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Ensure and Boost are nutritional supplements designed to help you meet your nutritional needs whenever eating enough solid foods becomes a challenge.

This may be particularly the case for children, older adults, or people at risk of malnutrition, such as those with cancer or eating or digestive disorders (1, 2, 3, 4).

Both Ensure and Boost offer a wide range of products in multiple flavors and forms, including ready-to-drink shakes, powders, puddings, and snack bars. Still, you may wonder whether one is healthier than the other.

This article focuses on both brands’ shakes and reviews their nutritional differences and similarities to determine which one is better.

About Ensure

Abbott Nutrition launched its first ready-to-drink shake in 1973 under the name Ensure, which would later become the name of their nutritional supplement line.

Today, Ensure has over 10 different shakes, all of which are gluten-free. Most of them are certified kosher, halal, or both — meaning that they comply with the dietary practices of Jewish and Islamic law, respectively (5).

Ensure’s shakes may be divided into the following categories:

  1. Complete, balanced nutrition. This category includes Ensure Original and Ensure Plus, which are meant to help you maintain or gain weight.
  2. Advanced nutrition. This category includes Ensure Enlive, which is intended to support muscle, bone, heart, immune, and digestive health, all in a single shake.
  3. Targeted nutrition. Aside from Ensure Light, a low calorie shake, this category’s products are mostly designed to help you build muscle. They include Ensure Max Protein, Ensure High Protein, and Ensure Plant-Based Protein.
  4. Specialty therapeutic nutrition. This category comprises Ensure Surgery, Ensure Pre-Surgery, and Ensure Compact, which are designed to support your health before and after surgery.

About Boost

Boost is Nestlé’s nutritional supplement brand. It was designed to help people meet their nutritional requirements after turning 50 years old.

Nowadays, Boost has a broad portfolio of products that includes 12 drinks to satisfy multiple needs. Their ready-to-drink shakes may be categorized as follows (6):

  1. Diabetes. A category with two products that help avoid blood sugar spikes. These are Boost Glucose Control and Boost Glucose Control High Protein.
  2. High calorie. Boost Plus is the brand’s shake that packs the most calories per serving. It’s also a part of the brand’s oncology nutrition division — a supplement for people with cancer.
  3. High protein. This category includes the products Boost High Protein and Boost Max Nutritional Shake, which are designed to help increase or maintain muscle mass.
  4. Specialized Nutrition. Boost Original, Boost Mobility, Boost Men, and Boost Women comprise this category’s products. They offer targeted nutrition to meet specific needs for men, women, and people age 50 and older.
Summary

Ensure and Boost are two nutritional supplement brands with a wide range of products designed to help you gain weight, build muscle, or tend to your specific nutritional needs.

Some of Ensure’s and Boost’s shakes are designed to help you achieve the same goal. The following table compares those products’ nutritional values for an 8-ounce (236-mL) serving (5, 6):

Note that sugar and fiber are two important components of carbs — sugar is a simple carb while fiber is a complex carb. As such, they’re listed in the table as well.

CaloriesCarbs
(grams)
Sugar
(grams)
Fiber
(grams)
Protein
(grams)
Fat
(grams)
Ensure Original2203315196
Boost Original24041201104
Ensure Plus350512211311
Boost Plus360452411414
Ensure High Protein1601941162
Boost High Protein24028150206
Ensure Max Protein150612301.5
Boost Max160610302

As you can see, most of the products that serve the same purpose are nutritionally similar and can likely be used interchangeably.

For instance, both Original shakes provide virtually the same amount of protein, fiber, and fat, and their main difference is Boost’s additional 8 grams of carbs.

The same goes for both Plus shakes, among which the major difference is the extra 6 grams of carbs in Ensure’s version.

As for both brand’s high protein products, Ensure Max Protein and Boost Max provide virtually the same amount of nutrients. However, Boost’s High Protein shake packs a significantly higher number of calories and more carbs and sugar than the Ensure counterpart.

Regarding their micronutrient content, both brands cover over 20 vitamins and minerals per shake. Most also provide over 20% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI), which is considered to be a high percentage (7).

Still, in some cases, you may find differences in micronutrient quantities of up to 60%.

Micronutrients, often referred to as vitamins and minerals, play a crucial role in maintaining good health. They perform various roles in the body, including hormone production and assuring adequate growth and development (8).

Micronutrient deficiencies can cause your health to significantly deteriorate, as well as even disease. People with malnutrition are at a higher risk of lacking both macro- and micronutrients (1, 8).

Aside from the previous products, both brands offer an additional set of shakes that target very particular but completely different needs. As such, they have quite specific nutritional compositions.

These include Ensure’s Surgery, Pre-Surgery, and Compact shakes, as well as Boost’s Glucose Control, Mobility, Men, and Women shakes.

Summary

Ensure and Boost have multiple nutritionally similar shakes, allowing you to use them interchangeably. However, when it comes to specialized nutrition, their available products — and their nutritional values — differ greatly.

As mentioned before, both brands design their shakes to help you reach your nutritional needs. However, some shakes may be better than others when you have a specific goal in mind.

Best shake when it comes to protein

Protein is one of the three macronutrients — along with fats and carbs.

Together they provide your body with energy, but they also possess specific functions. For instance, proteins are the building blocks of the body, and as such, they help build muscle, among other things.

Its RDI is 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight (9).

Nevertheless, research suggests that higher protein intakes of up to 1 gram per pound (2.4 grams per kg) of body weight may help you gain muscle, lose weight, or even achieve both at the same time when combined with resistance training (9, 10).

Both Ensure and Boost shakes may help you increase your daily protein intake. Adding their products to your diet may provide you an additional 9–30 grams of protein, depending on which shake you choose.

If you’re looking to significantly increase your protein intake without increasing your carb and fat intakes, either Ensure Max Protein or Boost Max may be your best choice.

Best shake for weight gain

If you’re looking to gain weight, you need to create a daily calorie surplus, which is achieved by consuming more calories than your body burns.

To do so healthily, you should increase your overall macronutrient intake — carbs, proteins, and fats. While binging on refined carbs and sugary foods will also lead to weight gain, doing so will be detrimental to your health in the long run (11).

The number of extra calories you need to gain weight depends on your age, sex, height, current weight, and physical activity levels.

Nevertheless, you may use this calorie calculator to get a rough estimate of the calories you’ll need to consume each day. For a healthy weight gain of 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week, consume an additional 500 calories per day.

Still, most of Ensure and Boost shakes may help you reach your increased calorie and nutrient needs, with both brands’ Plus options and Ensure’s Enlive shake being the most nutrient-dense choices.

Note that you’ll be able to achieve a calorie surplus more easily if you consume them with your meals or as a snack instead of drinking them as a meal replacement.

This is because swapping a full meal with a 350-calorie shake will hardly lead to the extra calories needed.

Best shake for diabetes

Diabetes is characterized by constantly high blood sugar levels, and it affects 1 in every 4 people over 65 years old in the United States (12).

Boost offers two ready-to-drink shakes explicitly designed to produce a lower blood sugar response in people with diabetes — Boost Glucose Control and Boost Glucose Control High Protein.

The first packs 16 grams of carbs, of which 4 grams are from added sugars, while the second provides just 4 grams of carbs with no added sugars — and a higher protein content (13, 14).

As for Ensure, the brand doesn’t have shakes specifically designed for people with diabetes. However, Abbott Nutrition has an additional product line called Glucerna for those who need to manage their blood sugar levels (15).

Best shake for older adults

Older adults are at risk of malnutrition, which might be caused or worsened by poor appetite, chewing problems, dry mouth, and a decline in sense of smell, among other things (16, 17).

Therefore, a common strategy to improve their nutritional status is to provide them with small, tasty, nutrient- and protein-rich meals (16).

As nutritional supplements specially designed for adults, both Ensure and Boost may help cover older adults’ increased nutritional needs.

Deciding which shake is best depends on a person’s particular needs. If the intention is to obtain as many calories and nutrients as possible, Ensure Enlive and Boost Plus may be the best options.

Best shake for children

Both Ensure and Boost products are intended and designed for adults.

In fact, Abbott Nutrition has other product lines intended for infants, kids, and teens — including EleCare, Similac, and Pediasure (18).

The same goes for Nestlé, which has the following brands intended for children: Alfamino, Althéra, Alfaré, Garden of Life, Modulen, Peptamen, and Vitaflo (19).

Therefore, it’s best to look for an alternative among those brands to find a product that fits your child’s needs.

Summary

Ensure and Boost have multiple ready-to-drink shakes that may help you increase your protein intake, gain weight, and manage diabetes. Both are also a good choice for older adults. However, they’re not designed for children.

Both Ensure and Boost shakes may cause side effects, such as constipation, nausea, and flatulence. However, user reports indicate that most of them go away when consumed consistently.

Other reported side effects include muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath.

When it comes to the use of common blood-thinning drugs like Warfarin among older adults, it would be best to avoid either brands’ products, as most of them pack over 20% of the RDI for vitamin K (7, 20).

As explained earlier, that’s considered to be a high percentage, and high doses of vitamin K may cause drug-food interactions that decrease Warfarin’s ability to prevent the formation of blood clots (20).

Lastly, most of Ensure’s and Boost’s products are a good choice for people with lactose intolerance. However, they’re not safe for those with galactosemia, a genetic disorder characterized by the inability to convert galactose into glucose (21).

Both brands’ products are also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Summary

Ensure and Boost shakes may cause a series of mild to severe side effects. They’re safe for people with lactose intolerance and pregnant and breastfeeding women. However, those with galactosemia or who take blood thinners should avoid them.

Ensure and Boost are two nutritional supplement brands with a wide variety of ready-to-drink shakes designed to help adults reach their nutritional needs.

Both brands’ shakes may help you increase your protein intake, gain weight, and manage your blood sugar levels. They’re also beneficial for older adults who have difficulty eating solid foods.

However, their shakes may cause a series of mild to severe side effects. Thus, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider before adding them to your diet.

Shop for Ensure and Boost products online.