The Best Protein Shakes For Taste, Building Muscle, and More

Find out which of these protein shakes can help ramp up your gains in the gym.

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Whether you are looking for gains in muscular size or just want to stay full between meals, a protein shake can be a useful tool in your dietary arsenal. The majority of protein shakes are derived from a substance called whey, which is produced during the fermentation process used to create different dairy products, such as cheese curds or casein (another form of protein you’ll find across the supplement market). Unlike other dietary sources of protein, one of the most significant reasons why whey protein is so effective is because of its broad amino acid profile. (1)(2)(3).

With such a concentrated source of protein and a relatively decreased amount of calories from carbohydrates and fat, protein shakes can fit well into pretty much anybody’s dietary pattern. There are thousands of brands of protein shakes and subtypes to choose from, but that also means it can be a pain to sift through every single one without knowing what you’re looking for. We’ve picked out the best protein shakes for weight loss, building muscle, and other goals to help narrow down your options.

Best Protein Shakes

Best Protein Shake

Anyone looking for a big dose of protein knows that a protein shake can offer the infusion you’re looking for. Slamming back a protein shake after a hard workout can help you be on your whey to making some serious gains. Our top pick for best protein shake, Huge Supplements Whey Protein, delivers 23.5g of protein to help you hit your daily protein goals, and/or fuel your recovery.

Huge Supplements Whey Protein

Unlike most protein powders that only contain one type of protein, this product is made from a combination of whey protein isolate and whey concentrate. This makes for a higher protein content per scoop without any extra fillers or additives. Each scoop provides a solid 23.5g of protein and 120 calories with only 2g of fat. Huge also includes the digestive enzymes papain and lactase, which can help you better break down and absorb the protein, and work against bloating.

Huge sweetens their protein with sucralose, and offers their whey in four delicious flavors, including Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate Peanut Butter. For those of you who are looking for a low carb option, or just trying to keep the calories per scoop down, this protein only has 2.5g of carbs per serving. 

Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Huge Supplements Whey Protein

A blend of whey isolate and whey concentrate, Huge Supplements Whey Protein packs 23 grams of protein into each serving. It also contains 5g of BCAAs with only 2g of fat and 2.5g of carbs per serving.

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Whey Protein

  • Those who want a large dose of protein will like the 23.5 grams per scoop here.
  • Customers who like some help with digesting will enjoy the digestive enzymes papain and lactase in this formula.
  • Anyone looking for a protein that you can take any time of the day and after a workout. The combination of whey concentrate and whey isolate makes this a solid choice.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Whey Protein

  • Athletes in pursuit of a pure isolate whey protein that may digest quicker for post workout use specifically.
  • Those who don’t like artificial sweeteners — this product contains sucralose. 

While there are many great picks on this list, Huge’s whey protein takes the top spot because of its high dose of protein, moderate calories, and versatile protein blend. Plus, it’s got great flavor options, like Vanilla Milkshake and Cookies & Cream.

Best Protein Shake for Weight Loss

For people who are pursuing weight loss, protein shakes may be a great way to help curb hunger and get quality calories instead of eating junk. A whey protein isolate shake can assist along your weight loss journey, and the whey isolate in Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake makes it our top pick for best protein shake for weight loss.

Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake

Onnit’s protein is made from whey protein isolate, which may digest and absorb better and cause less bloating (as whey isolate is broken down further than whey concentrate). Each scoop provides you with 20g of high-quality whey isolate, and either 110 calories or 120 calories depending on flavor. This protein shake is quite lean with only 3g of carbs and 1.5g of fat per scoop. Onnit also incorporates digestive enzymes for an added digestive benefit. They include a blend of amylase, protease, lipase, and other enzymes that can help aid in the breakdown of polypeptide chains in lactose and amine chains in proteins. (4)

Many other whey isolates may remove a large portion of lactose, but the extra enzymes may give Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake a distinct edge over many other protein shakes. But since this shake is sourced from grass-fed whey isolate, it may not be best for someone looking for a higher calorie shake with larger amounts of carbs and fats.

Onnit's Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Onnit's Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Onnit's Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

A grass-fed whey isolate includes added ingredients for digestion like seven digestive enzymes and a probiotic (lactobacillus acidophilus). It's also gluten-free, sugar-free, and soy-free.

Who Should Buy Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake

  • Athletes who prioritize whey protein isolate over other kinds of protein. This is solely made from whey isolate, and is not a blend. 
  • Customers seeking to lose weight will appreciate that this is a low-calorie protein shake.
  • Anyone with a lactose intolerance or digestive issues may like the helpful digestive enzymes here. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake

  • Anyone looking for a protein supplement high in calories, carbs, or fat. This is only 120 calories at the most.
  • Customers who want a variety of flavors to choose from — this only comes in Vanilla and Mexican Chocolate.

This great tasting and easy mixing protein comes in a low calorie formula with a unique blend of digestive enzymes — this is why Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein has earned its place on our list to help you during cutting season. 

Best Protein Shake for Muscle Building

There are many reasons why people would consume a protein shake, just like there are many reasons why people go to the gym. Some people want to lose weight, some want better health, and some want to pack on as much Grade A USDA Beef on their frame as they can. If you’re looking to build muscle mass, then this shake is for you. 

Huge Supplements Whey Protein

All aboard the gains train with this product from Huge. This protein shake packs 23g of protein per serving from whey concentrate and whey isolate. Huge also includes some digestive enzymes that can help absorb and break down the shake better, which may also lead to less bloating. After all, you want your muscles to look full, not your belly, right?

Each scoop is only 120 calories with only 2g of fat and 2.5g of carbs, and a full 23g of protein, meaning you’re not drinking a ton of calories that you could be eating instead. The flavors are varied and allow you to keep it fresh with four delicious shakes, including Strawberry Cheesecake, Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Vanilla Milkshake. 

Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Huge Supplements Whey Protein
Huge Supplements Whey Protein

A blend of whey isolate and whey concentrate, Huge Supplements Whey Protein packs 23 grams of protein into each serving. It also contains 5g of BCAAs with only 2g of fat and 2.5g of carbs per serving.

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Whey Protein

  • Anyone who’s looking to maximize their muscle gains will enjoy the high protein dose here of 23g per scoop with 5g of BCAAs.
  • Athletes on a low-carb or low-fat diet who want a lot of protein, but not a lot of calories from other macros. This shake is 77 percent calories from protein.
  • People who prefer different flavors to keep things interesting will appreciate the variety of flavors this protein comes in, including a unique Strawberry Cheesecake flavor.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Whey Protein

  • Anyone looking for a quick digesting post-workout shake might want to look for a pure whey isolate instead of a blend or whey concentrate.
  • Customers who want a protein that works as a meal replacement will want to look elsewhere. The low carb and fat macros, and lack of included vitamins and minerals mean this is not intended to be a meal replacement shake.

If you’re all gas and no brakes at the gym trying to put muscle on, you need a protein to match. Huge Supplements Whey Protein is a great option with a high protein per scoop content of 23g and minimal extra calories — only 120 per scoop. Combine that with the digestive enzymes and 5g of anabolic BCAAs, and you just might be stepping on the gains train.

Best Tasting Protein Shake

Other than the protein source supplied in a shake, the other ingredients you see on the label can enhance a product’s flavor tremendously. For those who are in search of a tasty pick beyond a more bare-bones ingredient list, stay tuned.

Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake

Everyone wants a protein shake that tastes good, but when push comes to shove, Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein wins that fight, in our opinion. With 20 grams of protein per scoop, two grams of fat, zero grams of sugar, and between 110 to 120 calories (depending on flavor), you won’t have to compromise taste for quality.

What sets this pick apart from every other item on our list is the assortment of ingredients that kick the flavor up a notch, such as tapioca, dried cream extract, and monk fruit extract. The added creaminess from the extra dairy sources and the unique sweetness of the monk fruit extract give this product a special flavor profile that many other protein shakes don’t have. You can choose from a classic Vanilla flavor, or a unique Mexican Chocolate blend. 

Onnit's Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Onnit's Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
Onnit's Grass-Fed Whey Isolate

A grass-fed whey isolate includes added ingredients for digestion like seven digestive enzymes and a probiotic (lactobacillus acidophilus). It's also gluten-free, sugar-free, and soy-free.

Who Should Buy Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein

  • Anyone in search of a delicious protein shake with an enhanced creaminess compared to simpler protein shakes. 
  • Anyone who wants a lower calorie protein shake to help with weight loss will appreciate this product’s mere 110 to 120 calories per scoop.
  • Customers looking for a sugar-free protein shake that utilizes other sweeteners beyond stevia or sucralose could enjoy the sweetness of the monk fruit extract.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein

  • Athletes in need of a higher protein content above 20 grams per scoop.
  • Customers who don’t want extra additives from other ingredients might want to look elsewhere on our list.

The Onnit Grass Fed Whey Protein Shake can give you an effective dose of protein and a more unique flavor beyond other protein shakes with a minimal ingredient list. Though, for those in search of a higher protein content per serving or one with a larger supply of calories, then you might want to refer to our other picks on this list. 

Best Meal Replacement Protein Shake

While many whey supplements stick to the basics in order to give you the greatest dose of protein without extras, some consumers may be looking for an all-around meal replacement that can deliver the same muscle-building properties. Meal replacement shakes usually are higher in calories, and provide a solid amount of protein with carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals, as well.

Transparent Labs Meal Replacement

Transparent Labs Meal Replacement offers a balanced macro profile with seven grams of fat, 16g or 19g of carbs (depending on flavor), and 24g of protein. You’ll find dietary fiber and electrolytes, as well, to help round out the shake. Available in Chocolate or Vanilla, this blend of nutrients is designed to help you feel fuller longer with a protein blend that includes both whey isolate and whey concentrate.

The micronutrients and electrolytes can help to replenish what was lost during a hard workout. The calorie count is on the lower side for a meal replacement shake at either 210 calories for Vanilla, or 220 calories for Chocolate. This shake can be considered a snack for some on higher-calorie diets, or a full meal replacement for those with fewer daily calories.

Before purchasing this meal replacement from Transparent Labs, it should be considered that this product is not as high in fat content as some other meal replacements, at seven grams total per serving (but five grams are saturated fat). For most populations, saturated fat consumption should be limited to 10 percent of total daily calories to guard against cardiovascular disease, which is something to consider before buying this product. (1)(7)

Transparent Labs MRP
Transparent Labs MRP
Transparent Labs MRP

Transparent Labs MRP provides 19g of slow-digesting carbs, 24g of protein, and only 7g of both sugar and fat. It also contains MCT oil and bone broth, which can help with gut health, and boasts a moderate 220 calories per serving. 

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Meal Replacement Shake

  • Customers who want an easy and quick meal with sufficient carbs and fats in their protein shake.
  • Anyone looking for a low-calorie meal replacement shake that covers the bases including some fat, carbs, and ample protein.
  • Athletes looking for a post-workout shake that can help them feel full, and replenish the electrolytes they lost during their workout.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Meal Replacement Shake

  • Anyone looking for a protein shake that only supplies a high protein content without added calories from carbs and fats.
  • Customers looking for a higher calorie meal replacement. This only has up to 220 calories per serving.
  • People looking for a meal replacement with a lot of vitamins and minerals to replace those they miss by consuming a shake instead of whole foods.

If you need a quick meal during your lunch break or just want a solid source of calories to consume post-workout, Transparent Labs Meal Replacement Shake could be a great choice. You’ll be getting the protein that you want, which can help you make those sweet gains, and a good source of carbs and fats for the day — so maybe you won’t need to reach for the donuts in the break room.

Best Plant-Based Vegan Protein Shake

For those who are in search of a vegan protein shake with no dairy products, Kaged Muscle has you covered. While it can be a challenge to find a great vegan product to make the most of your time in the gym, this is one of the best options we’ve tried.

Kaged Plantein Protein Shake

The Kaged Plantein Protein Shake can give you the kick you’re looking for with 26 grams of pea protein and only four grams of fat, five grams of carbs, and one gram of sugar, which is relatively low compared to other vegan options. As is common with vegan protein supplements, one issue that can occur with vegan protein sources is a low bioavailability, which can potentially decrease the absorption of a given dose of protein. (2) This supplement bypasses this issue through its specially formulated and proprietary pea protein source called ioPea, which may have 300 percent greater overall bioavailability and over 250 percent greater leucine bioavailability. 

At only 160 calories a serving, one dose can provide the protein you’re looking for and the flexibility you want in your overall diet. While 160 calories per serving is really good as far as vegan protein shakes go, it could be a downside for consumers and athletes in a caloric deficit who don’t want the added calories. There is also only 15 servings per container, which makes this product valued at 30 dollars per tub a pricier choice. 

Kaged Muscle Plantein
Kaged Muscle Plantein
Kaged Muscle Plantein

This plant-based formula is made from pea protein and boasts a macronutrient profile similar to whey — 26 grams of protein, four grams of carbs, and five grams of fat. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off your purchase. 

Who Should Buy Kaged Plantein Protein Shake

  • Customers in need of a high quality vegan-sourced protein shake with a high bioavailability can find great value in this product’s proprietary ioPea.
  • Anyone looking for a vegan protein shake with a broad selection of flavors will have the choice of Peanut Butter Cookie, Banana Bread, and Cinnamon Roll.
  • Anyone with gluten allergies or intolerances will not have a problem with Kaged Plantein as it is entirely gluten-free.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Kaged Plantein Protein Shake

  • Customers with nut allergies will want to look elsewhere due to the product’s incorporation of peanut flour.
  • Anyone who is in need of a less expensive vegan protein may want to look elsewhere, too, as this product clocks in at two dollars per serving.

Customers of a vegan or plant-based persuasion could find Kaged Plantein an outstanding choice for a protein shake. The 26 grams of protein per scoop and an enhanced bioavailability sets this product apart from many other vegan options on the market.

Best Protein Shake for Keto

Those who follow a keto diet consume a higher fat, moderate protein, and lower carb diet — and luckily, with the diet’s growing popularity, there are many keto options available on the market today. This one is our personal favorite.

Ample Low-Carb Meal Shake

If keto is your thing, then the Ample Low-Carb Meal Shake can be a viable pick. At 25 grams of protein per bottle with 28 grams of fat and 11 grams of carbs, any customer on a ketogenic diet should have no problem implementing this shake into their diet. 

This product is relatively high in calories at 400 calories per serving, but the fat to carbohydrate ratio is quite compatible with a keto lifestyle due to its high ratio of fats to carbohydrates per serving. So you can get the protein spike you’re looking for with the added benefits of a well-rounded meal from all three macronutrients. However, this product is currently sold at about $7.50 per individual meal bottle (or $5.27 per meal if you opt for the canister), which is a good bit more expensive per serving compared to our other picks. 

Ample
Ample
Ample

Ample's formula comes in 400 or 600 calorie vanilla or chocolate flavors that contain premium fats, proteins, fibers, antioxidants, and electrolytes in addition to the pre- and probiotics.

Who Should Buy Ample Low-Carb Meal Shake

  •  Customers following a ketogenic diet could find this pick suitable for their diet due to its high protein dose, higher fat content, and only 11 grams of carbs.
  • Anyone who wants a high calorie shake to potentially help with weight gain or replace meals throughout the day.
  • Customers who want a convenient protein shake that does not require mixing or a shaker cup could find the bottle version of this product as a good fit. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ample Low-Carb Meal Shake 

  • Anyone in need of a low calorie protein shake may not want the 400 calories per serving, or 28 grams of fat for the 25 grams of protein
  • Customers who prioritize a more affordable protein shake may be dissuaded by the price tag here, and could find a better fit in a pure whey protein shake with a minimal ingredient list.

The Ample Low-Carb Meal Shake is our recommended choice for keto adherents. This product is able to deliver on overall protein content and a characteristically higher fat content with a small amount of carbs given the 400 calories per serving. But it may not be the greatest choice for those trying to stay in a caloric deficit, or who want a lower price point.

Best Protein Shake On the Go

Let’s face it, not everyone wants to go digging for the scooper (that’s always at the bottom of the tub for some reason), or measure out their protein like a mad scientist. This product will give you easy access to 31 grams of high quality protein and 400 calories to fuel you for the day.

Ample Recover Meal Replacement Shake

For those who want a protein shake without the inconvenience of needing a shaker cup and a two-pound tub of powder on hand, Ample Recover Meal Replacement’s individual serving bottles are a great choice. You can purchase a pack of 12 bottles that each contain an individual serving, so you need only add milk or water when you’re ready to drink and shake the bottle right up. 

At a total of 400 calories, 31 grams of protein, 33 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of sugar, this protein shake can help fill you up and promote muscle growth. As this product operates as more of a meal replacement due to its macronutrient profile and high calorie count, it may not be best fitted for athletes who are only trying to increase protein intake. As far a weight loss is concerned, protein can help provide a high level of satiety, which is a perceived sensation of fullness after feeding. While the total protein dose is the highest out of all our picks, those who prioritize a protein shake that may aid in weight loss will probably want to look elsewhere.

Ample Recover Meal Replacement
Ample Recover Meal Replacement
Ample Recover Meal Replacement

This meal replacement contains 31 grams of protein along with vitamins and minerals, like vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Plus, you'll find prebiotic fiber, probiotics, and 33g of carbs per serving. 

Who Should Buy Ample Recovery Meal Replacement Shake

  • Customers who need a quick meal will find the 400 calories a serving and 31 grams of protein here a great advantage.
  • Anyone who prioritizes a convenient protein shake without any preparation needed will appreciate that this product comes in individual bottles that each contain one serving.
  • Athletes who are looking for a meal replacement protein shake that can help them recover from a training session by providing energy in the form of carbs.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ample Recovery Meal Replacement Shake

  • Anyone who is in need of a low calorie protein shake with a low fat content will probably not find this product as a good fit.
  • Customers who are looking for a keto-friendly protein shake with a low carb count may not find this product compatible with their diet.

This pick comes divided into bottles that each contain an individual serving, which makes it a great protein shake to take on the go. Plus, it provides a full meal that can also be an advantage for anyone who doesn’t have time to sit down for breakfast or lunch during the day.

How We Chose the Best Protein Shakes

Protein shakes are a dime a dozen nowadays, so narrowing this list down to our favorites was quite the task. Here are a few of the guiding principles that we followed to tabulate our top picks.

Protein Content

A protein shake should deliver on its total protein dosage per serving. Most supplements average around 20 grams per serving — however, most of the picks on our list well exceed that number. But beyond the protein per serving, the supplement of your choice should help you reach your overall daily protein intake goals. You can figure out what that means for you by using this calculator

Macros

Apart from the number you see next to the protein content on the label, the rest of the supplement’s nutritional profile will be better suited for some customers than others, depending entirely on the role the supplement plays in one’s overall dietary patterns. For those seeking a large supply of protein with small caloric contributions from carbohydrates and fats, a filtered and more protein-concentrated whey isolate would be the better choice. If you need a reliable source of calories to accompany your protein shake, whey concentrate makes more sense. We’ve included a variety of macro counts and protein doses on this list to help suit differing customer needs.

Calories

You’ll find that protein shakes with a greater diversity of macros are usually higher in calories. From a biochemical standpoint, one gram of protein or carbohydrates is worth four calories while one gram of fat is worth nine calories. For customers who are looking for a protein shake that only provides the necessary protein dose, you might want to stay away from other products that are higher in calories due to the carbs and fats per serving. As far as meal replacement is concerned, calories are the name of the game. We’ve included a variety of protein shakes for people with different caloric needs, so you can find the product that’s best for you no matter what your goals are. 

Value

While it would be nice if everyone could afford the top shelf product, there are financial considerations for many consumers. But that doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice quality to keep the budget low. Most of the whey protein powders on our list range from about 80 cents per ounce up to two dollars per ounce. So regardless of your financial limitations, you can be sure to find a great choice at a great value.

Flavor

While some may only care about the gains and couldn’t care less what their protein shake tastes like, not everyone can drink chicken shakes like Derek Poundstone. You can be sure to find a variety of flavors and different ingredients on this list, from tapioca extract to Himalayan sea salt to keep things interesting. Chocolate and vanilla are solid flavors to be sure, but it’s nice to have some other options like peanut butter chocolate or cinnamon roll to spice things up.

Benefits of Protein Shakes

In a nutshell, protein shakes provide all of the benefits of a high protein meal without the need to consume a high volume of food. Whey protein shakes in particular have a high concentration of essential amino acids that make it very simple to add into your diet and potentially help build muscle. Not only is the total protein count fairly high on all of the products listed here, but the dose can be absorbed rapidly and put to good use in an efficient manner, thanks to the form of protein in the shake (like ioPea), or other ingredients like digestive enzymes.

Additionally, while there is a wide range of price points available for different protein shakes, most of them are very cost effective when comparing the protein content and the price per serving. While meal prepping is a lucrative way to save money while reaching your diet and fitness goals, protein shakes can add a lot of value to the consumer from a financial and health standpoint as well — especially those that have the ability to replace an entire meal. 

How Much Do Protein Shakes Cost?

Depending on what you’re looking for, you can find a fairly wide price range. For most protein shakes, you can expect to pay from about 80 cents per scoop up to over seven dollars per scoop. The higher priced shakes will likely include added micronutrients and boast a higher overall nutritional value, while the lower priced shakes may just pack the macros you’re looking for, and act more as a snack than a meal. But as we’ve demonstrated here, you can definitely find a great product at a reasonable price if your budget is tight.

How Much Protein Does One Need?

There’s a difference between the amount of protein that the FDA recommends to avoid winding up with a deficiency and the amount of protein ideal for managing hunger and maintaining a beach-ready physique.

The FDA has a blanket recommendation of 50 grams of protein per day for everybody. But for folks who work out regularly and want to look like it, it’s a different story. There’s a lot of debate, but the most influential paper here was published by the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine in 2009, and 10 years later, the International Association of Athletic Federations published the same recommendations: 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day, or 0.54 to 0.77 grams per pound of bodyweight. (10)

Some athletes consume more, even exceeding one gram per pound of body weight, and while it doesn’t appear that this has a negative effect, it’s not necessary to eat this much. But if one enjoys eating that much protein, eating one gram or more per pound of bodyweight doesn’t appear to have a negative effect. There’s some evidence that for advanced bodybuilders with significant muscle mass who are also trying to lose fat — that is, are maintaining a big calorie deficit — a higher intake of two to three grams per kilogram of body weight (one to 1.3 grams per pound) might be useful for retaining muscle. (11)(12) This isn’t necessary for the average person who works out a few times a week.

Remember that losing fat and gaining muscle has a lot more to it than just protein intake. Your overall calories are absolutely critical, as are your workouts, micronutrient intake, sleep quality, and more. Protein is an important piece of the puzzle, so once you know your calories, these guidelines can be useful to work out how many of those calories should be made up of protein.

[Related: IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros): Your Ultimate Guide To This Diet]

When Should I Consume Protein Shakes?

Most people who use protein shakes are trying to find a way to increase their daily protein intake. When the old chicken and rice routine starts to weigh on you, it’s a lot easier to slam down a shake that takes no cooking prep than to fill up on a hearty meal just to get some protein. This gives you the consumer a lot of freedom to utilize them in a way that makes the most sense for their everyday life. Contrary to the old adage of the anabolic window, timing your protein intake relative to your workout is not as important as keeping track of your daily intake. If muscle protein synthesis is your major concern, then spacing out feedings every three to five hours allows for the greatest muscle protein synthesis to occur. (5

What to Consider Before Buying Protein Shakes

If you couldn’t tell, there are a ton of protein shakes out there. Here are some helpful pointers for you to keep in mind before making a purchase.

Protein Content

This is obviously the top priority if you’re reading a list of best protein shakes. Most products sit at around 20 grams per serving but all of our picks exceed that level. As an added bonus, it can be helpful to see if a product contains an amino acid profile on the label to ensure you’re getting an effective dose of each amino acid. One of the most well researched amino acids is leucine, which has demonstrated the highest contribution to muscle protein synthesis. So be sure to check the label to see how much you’re getting per serving. (2)

Training Goals

While most probably think about muscle building when it comes to protein shakes, they can serve a variety of purposes depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the gym. For example, bodybuilders often prioritize a higher consumption of carbs and fats relative to protein when in the off season as a bulking strategy. As a result, a protein shake with other macronutrients included may be more appropriate as a means to reach their overall dietary goals during their prep. 

On the flip side, an endurance runner trying to cut weight for a competition may want to increase their protein intake to sustain muscle mass and wean down other macros to promote weight loss. This person would probably benefit from a whey isolate, or some other low calorie protein shake with a very high protein content and lower fat and carb content. As you can see, your choice will be best suited for why you want to increase your total protein intake in the first place.

Intolerances

The majority of protein shakes on the market are derived from whey, which is not well tolerated by every person, as most whey products still contain a small amount of dairy. For this reason, many products, including some that we have listed here, incorporate digestive enzymes or contain no dairy at all. Just make sure to keep an eye on the label before you check out.

Final Word

At the end of the day, there is nothing magical about protein shakes. For most people, they can be an effective way to boost daily protein intake and make the best of time spent in the gym. The choices on this list are a good swath of what’s available on the market today, and you can be sure to find a product that delivers on the nutrition, quality, taste, and value that you are looking for. 

While some customers may be looking for a low calorie, high protein shake, others may want a full meal replacement shake with a higher carb/fat count, and a variety of micronutrients. So whether you are a meathead through and through, or are just getting started on your health and fitness journey, you should be able to find a protein shake here to satisfy your needs. Set your budget, note your desired ingredients and dosages, and allow this list to be your guide through the rest. 

FAQs

What is the difference between a whey concentrate protein shake and a whey isolate protein shake?

Whey isolate undergoes more filtering during production and thus typically yields a higher protein content per serving, and a lower concentration of other macros, such as carbs and fats. Whey concentrate is not as filtered during processing, so the total calorie count is higher and the macro split includes greater amounts of carbs and fats. This is why whey isolate is usually more expensive.

Is the protein content in a protein shake different from what I would eat in a meal?

A protein shake is just an easier way to increase protein intake. For many protein shakes, the calorie content is significantly reduced compared to most meals to prioritize protein consumption. Concentrated sources of protein such as whey are unique in that they supply a broad spectrum of essential amino acids compared to the volume consumed. Many people find it easier to increase protein intake by supplementing with a protein shake rather than adding an extra meal.

Do I need to use a protein shake to gain muscle?

No, this is totally up to each individual. They are a useful tool that can make increasing protein intake easier in one’s diet, but there is no secret sauce when it comes to protein shakes. While there are some quality considerations when it comes to different products (such as whey or pea protein sourcing), they are just derivatives of substances found in food.

References

  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. (2016, December). Cut down on saturated fats – health. Health.gov. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DGA_Cut-Down-On-Saturated-Fats.pdf 
  2. Gorissen SHM, Crombag JJR, Senden JMG, et al. Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids. 2018;50(12):1685–1695. doi:10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5
  3. Groen BB, Horstman AM, Hamer HM, de Haan M, van Kranenburg J, Bierau J, Poeze M, Wodzig WK, Rasmussen BB, van Loon LJ. Post-prandial protein handling: you are what you just ate. PLoS One. 2015;10(11):e0141582. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141582.
  4. Hussain, N., Li, R., Takala, T. M., Tariq, M., Zaidi, A. H., & Saris, P. E. (2021). Generation of Lactose- and Protease-Positive Probiotic Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GG by Conjugation with Lactococcus lactis NCDO 712. Applied and Environmental Microbiology87(6). https://doi.org/10.1128/aem.02957-20
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