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Is Ensure a meal replacement for weight gain?

Ensure is a nutritional shake that can be used for weight gain or as a meal replacement. It contains a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients to provide complete, balanced nutrition. However, whether or not Ensure is an effective meal replacement depends on the individual’s needs and goals.

What is Ensure?

Ensure is a brand of nutritional shakes and drinks manufactured by Abbott Nutrition. It was originally introduced in 1973 for tube feeding and providing nutrition to hospital patients. However, it has since grown into a complete line of nutritional products available to the general public.

The main types of Ensure products include:

  • Ensure Original – Balanced nutrition with 9 grams of protein.
  • Ensure Plus – Higher calories (350 vs 220) and protein (13 grams) for weight gain.
  • Ensure High Protein – Higher protein (15 grams).
  • Ensure Max Protein – Highest protein content (30 grams).
  • Ensure Light – Lower calories (100) for weight loss or diabetes.
  • Ensure Clear – Clear, fat-free nutrition drink.
  • Ensure Compact – Smaller portion (100 calories) for snacking.

In addition to shakes, Ensure also offers nutritional bars, puddings, and a plant-based vegan shake. The products come in ready-to-drink bottles or powder to mix with milk or water.

Ensure contains a balanced nutritional profile with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. It is designed to provide complete, balanced nutrition in each serving.

Nutrition Facts for Ensure

The nutrition facts for Ensure Original per 8 fl oz serving are:

  • 220 calories
  • 9 g protein
  • 34 g carbohydrates
  • 6 g fat
  • 24 vitamins and minerals

Ensure Plus and Ensure High Protein offer more calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals per serving. Ensure Light has 100 calories and 5 g protein per serving.

Ensure uses both animal-based and plant-based proteins. The protein sources include milk protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and pea protein isolate.

The carbohydrate sources are maltodextrin, corn maltodextrin, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup solids, and modified food starch.

The fat comes from canola oil and soybean oil. There are also a variety of vitamins and minerals added for micronutrient fortification.

Benefits of Ensure for Weight Gain

Here are some of the benefits of drinking Ensure shakes for weight gain:

  • High-calorie – Ensure Plus provides 350 calories per serving to help increase energy intake.
  • Balanced nutrition – Contains a mix of proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Convenient – Ready-to-drink or powder forms for on-the-go use.
  • Better appetite – May stimulate appetite when combined with exercise.
  • Higher protein – More protein than most shakes to help build muscle.
  • Variety of flavors – Comes in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee flavors.

The extra calories and protein in Ensure can help increase body weight, especially when combined with strength training. The nutritional balance provides the nutrients needed to gain weight safely and effectively.

Using Ensure for Weight Gain Goals

Here are some tips for using Ensure shakes to support weight gain goals:

  • Use Ensure Plus or Ensure High Protein for extra calories and protein.
  • Drink 1-2 shakes per day in addition to meals and snacks.
  • Add fruit, peanut butter, or wheat germ to Increase calories.
  • Drink Ensure before, during, or after workouts.
  • Use puddings or bars for convenient snacks.
  • Track protein intake to ensure sufficient daily intake.
  • Measure weight weekly to monitor weight gain progress.

Consuming supplemental shakes makes it easier to increase calorie and protein intake. Drinking shakes before or during workouts can improve performance and muscle recovery.

However, Ensure should not completely replace regular meals which also provide nutrients. Use it as a supplement 1-2 times per day in combination with healthy meals and snacks.

Ensure as a Meal Replacement

In addition to weight gain, Ensure can also be used as a meal replacement for balanced nutrition:

  • Convenient on-the-go nutrition for busy schedules.
  • Provides a balanced macronutrient profile with carbs, protein, and fat.
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals.
  • More nutrients than an energy bar or typical snack.
  • Can help control portion sizes and calorie intake.
  • Allows flexibility – drink when desired.

However, there are also some downsides to consider with Ensure as a meal replacement:

  • Lacks dietary fiber found in whole foods.
  • Not as satisfying as chewing and eating real food.
  • Less variety than eating different whole food meals.
  • More expensive than preparing meals at home.
  • High in added sugars.

For most healthy adults, Ensure and other supplements should not completely replace meals in the diet. Whole foods provide greater nutrition, fiber, and satisfaction.

But Ensure can be a convenient, occasional meal replacement when you are too busy to prepare a meal or need extra on-the-go nutrition. It may be a better option than fast food or vending machine snacks.

Should You Use Ensure for Weight Loss?

Ensure was not designed as a weight loss shake. Since it is meant to provide complete, balanced nutrition, Ensure contains calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

However, some versions of Ensure may be helpful for weight loss:

  • Ensure Light – 100 calories and 5g protein per serving.
  • Ensure Clear – Fat-free, but provides protein.
  • Ensure Compact – Smaller 100 calorie serving size.

These lower calorie options can help control hunger while cutting calories for weight loss. But for best results, Ensure for weight loss should be combined with:

  • A reduced calorie meal plan.
  • Increased physical activity.
  • Behavioral counseling.
  • Regular weight monitoring.

Do not rely only on Ensure to lose weight without also reducing overall food intake and increasing exercise. And consult a doctor before starting any weight loss regimen.

Potential Side Effects of Ensure

Ensure is generally well tolerated, especially when used as recommended. However, some potential side effects can occur:

  • Allergic reactions – To milk, soy, pea protein, or other ingredients.
  • Bloating, gas, diarrhea – If lactose intolerant or drinking too quickly.
  • Constipation – Due to low fiber content.
  • Fatigue – If consuming too many calories.
  • Weight gain – If consuming excess calories.
  • Reduced appetite – If replacing too many meals.
  • Tooth decay – From added sugars.

To help prevent side effects:

  • Read ingredient labels carefully for potential allergens.
  • Start with smaller portions to tolerate lactose.
  • Blend with fruits and vegetables to increase fiber intake.
  • Avoid completely replacing regular meals.
  • Brush teeth after drinking sweetened shakes.

Talk to a doctor if you experience negative side effects or need help managing your calorie intake.

Should You Drink Ensure Every Day?

For most healthy adults, Ensure does not need to be consumed daily. Ensure is designed more as a supplemental nutrition drink rather than a sole source of nutrition.

Here are some guidelines on when daily use of Ensure may be beneficial:

  • Underweight – To support weight gain goals.
  • Over 65 years old – To prevent nutritional deficiencies.
  • Recovering from surgery – To heal wounds and rebuild strength.
  • Cancer patients – To prevent cachexia and muscle wasting.
  • Poor appetite – To provide nutrition when not eating enough.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders – Makes nutrients easier to digest and absorb.

For most of these situations, discuss daily Ensure use with your healthcare provider to meet your individual nutritional needs.

But for generally healthy adults, Ensure can be used as an occasional nutrition supplement 1-2 times per day when regular meals are not possible.

Compare Ensure to Other Weight Gain Shakes


  • 220-350 calories per serving.
  • 9-13 grams of protein per serving.
  • Balanced nutrition – carbs, protein, fat.
  • Extensive flavor options.
  • Easy to digest.
  • Trusted brand since 1973.

Protein Powders (whey, casein, soy)

  • More protein per calorie.
  • Less carbs than Ensure.
  • Require blending with milk, water, fruits.
  • Can be difficult to digest for some.
  • Limited flavor options.

Weight Gainer Shakes

  • Higher calories – up to 1250 calories per serving.
  • Typically 40-60 grams of protein per serving.
  • Often low in vitamins and minerals.
  • Contains added creatine, amino acids.
  • Usually more expensive.

Homemade Shakes

  • More variety of ingredients and textures.
  • Can customize nutritional balance.
  • Requires shopping, prep, cleaning.
  • Hard to match complete nutrition profile.
  • Nutrition info more difficult to calculate.

So Ensure provides a convenient and effective option for gaining weight and nutrition compared to many alternatives. But other shakes can be incorporated depending on your needs and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ensure better than protein shakes?

Ensure generally provides more balanced nutrition with carbs and fats, while protein shakes like whey and casein are higher in protein. Ensure also contains more vitamins and minerals than a pure protein powder. But protein powders have benefits for muscle gain and satiety.

Can I live off Ensure Plus shakes?

Ensure Plus should not provide your sole source of nutrition on a long-term basis. Whole foods are needed to provide adequate fiber, phytonutrients, and nutritional variety. Ensure is better used to supplement meals rather than replacing them completely.

Does Ensure help build muscle?

Yes, Ensure can help build muscle when combined with strength training. The protein in Ensure provides amino acids to support muscle protein synthesis. The calories support energy needs. But a high protein shake may be better suited for maximizing muscle growth.

Is Ensure good for diabetics?

Some versions of Ensure like Ensure Light or Ensure Clear may be suitable for diabetics. But diabetics should consult their doctor before using Ensure, as the sugar content in regular Ensure may spike blood sugars. Diabetics need to account for carbohydrates when using Ensure.

Can I give Ensure to toddlers or children?

Ensure is designed for use in adults. Children have different nutritional needs. Pediatrician supervision is required before giving any supplement like Ensure to a child. Children should get most nutrition from whole foods and milk.

The Bottom Line

Ensure can effectively provide extra calories, protein, and balanced nutrition to support weight gain goals. When combined with exercise and healthy eating, Ensure makes it easier to gain size and strength.

However, Ensure is best used to supplement meals rather than completely replacing them. For healthy adults, occasional use of 1-2 drinks per day is likely sufficient. Higher amounts or daily use should be discussed with a doctor or dietitian.

While not designed for weight loss, lower calorie options like Ensure Light may help overweight individuals moderately reduce calorie intake. Ensure provides a convenient nutrition solution when cooking meals is not possible, but is not a replacement for healthy eating habits.