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Protein shakes can be an easy way to increase protein intake. This may be useful for people looking to put on muscle, lose weight, or promote injury recovery.

This article explores protein shakes and provides a list of ready-to-drink protein shakes a person may consider depending on their goals.

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A protein shake is a dietary supplement. Typically, it consists of protein powder mixed with water, milk, or a milk substitute. Depending on the manufacturer, the beverage may contain other ingredients such as flavorings, vitamins, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

Protein powders are available to the general public to buy and make at home with a shaker or blender. Alternatively, a person can purchase ready-to-drink shakes that they can consume when convenient.

People may choose protein shakes for several reasons, including the below.

Muscle gain

A 2017 systematic review highlights that protein supplements can enhance muscle strength and size in healthy adults engaging in resistance exercise training.

Weight loss

Some research indicates high-protein diets may be beneficial for weight loss. A 2016 meta-analysis suggests these diets may help older adults lose fat and retain lean mass. Meanwhile, a 2019 analysis suggests a higher protein diet may help prevent weight regain after weight loss.

Lean muscle gain

A 2018 review found that protein supplementation significantly increased lean muscle gain in people performing resistance exercise training.

Prevent muscle loss

The American College of Sports Medicine notes that when individuals reach approximately 50 years of age, they need extra protein in their diet — the equivalent of 1 gram (g) extra per kilogram (kg) of body weight. This helps maintain muscle mass.

A 2016 study recommends adults consume 1.2 to 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight daily to achieve optimal health outcomes.

Learn more about how to get enough protein.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements as strictly as pharmaceuticals. Therefore, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to evaluate product safety and label them accordingly. Alternatively, they may receive certifications from third-party testing services.

This means it can be difficult to verify that the protein powder contains what the makers claim.

Additionally, a person with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance may experience digestive issues if they use a milk-based protein powder. However, there are vegan and lactose-free alternatives for people who cannot have or do not want dairy or lactose.

Finally, few current studies explore the long-term side effects of high-protein intake from protein powder and supplements. This means that people may experience unknown risks in the future.

For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.

Each manufacturer will have a specific set of instructions on shake dosages and frequencies. When people wish to drink a shake, they simply need to shake the bottle, and it is ready for consumption.

Although there is debate about when to consume a protein shake for muscle gain, a person should consider drinking it within 1 hour of their workout.

People considering protein shakes to lose weight may consume them instead of a meal or with a small amount of food. However, it is important to ensure the shake contains other nutrients beyond protein to help a person maintain a balanced and healthy diet.

When looking to purchase a protein shake, individuals may wish to consider the following:

  • the protein type it contains
  • whether or not the product contains dairy
  • the amount of protein it contains
  • whether the product is shelf-stable, meaning if a person can store it at room temperature
  • whether or not it contains artificial sweeteners

Below, we list five ready-to-drink protein shakes to consider.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Caramel Latte SlimFast Advanced Energy meal replacement shakes

Best for flavor variety

Ingredients per 325 ml bottle
Calories180
Fat9 g
Protein20 g
Sugar1 g
Cholesterol15 mg
Sodium190 mg
Dietary fiber5 g

This SlimFast shake has a caramel latte flavor, so it may make a suitable replacement for breakfast. It also contains caffeine, so it might help people wake up.

To maintain a balanced diet, a person should consider consuming this alongside other healthy breakfast foods.

The product contains dietary fiber, which research suggests can promote weight loss and help individuals stick to their diet. This is likely because fiber takes longer to digest, helping people feel fuller for longer.

This shake is also available in a range of flavors:

  • rich chocolate
  • vanilla cream
  • creamy chocolate
  • strawberries and cream
  • mocha cappuccino
  • orange cream

A four-pack is available to purchase online for around $7.

Creamy vanilla MET-Rx RTD 51

Best for muscle mass

Ingredients per 443 ml can
Calories230
Fat1 g
Protein51 g
Sugar2 g
Cholesterol30 mg
Sodium190 mg
Dietary fiber2 g

The MET-Rx RTD 51 shake will suit people looking to increase or maintain muscle mass.

It consists of a range of vitamins and nutrients. As well as thiamin, a vitamin that aids energy metabolism, it also contains riboflavin, which may ease muscle soreness and promote recovery.

The MET-Rx RTD shake also comes in the following flavors:

  • frosty chocolate
  • peanut butter cup
  • cookies & creme

A 12-pack is available to purchase online for around $50.

Dark chocolate OWYN Vegan protein shake

Best vegan option

Ingredients per 355 ml bottle
Calories180
Fat7 g
Protein20 g
Sugar4 g
Cholesterol0 g
Sodium220 mg
Dietary fiber5 g

This protein shake comprises pea protein instead of the more traditional whey. It is also free from soy, gluten, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts.

Some research suggests pea and whey protein produce similar outcomes for muscle thickness and strength. Therefore, this shake may suit vegans and people with dairy allergies looking for a post-workout shake.

Other flavors of the OWYN protein shake include:

  • vanilla
  • strawberry banana
  • cold brew coffee
  • cookies and creamless

A 12-pack is available to purchase online for around $55.

Vanilla Labrada Lean Body shake

Best for muscle mass and weight management

Ingredients per 500 ml bottle
Calories280
Fat9 g
Protein40 g
Sugar0 g
Cholesterol25 mg
Sodium600 mg
Dietary fiber5 g

The company behind the Labrada Lean Body shake claims this drink can serve as a snack or meal. The protein content makes this shake suitable for people looking to gain muscle or lose weight.

As the amount of protein is quite high, it may help a person feel fuller for longer and less likely to indulge in snacking.

Other than vanilla, the Labrada shake is available in the following flavors:

  • chocolate
  • banana
  • cafe mocha
  • salted caramel
  • strawberry
  • cookies and cream

A 12-pack is available to purchase online for around $40.

Chocolate Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% whey protein shake

Best for muscle recovery

Ingredients per 325 ml bottle
Calories160
Fat4.5 g
Protein24 g
Sugar2 g
Cholesterol60 mg
Sodium270 mg
Dietary fiber2 g

This shake contains naturally-occurring BCAAs, making it beneficial for supporting muscle building and recovery. The manufacturer states the packaging is recyclable.

The drinks are also available in vanilla flavor, and a 12-pack is available to purchase online for around $32.

There are several ways a person can ensure they have enough protein in their diet. If they wish to consume alternatives to protein shakes, they may consider:

  • Increasing dietary protein: Foods, such as lean chicken breast, tuna, tofu, and lentils, all contain high amounts of protein.
  • Protein powders: A person can purchase protein powder to make shakes at home with milk or water. This allows them to control the amount of protein they consume.
  • Homemade shakes: By combining Greek yogurt with fruit, milk, and ice, individuals can create protein shakes at home without protein powders.

Ready-to-drink protein shakes provide an easy and convenient way to increase protein intake. Depending on a person’s goals, these drinks may help increase muscle mass, lose weight, or gain weight.