorie content.
Ensure Complete is an excellent source of 25 vitamins and minerals, meaning it provides at least 20% of the daily value (DV) for them.
Each bottle provides 30 grams of protein from milk and soy.
Ensure Complete is offered in three flavors — Milk Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla.
I tried the Milk Chocolate. It was non-chalky and easy to sip on.
Boost Plus is an alternative to Ensure Complete, providing a similar number of calories but less protein.
You can learn more about the differences between Ensure and Boost for weight gain here.
Nutrition per bottle (10 ounces):
- Calories: 350
- Fat: 8 grams
- Carbs: 42 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 30 grams
Compared with the other high-calorie meal replacements on this list, Muscle Milk Gainer was the best tasting.
I tried Cookies ‘N Creme and mixed it with milk. It mixed well with just a few shakes in my shaker cup.
The other two flavor offerings are Chocolate and Vanilla.
Taste is subjective, so what I think tastes good might not taste good to you.
However, a decent number of reviews seemed to agree with my taste preferences.
While classified as a weight gainer supplement, you can use it as a meal replacement.
One serving is 4-scoops and provides 650 calories but if you take two scoops, you still get a respectable 325 calories.
Compared with the other high-calorie meal replacements on this list, the protein — which comes from milk — is on the low side at 16 grams per half serving.
Muscle Milk Gainer is a good source of 20 vitamins and minerals and is third-party tested by NSF for substances banned in sports.
Nutrition per 1/2 serving (2 scoops):
- Calories: 325
- Fat: 4.5 grams
- Carbs: 55 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Protein: 16 grams
Best for elderly
Similar to Ensure, Boost is a brand of premixed nutrition drinks.
Of the various Boost products, Boost Very High Calorie packs 530 calories per container, making it the most calorie-dense meal replacement on this list.
Many older adults struggle with poor appetite, early satiety, or both, and consequently, struggle to eat enough calories to either maintain a healthy weight or recover from recent unintended weight loss (1).
This makes Boost Very High Calorie the perfect choice for the elderly since it offers a significant number of calories relative to the volume, making it easier for them to get more calories in before feeling full.
Boost Very High Calorie also offers 22 grams of protein from milk and soy and is a good source of 27 vitamins and minerals.
It comes in three classic flavors — Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla.
I tried the Vanilla. It was thicker than Ensure Complete but still smooth.
Nutrition per carton (8 ounces):
- Calories: 530
- Fat: 26 grams
- Carbs: 52 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Protein: 22 grams
Best for muscle gain
BPN Strong Food is a calorie- and protein-packed meal replacement powder.
Each 3-scoop serving provides 470-490 calories and 40 grams of protein from whey — a milk protein — and yellow peas.
It also provides slow-digesting carbohydrates from oat and sweet potato powder to help power you through your workouts.
BPN Strong Food is third-party tested by Informed Sport for substances banned in sport, making it perfect for athletes who are tested for performance-enhancing drugs.
It comes in Chocolate and Cinnamon Roll.
I opted for the Cinnamon Roll and to my surprise, it tasted very similar to a cinnamon breakfast roll.
It mixed well with milk — but you can also use water — and there was no gritty texture to it.
Nutrition per serving (2 scoops):
- Calories: 470–490
- Fat: 14–15
- Carbs: 46–48 grams
- Fiber: 5–7 grams
- Protein: 40 grams
Best for vegans and vegetarians
Soylent Complete Meal is a plant-based meal replacement shake, making it vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.
Each shake 14-ounce shake provides 400 calories and 20 grams of protein from soy.
They are an excellent source of at least 25 vitamins and minerals.
Soylent provides the most flavor options on this list.
Available flavors include Original, Vanilla, Banana, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate, Cafe Mocha, Cafe Latte, Cafe Chai, and Creamy Chocolate.
The coffee flavors provide 150 mg of caffeine from coffee powder — the equivalent of a 12-ounce (360-mL) cup of coffee — along with l-theanine, an amino acid that balances out the stimulant effects of caffeine (2)
Soylent offers variety packs so you can see which flavor you like best.
I opted for the Chocolate Lover’s variety pack from which I enjoyed the Cafe Mocha the best.
Nutrition per serving (14 ounces):
- Calories: 400
- Fat: 24 grams
- Carbs: 36-38 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 20 grams
A comparison of the best high-calorie meal replacements for weight gain
Here’s a look at how my top picks for high-calorie meal replacements compare:
|High-Calorie Meal Replacement||Price||Best For||Calories||Protein||Form|
|Ensure Complete||$$||Everyone||350||30 grams||Premixed|
|Muscle Milk Gainer||$||Taste||325||16 grams||Powder|
|Boost Very High Calorie||$$||Elderly||530||22 grams||Premixed|
|BPN Strong Food||$$$||Muscle gain||470-490||40 grams||Powder|
|Soylent Complete Meal||$$$||Vegans||400||20 grams||Premixed|
Homemade meal replacements
Meal replacements are a convenient and efficient way to boost your calories and gain weight.
While the products on this list are great options, you can make your own — and it’s easier than you might think.
Here are three options, each with at least 300 calories and 20 grams of protein:
Peanut butter banana shake
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp PB2 peanut powder with cocoa
- 1 scoop Chocolate Peanut Butter whey protein powder
- 1 cup 2% milk
- Calories: 380
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbs: 48 grams
- Protein: 28 grams
Vanilla almond shake (vegan)
- 1 banana
- 2 scoops Vanilla Bean plant protein powder
- 1 cup sweetened almond milk
- Calories: 335
- Fat: 7 grams
- Carbs: 56 grams
- Protein: 23 grams
Vanilla berry smoothie
- 1 cup mixed berries, frozen
- 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1 cup 2% milk
- Calories: 313
- Fat: 6 grams
- Carbs: 43 grams
- Protein: 27 grams
For each recipe, combine all the ingredients in a blender with ice and blend until smooth.
Since you have the blender out, check out these other high-calorie shakes and smoothies for weight gain.
The bottom line
Meal replacements are commonly marketed for weight loss, but you can also use them to gain weight if you consume them between your meals.
Many meal replacements contain around 200 calories or less but the options on this list provide at least 300 calories, making it easier for you to reach your weight gain goals.
Ensure Complete can meet most people’s needs for a mass and weight gainer but the other products on this list may be a better fit depending on your age, goals, and dietary preferences.
If you want more variety, here are some other weight gain supplements to try.