Jimmy Joy meal replacement review
Nutrition is an ever-changing science with lots of contrasting and confusing guidance. It's one of the most commonly spoken about and obsessed-over topics. There are hundreds of different diets promoting themselves as the 'best' for health and weight loss, but we are all so different so surely we have different dietary needs?
I have always been suspicious of powdered food supplements. My experience with shake powders mainly came from witnessing clients, family and friends trying out extreme diets and failing. Slim-Fast shakes were the first meal replacements I ever came across, many years ago now. These came in tiny bottles and were advertised as a way to help people lose weight quickly; probably because they left the person starving. The other shakes I saw a lot of were the huge tubs of protein shakes, which are advertised as helping people to build muscle. Many of my male friends and clients started drinking these in the hopes it would make them more muscley, but they just put on weight because they weren't exercising enough.
When Chris told me he wanted to take meal replacement shakes on the Appalachian Trail I was immediately sceptical. I imagined myself carrying heavy tubs of tasteless powder for 6 months and being in a constant state of hunger. Chris showed me some websites for meal replacements he had tried previously and we listened to a Podcast about them. Chris had tried Jimmy Joy's Plenny Shakes before and was keen to convert me to them. I read a lot of information on their website and searched for reviews online before agreeing. I figured we would mostly be eating processed packaged food on the Appalachian Trail anyway, so having a shake full of vitamins certainly wouldn't hurt.
So what's in a Jimmy Joy Plenny Shake?
Ultimately, a meal replacement should include a third of a persons' daily allowance of all the vitamins and minerals they would need to be healthy. Seeing as most people eat three meals a day, this would make sense. Then again, people eat different quantities at different meal times; a lot of people don't even bother with breakfast. And some vitamins are only required in tiny proportions several times a week, such as some of the B vitamins. You also have the carbohydrate, fat, protein and fibre content to think about. Suddenly, creating a nutritious meal replacement becomes rather complicated.
Jimmy Joy have taken guidance from the World Health Organisation and the European Food Safety Authority for their recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals. They include 27 vitamins and a range of important minerals, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. One meal contains 698 kcal, 16.5g fat, 83g carbohydrates, 15.8g fibre, 46g protein and 1.7g salt.
The shake powder comes in a 535g bag; this contains three meals. If you need to think about weight for a thru-hike or expedition, then that's a pretty efficient way to carry calories.
Being allergic to cow's milk, I went for the vegan options but Chris had the ordinary Plenny Shakes, which are not suitable for vegetarians. The available flavours are strawberry, chocolate, mango, banana, vanilla and neutral. Most of the flavours are the same for both original and vegan but the Mango ones are not vegan, which was disappointing. The main ingredient is oatmeal, so they are no good for people with gluten allergies or intolerances. They also contain soy flour and a soy protein.
Shake it up!
Our first box of Plenny Shakes came with a special bottle and mixer. I think we were meant to get scoops to measure the powder properly, but we didn't receive these. The instructions are very clear though, so the powder is easy to measure out at home. Alternatively, you could be lazy as we were and just pour it straight from the bag into the bottle without accurately measuring. It's pretty easy to work out how much you need; it's just a third of the bag. If you fill your bottle with water first, the powder pretty much fills the rest of the space. It seemed like a lot, but it all mixed in well with a good shake. The mixer helps by acting as a little whisk, but it's not necessary as long as you have good arm muscles. The mixers were some of the first things to be thrown out when we did a pack shake-down along the Appalachian Trail.
Fill me up?
Before we left the UK to start our Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt, we were sent a sample box from Jimmy Joy. We had started training to improve our cardio and general fitness, but our appetites hadn't really increased; we were running every two days for about 30-60 minutes. At this time, one shake for lunch was enough to fill me up and I struggled to drink a whole one. They are very thick, which we found makes them a little difficult to swallow if we're not hungry. Adding a bit more water helps and means we can consume the whole shake quicker. I did find that I'd feel hungry again sooner than if I'd eaten a solid meal though. Once our hiker hunger had kicked in on the Appalachian Trail we found it fairly easy to down the shake in one! We were burning through 5,000 calories a day though, so needed every meal we could get. I found the shakes helpful to stop my energy levels dipping as we were hiking and it was really convenient being able to drink as we walked. Having a Plenny Shake mid-morning kept me going for another couple of hours until lunch time, whereas standard snack bars would leave me feeling starved and grouchy leading up to lunch.
Mix it up.
I love food, so I find that eating or drinking the same things over and over again gets boring. We had decided to consume just one Plenny Shake a day, on top of a normal days food, to increase our calorie intake for our thru-hike attempt. The plan was to mix up a shake at the first water source we came to, usually around mid-morning, and to drink this as we walked. I kept forgetting to keep my bags of Plenny powder to hand though, so often couldn't be bothered to unpack my bag mid-way through the day to find it. We found that we could be more creative with our meals though and started to consume it in other ways.
Plenny Shakes are great in porridge. Eating oats every day for breakfast gets repetitive, but adding different Plenny flavours keeps breakfast interesting. My favourite combination was porridge oats with vanilla Plenny and raisins. Chris usually went for porridge oats with banana Plenny and chocolate chips. Another winning combination is porridge oats, neutral Plenny, maple syrup and dried mixed fruit.
The best way to eat Plenny though is to turn it into a Plenny Pudding. This was delicious and never got old. Some of the friends we made along the Appalachian Trail loved this dish so much that they would ask for it as payment if they did something nice for us.
"What is Plenny Pudding and how do you make it?", I hear you ask...
Start by pouring about half a meals worth into a cup or bowl. Boil some water and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Slowly pour this water into your cup, stirring as you pour, to reduce lumps. Keep adding water until you reach the consistency of semolina pudding (thick and gloopy, but falls off the side of your spoon when you tilt it). Add about a tablespoon of honey and stir well. Then serve!
Vanilla Plenny Pudding is delicious, or strawberry. Chris said that mango was a bit odd, but he loved chocolate and banana. I personally found that the chocolate powder just wasn't chocolatey enough for my taste, but as a pudding with added sweetness it was much better.
Jimmy Joy also have meal replacement bars, which contain 20 percent of your daily nutrients and have 378kcal each. They also have 21g of protein in them, so are great after exercise or on the go. Chris had several boxes of these in both flavours, chocolate and vanilla. Unfortunately, they are not suitable for anyone with a dairy intolerance or allergy, so I couldn't try them. Chris found them to be very dense and difficult to swallow without a drink, but said they were a great way to keep his energy levels up compared to other protein bars with much lower calorie content.
One bag of Plenny Shakes is 6.12 Euros, which is approximately £6 with the current exchange rate. £2 per meal is pretty cheap considering how many nutrients are in each one. They cost less if bought in bulk and are even cheaper if you subscribe for regular deliveries. Twenny Bars come in boxes of five and a box costs 11.25 Euros, around £11. That's £2.20 each, which is a bit pricier. This shouldn't be compared to the price of standard protein bars though because Twenny Bars are meant to be eaten as a meal rather than a snack and are far more nutritious than your standard bar.
Overall we love Jimmy Joy's Plenny Shakes and think they are a great value for money. There's a fairly good variety of flavours and the shakes are tasty, although the powder is even better in porridge or as a Plenny Pudding. If made to exact measurements, the shakes can be difficult to swallow as they are so thick, but they're certainly filling! The huge variety of nutrients in each meal replacement makes them exceptionally healthy; probably healthier than most meals we'd make for ourselves. We wouldn't replace all our meals with Plenny Shakes or Twenny Bars though, as it may get boring quickly, but we love being able to grab a shake for breakfast or lunch if we're having a busy day. As an addition to meals for calorie-burning expeditions such as mountain climbing, thru-hiking or cycling, both Plenny Shakes and Twenny bars are an excellent way to get the nutrition and energy needed without carrying too much extra weight.
One thing we would say, is that we'd like to see a wider variety of flavours and some dairy-free versions of the Twenny Bars please!
*Disclaimer - Jimmy Joy sponsored our Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt in return for free products. However, we chose to write this review to share our thoughts with others. This review was not paid for and was written honestly.*