The Best Protein Shakes of 2023

OWYN Protein contains 20g of plant-based protein and is allergy-friendly

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Target / Amazon / Amazon

While most people can get all the protein they need with food, “protein shakes are a super easy and convenient way to meet your protein needs on-the-go with minimal effort,” says Kristy Baumann, RD, LD, dietitian for runners. Protein shakes can be especially helpful if you struggle to get enough protein in your diet or have higher protein needs. This may apply to you if you follow a vegan diet, are an athlete, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have a medical condition that reduces your appetite or requires a higher protein intake. 

“Spreading protein intake throughout the day is recommended and protein shakes can assist individuals with accomplishing this goal.” adds Mandy Tyler, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, LAT. But, while protein shakes are helpful for filling gaps or for when you’re short on time, they are often highly processed and are not meant to replace whole foods. If you rely on them too heavily, you may miss out on other important nutrients.

When choosing the best protein shakes, our dietitian considered recommendations from experts, including sports and prenatal dietitians, and considered taste, consistency, protein content, sugar or alternative sweeteners, and presence of other nutrients. Most protein shakes are sweetened either with sugar or alternative sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract (some also contain artificial sweeteners). When making a selection, be sure to consider your individual needs and health goals.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. They also may interact with other supplements or medications you are taking. Please always speak with a healthcare provider to discuss any supplements you plan on taking.

Who May Want to Use Protein Shakes

If you live a busy and active lifestyle, ready-to-drink protein shakes can be a convenient way to meet your protein needs, whether they’re part of your breakfast on-the-go or a post workout snack. They are especially helpful for the following people:

Athletes who don’t have an appetite after exercise 

Athletes and highly active people not only have higher protein needs, but eating a mix of protein and carbohydrates after a workout can support muscle recovery and repair. It can also help you avoid some of that post workout hanger (or “runger” for the runners out there) that often shows up later in the day or even the next day after a hard workout.

“After a hard lifting session, run, or fitness class it’s not uncommon for people to have little to no appetite. Drinking a protein shake (plus carbs) is a perfect way to get in recovery nutrition while in the shower, getting ready for the day, or heading to your next destination,” says Baumann. 

Keep in mind that many protein shakes are sold as supplements, which means they may contain ingredients that aren’t listed on the label. “For athletes, this is critical, as supplements may contain banned substances that make them ineligible for competition. Therefore, I always recommend individuals look for a supplement that is third-party certified,” says Tyler.

Pregnant and breastfeeding people 

Protein needs increase significantly during pregnancy and they may be even higher when you’re breastfeeding. Sometimes it can be hard to consume enough protein whether it’s because you’re appetite is down or because you’re so focused on taking care of a new baby. Protein shakes can be an easy way to add the calories and protein you need to support your body during this time. 

“It's hard to know exactly what is in the product if it's not third-party verified. One way to avoid safety concerns is to mix up a protein shake or smoothie at home using a high-quality protein powder,” says Dana Peters, MS, RD, Owner of Dana Peters Nutrition. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, always check with a healthcare provider to ensure that a protein shake is safe for you. 

People who have trouble consuming adequate protein

If you’re not a fan of many protein-rich foods or follow a diet that makes it difficult to meet your protein needs, protein shakes may be a convenient and tasty way to help you meet your needs. That said, “protein shakes should be considered a supplement to the diet, not a replacement for real food. There are numerous ways individuals can meet their protein needs through food, which also provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,”  says Tyler.

People who are short on time 

Protein shakes can be a convenient and easy way to help you meet your protein needs when on-the-go. Many don’t require refrigeration until opened, so they can be kept on hand for busy days.

Who May Not Want to Use Protein Shakes

While protein shakes are convenient and can help provide a convenient snack or small meal, they may not be needed or beneficial for everyone. The following people may not want to use protein shakes:

People who get adequate protein in their diet 

More protein (especially in the form of shakes and powders) isn’t always better. Most people, including active people looking to increase muscle mass, don’t gain anything from consuming more than 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal. And too much protein on a regular basis may increase risk for some health problems like kidney problems and reduced bone density.

If you are eating enough protein each day, which usually means including a good source of protein at each meal, such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, lentils, or beans, you most likely won’t need to supplement.

People on a protein restricted diet

If you have kidney disease or another medical condition that restricts the amount of protein you can eat, protein shakes may cause you to over-consume protein.

People with certain medical conditions or with certain food allergies

Many protein shakes also contain added ingredients such as added sugars, alternative sweeteners, greens powders, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, added fiber, and more. If you have any medical conditions, take medications (which may interact with ingredients), or have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s important to read the full ingredients list to ensure the shake you’re choosing only contains ingredients that are safe for you.

Best Overall

OWYN Vegan Protein Shake

owyn-protein-shake

Amazon

Why We Like It: Owyn protein shake gets its 20 grams of protein from pea protein, pumpkin seed protein, and contains iron, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s free of the top 9 allergens, certified vegan and certified gluten-free, making it a good choice for people with common food allergies or intolerances. 

It’s Worth Noting: It contains monk fruit extract for a sweetener which some people may prefer to avoid. It also contains a greens powder, which may interact with certain medications such as blood thinners. It’s low in carbohydrates, which are your body’s main energy source.

Owyn protein shake is our top choice because of its winning combination of nutrition and flavor. With 20 grams of plant-based protein, it can help you meet your post workout recovery needs or contribute to your total daily intake if you struggle to get enough protein. Peters says it’s even a good option for pregnant people: “Their shakes contain all essential amino acids as well as a source of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the baby's brain and eye development.”

Because of the pea and pumpkin seed proteins, it contains 30 percent of typical daily iron needs, which may help if you have elevated needs or if you have trouble getting enough through diet. If you’re an athlete, are currently pregnant, or are following a vegan diet, this may apply to you. Owyn’s shake is low in added sugar, making it a good choice for anyone managing their blood sugar. It does contain the high-intensity sweetener monk fruit extract, which has a unique sweet flavor that you may or may not like the taste of. 

With 180 calories, it’s not enough for a meal, and it lacks the carbohydrates required for post-workout recovery. We recommend pairing it with a banana or toast with nut butter for a balanced recovery option or quick and easy meal. 

Like many other bottled protein shakes, Owyn protein shakes don’t need to be refrigerated until after opening, so you can keep one with you at your desk or in your gym bag for when you need it. Owyn protein shakes are vegan, gluten-free, and allergen friendly, and are available in six different flavors. 

Product Details:

  • Form: Liquid shake
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Pea, pumpkin seed, and flax oil
  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 10 grams
  • Sugar: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Sweetener: Cane sugar and monk fruit extract
  • Dietary considerations: vegan, gluten-free and top 8 allergen free

Best Meal Replacement

Kate Farms Nutrition Shake

kate-farms-nutrition-shake

Amazon

Why We Like It: Kate Farms Nutrition Shake contains a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and more calories than most protein shakes with no artificial or high intensity sweeteners. It’s also gluten-free, vegan, and allergy-friendly.

It's Worth Noting: It contains 18 grams of added sugar. It also contains a phytonutrient blend that may include ingredients that could interact with certain medications.

Kate Farms Nutrition Shake is one of the higher calories shakes on the market, and it comes with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. It may be enough for a light meal on-the-go or paired with an apple and almonds for a more filling option. It’s also a great option to refuel after a long, hard workout to jumpstart recovery when you don’t have the appetite for a meal.

It also contains a vitamin and mineral blend which provides a significant amount of 27 nutrients including vitamin D, calcium, iron, vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, choline, and more. These nutrients may help fill gaps in your diet, and the shake could also potentially take the place of a multivitamin on the days you drink it, depending on your individual needs. At the same time, take care that you’re not over-consuming vitamins and minerals, especially if you’re also consuming vitamin or mineral supplements or have certain medical conditions, such as hemochromatosis (iron build-up in the body).

Kate Farms also adds a phytonutrient blend from fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other “superfoods,” which boosts your total nutrient intake. However, these ingredients may interact with medications, so if you’re taking any medications or have underlying medical conditions, check with a healthcare provider before trying this shake.

While Kate Farms doesn’t use any artificial sweeteners, it is relatively high in added sugar (18 grams per shake) from agave and brown rice syrups. It’s important to consider how this fits into your daily intake and may not be the best choice if you have diabetes. We also don’t generally recommend consuming it on a daily basis. 

Kate Farms Nutrition Shake is USDA Organic, vegan, gluten-free, and Kosher, and is available in coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. 

Product Details:

  • Form: Liquid shake
  • Protein: 16 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein
  • Calories: 330
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 38 grams
  • Sugar: 20 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Sweetener: Agave and brown rice syrup solids
  • Dietary considerations: vegan, gluten-free and top 8 allergen free

Best Calcium-Rich Vegan

Ripple Protein Shake

Ripple Protein Shake Chocolate

Amazon

Why We Like It: Ripple Protein Shakes contain 20 grams of plant-based protein from peas and are an excellent source of calcium. It’s also allergen-friendly.

It's Worth Noting: It contains monk fruit extract, a high intensity sweetener some people may choose to avoid. It’s also lower in fiber than some other options, with just 2 grams per serving.

We love the Ripple protein shake for its great flavor, strong nutrient profile, and relatively simple ingredient list. It’s also known for its smooth, creamy consistency.  It has 20 grams of plant-based protein that also comes along with over 500 milligrams of calcium (around 45 percent of your daily needs) and 3 milligrams of iron (around 15 percent of your daily needs)—two nutrients that may be difficult to get enough of through food if you’re following a vegan diet

If you’re drinking this after a workout, you’ll want to pair it with some carbohydrates like a banana, raisins, or a bowl of oatmeal for optimal recovery. With 200 calories per bottle, it’s perfect for a snack, but not quite enough to replace a meal. 

The biggest drawback is that it contains both added sugar (cane sugar) and monk fruit extract, which gives it its ultra sweet flavor. It’s available in chocolate, vanilla, and coffee, and the coffee flavor contains 75 milligrams of caffeine, which is about 75 percent of the caffeine found in a cup of coffee.

Product Details:

  • Form: Liquid shake
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein
  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 13 grams
  • Sugar: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sweetener: Cane sugar and monk fruit extract
  • Dietary considerations: vegan, gluten-free and top 8 allergen free

Best Whey Protein

Fuel for Fire Original Smoothies

fuel-for-fire-original-smoothies

The Feed

Why We Like It: Fuel for Fire smoothies have a simple ingredient list of whey protein, fruits, vegetables, water, and ascorbic acid for freshness with no added sugar.

It’s Worth Noting: These are more expensive than some other protein shakes and don’t contain enough calories to replace a meal. It also does not contain any fiber and is not vegan-friendly. 

While not technically a shake, Fuel for Fire protein smoothies are a great alternative if you prefer a smoothie-like protein drink that’s ready-to-go. They have 10 grams of protein from whey protein isolate and 15 grams of carbohydrates from fruits (and in some flavors, vegetables). This makes Fuel for Fire work well as both a pre or post-workout snack when you don’t have the time or the appetite to eat something more substantial. 

Whey protein has been well studied and is considered to be a top protein choice for athletes—though it’s a great option for anyone who wants to increase their protein intake.

Another selling point for these pouches is that they don’t contain any added sugar or alternative sweeteners—the sweetness comes from the fruit. Fuel for Fire original smoothies come in six different flavors, including one that contains caffeine. They’re all gluten-free but not suitable for a vegan diet. With only 110 calories per pouch, they aren’t enough calories to replace a meal, but could be added to a meal to boost your protein intake.

Product Details:

  • Form: Pouch
  • Protein: 10 grams
  • Protein source: Whey protein
  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 15 grams
  • Sugar: 11 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sweetener: None (sugar comes from fruit)
  • Dietary considerations: gluten-free

Best for Pregnancy

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake Pregnancy & Postpartum

ritual-daily-shake-pregnancy-and-postpartum

Amazon

Why We Like It: Ritual Daily Shake Pregnancy and Postpartum contains important nutrients for pregnancy including choline, calcium, and iron. It’s Informed Sport Certified, gluten-free, and allergy-friendly.

It’s Worth Noting: It contains monk fruit extract and Reb-M, two high intensity alternative sweeteners. It also needs to be mixed with water or another liquid to drink.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, protein shakes can be a helpful way to meet your increased protein needs, especially if you don’t have much of an appetite or are caring for a newborn and need something quick. “A protein shake may be especially beneficial during the first trimester when many pregnant people experience nausea or food aversions,” says Peters. 

We recommend Ritual Daily Shake Pregnancy and Postpartum because in addition to 20 grams of protein per serving, it contains important nutrients for this season of life including 250 milligrams of choline, which may help baby’s brain development.

Safety is of utmost importance during this time period, which is why third party testing is essential. “It's hard to know exactly what is in the product if it's not third-party verified. One way to avoid safety concerns is to mix up a protein shake or smoothie at home using a high-quality protein powder,” says Peters. Ritual prioritizes quality and transparency through their Made Traceable™ program, and this product is also Informed Sport Certified, a third party testing agency that tests for ingredients banned in sport.

You can make a quick shake by just mixing this powder with water, or you can add it to a smoothie with fruits and vegetables for added nutrients. One thing to note is that it contains two high intensity sweeteners—Reb M (from the stevia plant) and monk fruit, which are Generally Recognized as Safe, but additions some people may choose to avoid.

Product Details:

  • Form: Powder
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein
  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sweetener: Monk fruit extract and Reb-A 
  • Dietary considerations: gluten-free, vegan, and allergy-friendly

Best for Diabetes

Iconic Protein Shake

iconic-protein-shake

Amazon

Why We Like It: Iconic protein shakes are a delicious lactose-free option made from grass-fed milk, and contain 20 grams of protein and 40 percent of your daily calcium needs with no added sugars.

It's Worth Noting: They contain monk fruit extract and stevia as sweeteners. One flavor contains a greens powder, which may interact with certain medications.

With no added sugar, Iconic protein shakes are a good option if you have diabetes or need to watch their added sugar intake. They are made from grass-fed milk that has been filtered and is lactose-free, and are low-carb and low-fat. While the filtering process removes the lactose, it actually increases the concentration of protein and calcium, providing 20 grams of protein and 40 percent of your daily calcium needs in one serving. These shakes are also soy-free and gluten-free. 

With only 140 calories, they make a great addition to breakfast or quick on-the-go snack. If you’re using them as a post workout refuel, you may want to add a source of fiber-rich carbohydrates to keep blood sugar stable while still replenishing the carbs you used during your workout. 

Iconic protein shakes come in four flavors—cacao and greens, vanilla bean, cafe latte, and chocolate truffle (which many think tastes just like chocolate milk). The cacao and greens flavor contains a greens blend with broccoli, kale, and spinach, which adds vitamins and minerals to the mix. However, greens powders may interact with certain medications such as blood thinners. All flavors are sweetened with monk fruit extract and stevia.

Product Details:

  • Form: Liquid
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Milk protein isolate
  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams 
  • Sweetener: Monk fruit extract and Stevia 
  • Dietary considerations: gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free

Best with Probiotics

Chobani Complete Shake

chobani-complete

Target

What We Like: Chobani Complete is a whole food high protein option that also contains probiotics, which may support a healthy gut.

It's Worth Noting: Chobani Complete requires refrigeration. It’s sweetened with stevia leaf extract and monk fruit extract.

Chobani Complete is a great option if you are lactose intolerant but also want to add a food source of probiotics to your diet. It’s a yogurt-based drink with 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 25 percent of your daily calcium needs per bottle. It requires refrigeration, so it’s a bit less convenient than some other protein shakes, but the added nutritional benefits earn it a spot in the rotation. 

Chobani Complete is available in strawberry cream, vanilla, mixed berry vanilla, and banana cream, all of which are sweetened with stevia and monk fruit extract. Because the protein comes from yogurt, this is one of the smoothest and creamiest options on the market. All flavors are gluten-free, lactose free (thanks to the addition of lactase), Kosher, and contain no artificial flavors.

Product Details:

  • Form: Liquid
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Milk protein isolate
  • Calories: 190
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 18 grams
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sweetener: Monk fruit extract and stevia 
  • Dietary considerations: gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free

Best High Protein

Fairlife Core Power Protein Milk Shake Chocolate Flavor

4.7
fairlife-core-power

Target

What We Like: It contains 26 grams of protein from milk and contains 50 percent of your daily calcium needs.

It's Worth Noting: It contains three added sweeteners—stevia, monk fruit extract, and acesulfame-K. It’s also lower in fiber than some other options, with 2 grams per serving.

If you want a bigger dose of protein from your shake, Fairlife Core Power offers 26 grams of protein. This may be especially helpful if you’re an athlete training at a high capacity and have significantly elevated protein needs. Tyler, whose personal favorite is strawberry banana, recommends these for their high protein content and great flavor. 

Fairlife Core Protein can also help you meet your daily calcium needs with 50 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults. It’s also a good source of potassium, which is known to support healthy blood pressure.

While it doesn't have any added sugar, it does contain stevia, monk fruit extract, and acesulfame-K. It also contains carrageenan as a thickener. Like most other protein shakes, it’s shelf stable until opened, though some people recommend chilling it for a better drinking experience. It comes in strawberry-banana, banana, vanilla, and chocolate. 

Product Details:

  • Form: Liquid
  • Protein: 26 grams
  • Protein source: Low Fat milk
  • Calories: 170
  • Fat: 4.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Sugar: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sweetener: Monk fruit extract, stevia, and acesulfame-K
  • Dietary considerations: gluten-free

Best Whole Foods Shake

Frozen Garden Green Protein Smoothie

Frozen Garden Green Protein Smoothie

Frozen Garden

What We Like: Frozen Garden Protein Smoothie is made entirely from whole foods, contains no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and is a good source of fiber, iron, and unsaturated fats.

It's Worth Noting: It requires a blender and a liquid of choice. It’s also more expensive and lower in protein than most pre-bottled options.

If you are looking for a smoothie that’s made from whole foods and offers a more balanced nutrition profile, Frozen Garden Protein Smoothie is a great option. It packs 10 grams of plant-based protein from beans, pumpkin seed, hemp seed and flaxseed as well as 7 grams of fiber (from all of the plant-based foods), and 10 grams of fat, most of which is unsaturated. 

It is also a better source of carbohydrates—the body’s primary energy source—than other options. These carbohydrates come entirely from whole foods and can help provide fuel for your brain and muscles. Not to mention that it’s filled with fruits and vegetables that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants without added sugar or other sweeteners. 

With 250 calories, it’s not quite enough for a meal, but you might want to try it as a post-workout recovery drink. You could also pair it with an egg, yogurt, or some toast with nut butter for a balanced breakfast.

This is a far less convenient option than a shelf stable protein shake (and comes at a much higher price point) since it requires the addition of liquid and a blender to mix it, but it’s still much faster than making your own. 

Product Details:

  • Form: Frozen
  • Protein: 10 grams
  • Protein source: Beans, pumpkin seeds, flax seed, hemp seed
  • Calories: 250
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 36 grams
  • Sugar: 16 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Sweetener: None
  • Dietary considerations: gluten-free, vegan, allergy-friendly

Our Approach to Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements.

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab.com.

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Know About Protein Shakes

Potency & Purity Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

While there are some supplement categories that have many options that have been third-party tested, many ready-made protein shakes are treated more like food products and are not third-party tested. We recommend selecting products from brands that prioritize ingredient purity and quality and that are transparent about their values, formulations, and manufacturing processes.

Form

Most ready-to-drink protein shakes come bottled or in a carton and may be shelf stable or in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. They also come as powders that can be added to water or other liquids. There are also a few options that come as frozen whole foods mixes and need to be blended with liquid in order to make a shake.

Ingredients: What to Pay Attention To

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

When choosing a protein shake, you’ll want to consider your individual needs and preferences. Some ingredients to be mindful of include added sugars, alternative sweeteners, added fibers, additional vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, or greens blends, and probiotics, some of which may interact with medications. Some protein shakes may contain other supplements as well, so always review labels carefully.

How Much Protein Should You Eat?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (this is 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight) for most adults. However, active people may benefit from additional protein. The International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram (g/kg) of body weight for active people looking to maintain or increase muscle mass.

Pregnant and breastfeeding people also have higher protein needs. The RDA for pregnant people is 1.1g/kg of body weight, but newer research suggests that needs may be as high as 1.2 g/kg in early stages and 1.4g/kg in later stages. Needs may be as high as 1.7g/kg in breastfeeding people.

Are There Risks From Taking Too Much Protein? 

Consuming significantly more protein than the RDA may increase risk for kidney problems and have negative effects on bone density. In addition, taking in too much protein—especially from powders and shakes—may replace other important nutrients in your diet.

Your Questions, Answered

How much do protein shakes typically cost? 

Most ready-to-drink protein shakes cost between $2.50 to $4.00. Buying in bulk may lower the price. 

When should you drink protein shakes? 

Technically, you could drink a protein shake anytime—with a meal or as a snack. There’s no specific time of day that is necessarily best to drink a protein shake. However, some people find it challenging to get enough protein at breakfast, especially on busy mornings. Protein shakes can be a helpful addition to a breakfast on-the go. 

They are also particularly helpful if you’ve just finished a workout, especially when you don’t have the appetite for something else or the time to prepare a meal. “You can jump start the recovery process by drinking a protein shake with at least 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes after a hard effort workout or strength session,” says Baumann. You’ll also want to get in a good source of carbohydrates after exercising to replenish and build your energy stores, so if your shake is low in carbs, try drinking it alongside a peanut butter sandwich or yogurt with berries and granola.

While protein shakes are convenient, they aren’t a replacement for whole foods, and you may miss out on other important nutrients if you rely on them too heavily. “If you are drinking a protein shake daily, consider rotating the type of protein used in the shake. You can also blend in a variety of fruit, leafy greens, and spices to further increase variety and the nutrient profile of your shake,” says Tyler. 

Do protein shakes help you lose weight? 

Many people use protein shakes in an effort to lose weight, but there is no magic shake that will lead to weight loss. Protein can help fill you up and keep you full, which may support overall calorie balance. “However, because protein shakes don't contain nearly as many nutrients or fiber as real food, they're not as satiating to the body. This can make you hungry later on which can lead to overeating,” says  Lindsay Allen, MS, RDN

Keep in mind that some protein shakes are high calorie and designed to support weight gain, not loss. 

Do protein shakes help you build muscle?

Consuming adequate protein, paired with strength exercise will help you build muscle. However, more isn’t necessarily better, and protein alone will not lead to muscle growth if you aren’t strength training. 

Can protein shakes replace a meal?

There are protein shakes that can act as a meal replacement; however, most are too low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat to replace a meal. If you’re using it as an on-the-go meal, look for shakes that are at least 300 to 350 calories and contain a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

That may still not be enough calories for some people, so pay attention to how you feel after drinking a protein shake, and if it keeps you full for long enough. Protein shakes can be a helpful addition to meals on days when you don’t have time to prepare another source of protein.

Who We Are

Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and experienced writer whose work has been featured in Verywell, EatingWell, Healthline, and more. She helps busy moms learn to eat to feel their best, and is always looking for the best, most convenient options to support her clients’ lifestyles. She also works with many endurance athletes to support fueling and recovery, including distance runners and triathletes.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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