Most ready-to-drink shakes are NOT good for you. They are full of sugars or artificial sweeteners, refined oils, artificial colors, flavorings and other ingredients that are not real food. That being said, they are pretty damn convenient when you wake up late for work and don’t want to skip breakfast or it’s the quickest thing you can grab after a hard workout.
The absolute best protein shake is one that you make yourself, using a simple protein powder and my easy shake formula. But when that’s just not possible, it’s good to know which grab and go shakes to reach for and which ones to avoid. I’ve graded each of the following protein shakes based on ingredients, nutrients, taste, consistency, and price. Again, please keep in mind that none of these shakes are perfect, they all have a few dodgy ingredients, and that real food wins over a ready to drink shake every time.
Read on to find the best protein shake for you and see if your go-to makes the cut.
Svelte had less of a chemical or metallic taste than most of the other shakes and had more of a creamy texture. It left no oily film on my tongue like other shakes. It is soy based and organic and is sweetened with rice syrup solids, dried cane syrup and stevia extract. Bonus points for no sucralose! It does have less protein than other shakes at 11 grams for 180 calories, but passes the test of having less sugar than protein at 6 grams. You can find it in most grocery stores, sometimes in the nutrition aisle and sometimes in the drink aisle by the juices and instant breakfast drinks.
Evolve is dairy, soy, artificial flavor and gluten free, non-GMO, and vegan. I’m really not sure how they made it taste good under all those restrictions but this was one of my favorites. They have a Toasted Almond flavor that would be a perfect substitute for almond milk (since almond milk doesn’t have protein!). Evolve is revamped with a new formula and branding by Cyto-Sport and not yet available to the public– I just got to try it at a recent food expo. I’ll update here with more information on where you can find it ASAP.
I never thought I would be OK with anything produced by the Atkins brand, but consistency of these shakes were creamy and not too thick. The first 6 ingredients were fine but then came the sunflower oil, carrageenan, and sucralose. It has 15 grams of protein for minimal calories (160) and 6 grams of carbs. I do think that’s way too low in calories and carbs to be a meal replacement for most people and without the carbs will likely cause a sugar craving soon after but it works as a quick snack in the middle of the day. I always assumed that all Atkins brand products were something to steer clear of, but these are surprisingly better (ingredients and taste-wise) than the EAS shakes and Muscle Milk.
The Orgain shake had less of the thick, filmy, consistency compared to the Muscle Milk shakes and wasn’t as sickly sweet, however the first gulp still had a metallic, fake sweetener aftertaste. It got better as I drank more, but I’m not sure I’d always pay $4 more for Orgain ($10 for 4) over the better tasting Atkins shakes ($6 for 4) just because they’re organic. They’ve still got erythritol and sunflower oil but no sucralose. Shelling out the extra dough to avoid the sucralose might be worth it if ready to drink shakes are part of your daily or weekly routine. I’ve seen that they are releasing a grass-fed version but I have yet to see it in stores.
Coco Libre combines coconut water, coconut cream, dairy protein from grass fed cows, erythritol, and stevia to make a great tasting protein shake I can get behind. I love the coffee flavor in the morning. B for the erythritol, which can be hard for some people to digest. They run about the same price as Orgain and are a little harder to find in stores.
The taste wasn’t so bad, but it left an oily film on my tongue (likely from the sucralose, vegetable oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil).
Muscle Milk has a few different versions of protein shakes. The Genuine line around 130 calories and 20 grams of protein. It was wayyy too sweet. I puckered my lips and made a face after the first taste. It was so thick that it left a film in my mouth and on my teeth as if I had been drinking straight oil. The Atkins shakes were much better for a similar price range and ingredient list.
20 grams of sugar? No thanks!
There’s a reason these taste so good– there is at least 40 grams of sugar in each 15 ounce bottle, depending on the flavor. To put it in perspective, that’s more than a bag of M&Ms (30 grams). The mango version has 54 grams in the 2 serving bottle. Never assume that the nutrition facts on the label are per bottle, always look to see how many servings the bottle contains.
How could anyone think this was OK to sell? I couldn’t take more than one gulp because the consistency was like Elmer’s glue. When I tried to dump the rest in the sink it wouldn’t even drain it was so thick. I threw the rest of the pack away.
Unless you’re an endurance athlete, you just don’t need 26 grams of sugar in a quick snack. If you’re going to go bike 30 miles or go on a 2-hour hike, that’s totally appropriate, but if you’re going to sit at your desk it’s completely unnecessary.
It’s cheaper than other drinks on this list but it tastes terrible. It is extremely sweet and full of artificial sweeteners as well as added sugar. Corn maltodextrin is the second ingredient listed and sugar is the 4th.
Are there any other protein shakes you love or that you’ve been wondering about that you’d like me to review?