Protein powders and meal replacement protein powders are often located on the same shelves at gyms and health supplies stores and have strikingly similar packaging and labels. Because of this, it’s no wonder one of the most frequent questions gyms and health supply stores receive is, “What is the difference between protein powders and meal replacement protein powders?” Learning the differences between protein powder and meal replacement protein powder can help you learn more about how protein is beneficial to your body and when it’s suggested to consume either of the two.

The main difference between protein powders and meal replacement protein powders are the ingredients. Typically, a straight protein powder is mainly going to contain whey protein. Protein powders don’t tend to have a lot of vitamins or minerals that typically are suggested for a well-balanced meal as they are meant to be consumed in addition to a well-balanced meal, instead of replacing one. Protein powders alone do not include enough vitamins, carbohydrates or fiber to sustain energy in our bodies the way solid healthy foods can.

Protein powders therefore, are suggested to be consumed directly following a workout or before bed. Eating is suggested within 30-45 minutes after a workout, but there isn’t always time to get home and make a healthy meal within that timeframe. Having protein powder allows the body to consume amino acids that can begin muscle repair to your torn up muscles that were worked during your exercise. While a balanced meal is still suggested within 3-4 hours after a workout, having a scoop of protein powder for ladies and two for men, allows the quickest route to get the amino acids working on repairing your muscles.

Having protein powder before bed is also a great time, as the body repairs muscle the most while we sleep. Blending a chocolate or vanilla Only Protein shake can be a great way to satisfy late-night cravings in a healthy way, while helping prepare your body for muscle-repair while you sleep. Since amino acids are the building blocks and adhere to your muscles, by having protein powder before bed you’re more likely to wake up feeling stronger and less sore.

Meal replacement protein powders on the other hand, tend to have a higher fiber count along with added vitamins and minerals to qualify as a balanced meal. While not suggested to replace all meals, if you’re prone to skipping meals or going 5-7 hours without eating, meal replacement protein powder is a great way to keep your metabolism and energy levels up until you have time to make a well-balanced meal later on. Only Protein’s meal replacement protein powder has around the same amount of calories as the basic protein powder, but has increased levels of Vitamin A, Biotin, Vitamin C, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid, among others. Meal replacement protein powders are more likely to keep you feeling full for longer and help you curb cravings.

Finding a balance between when to have regular Only Protein protein powder and Only Protein meal replacement protein powder can help your body stay energized, keep your metabolism up, fight cravings, and help your body repair torn muscles in-between workouts. Now, the real question is vanilla, or chocolate!