Last Updated on October, 2023
Many people love meal replacement shakes because they’re great for weight loss. They have lots of benefits and can be pretty helpful for the body. But, there are also theories and worries about how they can be bad for us.
One of the more common worries is that meal replacement shakes can cause chronic kidney disease or other issues with kidney function. So, naturally, this stops many people from trying out these supplements. But, just how true is this rumor about meal replacements?
Today, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into whether or not meal replacement shakes are bad for your kidneys. Please continue reading to learn more about these drinks and how they might or might not affect your kidneys.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Before figuring out their relation to your kidneys, it’s essential to learn more about a meal replacement shake. These drinks are products meant to help us replace meals throughout our day, where they get their name.
If you’re familiar with protein powder or protein shakes in general, you shouldn’t have a hard time figuring out meal shakes. They’re essentially the same thing and help with your daily protein intake. But, the significant difference is that they help with the intake of other nutrients as well.
How Do Meal Replacement Drinks Work?
Many people don’t know how a meal replacement does what it does. These shakes usually have much more protein than a regular drink. Because of this, they’re great for anyone on a high-protein diet and are much more filling than other drinks might be.
Unlike a standard protein powder, these supplements also offer various other nutrients. They’re usually made with natural ingredients with the consumer’s health kept in mind. They can also provide healthy nutrition, such as vitamins and minerals.
They’re ideal for anyone on a busy schedule, as they can be prepared in mere moments. That’s faster than a full meal while being just as healthy depending on the specific meal replacement. On top of that, they’re just as filling too.
High-protein enriched meal replacements are especially popular because of this. But, what some people don’t understand is that too much protein does much more harm to your health than good. Too much protein causes kidney stones, kidney failure, and other kidney problems also come into the picture, which is why some might recommend going on a low-protein diet.
Related: Low carb meal replacement shakes
What Exactly Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are exactly what their name suggests: tiny stone-like structures that form inside the kidney. But, scientifically speaking, there’s much more to them than just that.
If you’re looking to understand more about the potential link between meal replacements and kidney disease, it’s essential to learn what these stones are. (1)
First of all, you should know that the kidney is an organ that acts as a filter inside the body. It gathers harmful substances and toxins in our bodies and gets rid of them through our urine. However, this doesn’t always work according to plan.
There are mineral salts circulating in our kidneys that the organ can’t filter properly. When there are too many salts, and the kidney tries to filter them anyway, the final result is a small solid substance. This is referred to as the process of developing kidney stones.
This can block the kidney from performing certain tasks, and this can lead to issues all around the body. For example, there’s a direct link between kidney problems and issues with liver function, as well as other organs.
There are two groups into which kidney stones have been divided. While there are many other types as well, these two are the most common ones:
- Uric Acid Stones are the first and account for 10% of all kidney stone cases. They’re common among those with a high level of uric acid in their bodies. This substance leads to urine becoming acidic, which creates an environment for these kidney stones to form. (2)
- The other type of kidney stone is calcium stones, and it accounts for a staggering 80% of these cases. There are two other types of this: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones. The former forms in acidic urine, while the latter forms in alkaline urine.
Meal Shakes and Kidney Stones
So, now that you know more about both the supplement and these stones, what is their relationship? Of course, the main culprit behind all of the concerns is the high protein. As already mentioned, too much protein intake can be harmful to you. (3)
A protein-enriched meal replacement shake will lead to oxalate production inside the body. While the kidneys will try to get as much of this out via urine as possible, there’s still a risk of it causing issues if you’re on a high protein diet.
Additionally, meal shakes also cause the production of calcium, which is also released by the kidneys through urine. As we’ve discussed, both of these substances are some of the most common culprits for kidney stones.
But, the thing is that these are normal parts of the body. Both oxalate and calcium are regularly consumed, and the body regularly flushes out the harmful bits thanks to our kidneys. There shouldn’t be any issues as long as you don’t take an additional protein supplement.
The simple answer is that meal replacement shakes don’t directly lead to kidney disease, kidney problems, kidney stones, or kidney damage. But that’s only the case if you drink them in moderation. Consuming them too often will almost certainly lead to issues.
What Does Science Say About Protein Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease?
The good news for anyone worried about kidney disease is that even science agrees with what we’ve mentioned above! In addition, it’s been proven that you do not need to worry about meal replacements causing issues with kidney function as long as you drink them in moderation.
Studies have repeatedly shown that drinking these supplements will ensure that they don’t cause issues for our kidneys. Drink them only once or twice every day, and everything should be fine.
Just make sure that you aren’t eating too many high-protein foods or other supplements and the meal shake.
Ingredients in Meal Shakes That Trigger Kidney Stone Problems
If you’re still worried despite all of this, it might help to know there are specific ingredients that might cause kidney stones or other problems. Then, you can try to avoid these if you’re worried about your kidneys. Here’s a summary of what some of these ingredients in meal shakes are:
- First and most importantly is a source of oxalate. This includes chocolate, berry, nuts, soy, dates, spinach, etc. There’s no need to avoid oxalates entirely, meaning you don’t have to avoid any of these ingredients either. Just make sure to avoid eating them way too often.
- Meal replacement drinks are usually high in sodium, another cause for issues. Our body reacts to excessive sodium by producing more calcium, leading to kidney stones. It also leads to high blood pressure and other issues, which means there are many reasons why you should avoid consuming too much sodium.
- Most shakes have sucrose and fructose in them. These are a type of sugar that helps give the supplement its taste. But, they require a lot of calcium to digest, which means the body has to produce more of it. This can put you at risk of kidney stones.
- Too much animal-based protein can lead to kidney issues as well. Red meat, eggs, seafood, and more ingredients are great for our body, but not if eaten regularly. Avoid eating them too often if you want to keep your kidneys healthy.
Worth reading: Stevia free meal replacement shakes
How to Pick the Right Meal Replacement Shake?
It’s essential to get something to help your body instead of affecting it for the worse. That’s why it’s vital to pick the right product.
Here’s how to do that if you’re worried about drinking meal replacement shakes because of kidney problems:
- Avoid anything with artificial ingredients. Though there’s no direct link between them and kidney problems, they cause many health issues (heart disease, they adversely affect the liver, and more), which could ultimately lead to kidney issues.
- Make sure that your shake has a healthy amount of sugar in it. Too much sugar can drastically affect your body weight, and we’ve already gone through how it might lead to kidney issues.
- Try topass up on shakes that have too much sodium. Most healthy people choose to cut down on salt, which helps them stay fitter. While it can make certain things tastier, it’s horrible for your health, and you now know why it can cause problems with your kidneys.
- Protein is great, but don’t add too much to your diet. Your shake shouldn’t have more than 40 grams of protein, as that’ll be overkill and lead to kidney stones if consumed too often.
- If you’ve displayed symptoms of kidney problems before, we recommend seeking professional medical advice before making any purchase decision. Consult your dietician and ask them to help you decide on the perfect shake for yourself.
Benefits of Meal Replacements for Kidney Disease
Forget about problems; meal replacement shakes can be helpful if you choose the right one. Here’s how:
- Many avoid some foods because they’re scared of specific side effects. They might avoid healthier foods as well because of one or two ingredients. This can cause you to miss out on needed nutrition, but meal replacement shakes help you quickly fill your daily quota.
- They’re super convenient drinks that you can make in moments. All it takes is a little bit of time to prepare them and around the same time to consume them. No wasting time if you’re always on the go!
- These supplements offer perfect nutrition for kidney problems, offering a balanced nutritional profile. They keep your kidneys fueled while helping you manage body weight and build muscle. This puts you at a lower risk for several issues.
- Speaking of body weight, one of the best things is how meal replacement shakes are great for weight loss. You don’t have to gain weight to help your kidneys get all the nutrition they need to function.
Other Side Effects of Meal Replacement Shakes
Meal replacement shakes are far from perfect, just as most other supplements are. While they make a huge difference in our weight loss goals and help in many ways with nutrition, there are also specific side effects.
Most of these side effects come down to specific ingredients. That’s why issues are usually caused by meal shakes that have artificial ingredients, as opposed to those completely free of any such things. They could adversely affect liver function, cause heart problems, etc.
Similarly, many other ingredients could cause issues. For example, too much protein from different sources can lead to an increase in lean body mass and other problems. That’s why it’s impossible to list all the potential side effects.
Luckily, you don’t have to face any of them. As long as you follow the tips we’ve mentioned for choosing a meal replacement and ask doctors for their expert advice, you’ll be able to find the perfect fit for yourself.
Just remember to drink whatever product you get in moderation, and you’ll be able to avoid all issues.
Meal replacement shakes are not bad for your kidneys. On the contrary, they can be helpful for them. We’ve gone through all the details of why that’s the case directly above, so you can try these supplements out without worrying about their effects.
Sure, it is possible to get issues because of the ingredients in a meal replacement shake. But, you should be able to avoid these by just being a bit careful and making a proper diet plan instead of abusing your body’s capabilities. Read here to learn more about some good options if you want meal replacement shakes with safe ingredients and nothing artificial mixed in them.
That’s all the details we have to share about the topic. If you’ve got anything more to add or ask, make sure to do so in the comments, and we’ll give it a look!
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