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The Best Protein Shakes to Help You Crush Your Health and Fitness Goals

Looking for a quick and tasty way to fuel up, lose weight or build muscle? Then check out our nutrition-coach-approved list for the best protein shakes.
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With plenty of options on the market, choosing the right protein shake can be a challenge. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve created this comprehensive, nutritionist-backed guide to the best protein shakes. Whether you have specific dietary restrictions, prefer a plant-based protein or want something that packs in a ton of delicious flavor, we will help you find a protein shake to meet your needs. Here are our top picks for the best protein shakes to help you accomplish your personal health and fitness goals.

This content is meant to be informative, but should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention or treatment of health problems. Always speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement or exercise regimen.

Our Picks for the Best Protein Shakes:

Best Overall Protein Shake: Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein

Grass Fed Casein Protein_Transparent Labs

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 120
  • Protein per serving: 28 grams
  • Protein source: Grass-fed whey isolate
  • Zero grams of sugar, 0.5 grams of fat, less than one gram of carbs, zero grams of dietary fiber

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein is a naturally-fed hormone-free protein powder sourced from grass-fed American cows. This formula is soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and free from sugars, artificial colors and artificial preservatives.

In each 32-gram scoop, Transparent Labs delivers 28 grams of protein—a complete amino acid profile with one of the highest protein-by-weight ratios on the market yet.

At the moment, Transparent Labs offers french vanilla and milk chocolate flavors, and reviews are generally positive. One reviewer on the website says “I have been trying different low-carb protein powders for at least a decade now. This is easily the best tasting formula I've ever had, which certainly reflects the quality of the ingredient.”

Essential Protein is $99.99 for a one-time purchase, or $89.99 if you sign up for their subscription option. 

Pros:

  • Nutrition label transparency makes it easy to see what you're ingesting
  • Grass-fed protein powder with a complete amino acid profile
  • Certificate of Analysis on the website indicates that the product is 93% protein
  • Reviewers rave about its taste and texture

Cons:

  • Premium price point

Best Low-Carb Protein Shake: XWERKS Grow

Xwerks

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 110
  • Protein per serving: 27.8 grams
  • Protein source: Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Zero grams of sugar, zero grams of fat, one gram of carbs, zero grams of fiber

XWERKS Grow is sourced from grass-fed pasture-raised cows from New Zealand. The whey is ultra-filtered to remove excess carbohydrates, including lactose and fats to create a high-quality low-calorie protein isolate.

Despite only having four flavors to choose from, reviewers stand by the fact that this is one of, if not the best tasting protein powders available. They love the fact that it mixes easily, never clumps and isn’t overly sweet.

The calories in this protein shake come almost entirely from protein making it an ideal product if you’re following a low-carb or keto diet.

Pros:

  • 100 percent whey protein isolate from grass-fed pasture-raised cows
  • No artificial sweeteners or colors
  • Instant mixing with no clumping

Cons:

  • This product is pricey
  • Strawberry flavor uses artificial flavoring

Best Whey Protein Shake: Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate

Swolverine

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 
  • Protein per serving: 
  • Protein source: 
  • One gram of sugar, zero grams of fat, one gram of carbs, zero grams of fiber

In the world of whey protein, finding a product with the purest, cleanest ingredients, happy-fed cows, and micro-filtered protein is not easy. Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate checks all those boxes. Free of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), this product contains 26 grams of ultra-pure protein per serving, fueling muscle growth and athletic performance.

What’s even cooler, this product combines Papain and Protease, two digestive enzymes that maximize the rate of absorption of the protein, helping you recover faster after your workouts.

Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate comes in four flavors so you never get bored: Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip and Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter. With a solid macronutrient profile, Swolverine Whey isolate is also ideal for those looking to consume a high level of protein with a low amount of fat and carbohydrates.

Pros

  • Whey isolate is the purest form of whey available
  • Cows are free of hormones and grass-fed
  • High amount of protein per serving with low amount of fats and carbohydrates
  • Digestive enzymes ensures you absorb the protein faster

Cons

  • Not a great option for those looking to bulk up due to low carbohydrates and fats

Best Protein Shake for Women: KOS Organic Plant Based Protein Powder

kos organic plant protein

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 160
  • Protein per serving: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Organic pea protein, organic flax seeds, organic quinoa, organic pumpkin seeds and organic chia seeds
  • Two grams of added sugar, six grams of fat, nine grams of carbs, three grams of dietary fiber

KOS Organic is a vegan protein powder that tastes great and is supported by a blend of plant-based protein sources including peas, flax and chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and quinoa.

This ingredient list ensures each scoop of KOS organic is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids per serving. KOS also includes digestive enzymes, a blend of organic fruits and veggies and even some added vitamins and minerals.

As far as taste, KOS comes in a wide variety of flavors. According to customer reviews, the chocolate and vanilla flavors are both delicious, especially when compared to other dairy-free plant-based protein shakes on the market.

Pros:

  • USDA certified organic ingredients
  • Completely vegan protein powder that is dairy and lactose-free
  • Contains organic fruit and veggie blend, digestive enzyme blend and KOS vitamins and minerals blend

Cons:

  • Might not be suitable for customers with allergies since it contains tree nuts (coconut)
  • Slightly higher calories than other protein powder supplements

Best Personalized Protein Shake: Gainful

Gainful-Protein-Powder-Lifestyle

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: Varies slightly based on the formulation
  • Protein per serving: Varies between 19 to 27 grams of protein depending on your protein powder selection
  • Protein source: Whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, plant-based protein (organic pea, organic brown rice, organic oat)
  • Sugar, fat, carbs and fiber will vary based on the formulation

Gainful offers a subscription-based service in which a protein powder is individually customized to fit your dietary needs. They have whey, keto and plant-based formulations available. No matter the source of protein you choose, Gainful protein powder contains all nine essential amino acids and anywhere from 19 to 27 grams of protein per serving. The customized powders never contain any gluten, soy, fillers, artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors.

What is unique about this protein is that it actually comes unflavored, and you use various flavor packets to enhance your shake. Gainful offers nine different flavor packets and I have personally tried the chocolate, mocha, chocolate peanut butter and the sea salt caramel. They were all delicious and added a substantial amount of flavor, the sea salt caramel and chocolate peanut butter were my personal favorites. This variety is great for individuals who get tired of drinking the same flavored protein shake over and over again.

Gainful definitely isn’t the cheapest supplement brand on the market, but it does offer high quality ingredients and customized supplement blends. The Gainful subscription also grants access to individual sessions with a registered dietician. This is a particularly helpful service if you have personal weight loss goals.

For more info, check out our best protein powders for weight loss review here

Pros:

  • Fully customizable protein powder options to align with your dietary preferences
  • Multiple flavor options available
  • Subscription to Gainful grants access to services from a registered dietitian

Cons:

  • Significant cost per serving of protein
  • Subscription based service only

Best for Protein Shake for Weight Loss: KOS Organic Plant Based Protein Powder

kos organic plant protein

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 160
  • Protein per serving: 20 grams
  • Protein source: Organic pea protein, organic flax seeds, organic quinoa, organic pumpkin seeds and organic chia seeds
  • Two grams of added sugar, six grams of fat, nine grams of carbs, three grams of dietary fiber

KOS Organic is a vegan protein powder that tastes great and is supported by a blend of plant-based protein sources including peas, flax and chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and quinoa.

This ingredient list ensures each scoop of KOS organic is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids per serving. KOS also includes digestive enzymes, a blend of organic fruits and veggies and even some added vitamins and minerals.

As far as taste, KOS comes in a wide variety of flavors. According to customer reviews, the chocolate and vanilla flavors are both delicious, especially when compared to other dairy-free plant-based protein shakes on the market.

Pros:

  • USDA certified organic ingredients
  • Completely vegan protein powder that is dairy and lactose-free
  • Contains organic fruit and veggie blend, digestive enzyme blend and KOS vitamins and minerals blend

Cons:

  • Might not be suitable for customers with allergies since it contains tree nuts (coconut)
  • Slightly higher calories than other protein powder supplements

Best Protein Shake for Muscle Gain: Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 790
  • Protein per serving: 53 grams
  • Protein source: Grass-Fed Whey protein concentrate
  • 21 grams of sugar, 13 grams of fat, 109 grams of carbs, five grams of dietary fiber

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer is a complete meal replacement formula that is perfect for hard-gainers seeking some serious muscle gain. The two-scoop serving comes in at 760 calories with a balanced macronutrient profile, making it great for those who don’t have the extra room or bandwidth to ingest a whole meal.

Mass Gainer rich in complex carbohydrates, quality fats, and protein, as well as essential micronutrients such as calcium and sodium. Even better, Mass Gainer also contains a high-quality source of creatine to help you recover quickly and bolster muscle growth.

The flavor options include chocolate glaze donut and sweet vanilla. As far as taste, reviewers especially rave about both and one reviewer notes “It mixes well, tastes great and is easy on the digestive system. I would not go back to anything else.”

Pros:

  • Great macronutrient profile for a high protein meal replacement powder
  • Transparent ingredient label
  • Zero added sugars and artificial perservatives

Cons:

  • Not ideal for individuals searching for a low-calorie shake option
  • Expensive compared to other brands

Best Tasting Protein Shake: XWERKS Grow

XWerks Grow Whey Protein Isolate

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 110
  • Protein per serving: 27.8 grams
  • Protein source: Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Zero grams of sugar, zero grams of fat, one gram of carbs, zero grams of fiber

XWERKS Grow is sourced from grass-fed pasture-raised cows from New Zealand. The whey is ultra-filtered to remove excess carbohydrates, including lactose and fats to create a high-quality low-calorie protein isolate.

Despite only having four flavors to choose from, reviewers stand by the fact that this is one of, if not the best tasting protein powders available. They love the fact that it mixes easily, never clumps and isn’t overly sweet.

The calories in this protein shake come almost entirely from protein making it an ideal product if you’re following a low-carb or keto diet.

Pros

  • 100 percent whey protein isolate from grass-fed pasture-raised cows
  • No artificial sweeteners or colors
  • Instant mixing with no clumping

Cons

  • This product is pricey
  • Strawberry flavor uses artificial flavoring

Best Vegan Protein Shake: Kaged Plantein

kaged muscle plantein

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 160 calories
  • Protein per serving: 26 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein
  • One gram of sugar, four grams of fat, five grams of carbs, two grams of dietary fiber

It's still possible to build tons of muscle as a vegetarian or vegan despite what you might think—and Kaged Plantein makes it even easier. By creating a high-quality pea protein that digests well and does not have the gritty taste of most plant proteins, Kaged wished to break some standards.

Plantain contains 25 grams of protein per serving with no added flavors. The pea protein also offers all nine essential amino acids, fostering muscle growth and recovery. Kaged is able to do this by using Ingredient Optimized® Technology, which increases the surface area of proteins, enhancing amino acid absorption and utilization. According to the Kaged site, research shows that 25 grams of pea protein treated with Ingredient Optimized® technology have comparable amino acid bioavailability to whey protein. In short? There is no difference between this vegan protein and regular whey protein when it comes to enhancing muscle growth.

Plantain comes in three flavors designed to curb your sweet tooth: banana bread, cinnamon roll and peanut butter cookie.

Pros 

  • Transparent ingredient label 
  • Features one of the strongest plant proteins available
  • Provides complete amino acid profile
  • Gluten-free

Cons

  • Not good for those who don't digest stevia or sucralose well

Best Protein Shake for Customers with Diabetes: Transparent Labs Whey Protein

transparent  labs whey

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 120
  • Protein per serving: 28 grams
  • Protein source: Grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • One gram of sugar, zero grams of fat, two grams of carbs, one gram of dietary fiber

One of Transparent Labs’s flagship products is the 100 percent grass-fed whey protein isolate sourced from American cattle.

Whey isolate, known as the gold standard for protein powder, is different from whey concentrate because it is processed to reduce the fat and lactose content, leaving mainly high-quality protein. This offers consumers a low-calorie and low carbohydrate protein shake that is perfect for people with diabetes or weight loss goals.

The protein powder comes in eight flavors and is sweetened with stevia leaf extract. The vanilla protein shake flavor is excellent and one of my personal favorites.

Pros:

  • 100 percent grass-fed whey protein isolate
  • Hormone-free and contains no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors
  • Low-calorie high protein option at 88 percent protein by weight

Cons:

  • High quality supplement but comes with a premium price point

Best Protein Shake with Prebiotics: Swolverine Plant Protein

Swolverine opptys

Key features:

  • Calories per serving: 130
  • Protein per serving: 22 grams
  • Protein source: Pea protein isolate
  • Zero grams of sugar, 2.5 grams of fat, three grams of carbs, one gram of dietary fiber

For those who can't tolerate whey or are vegetarians or vegans, plant-based proteins are a great alternative. Made with Pea Protein Isolate and Pumpkin Seed Protein, Swoleverine Plant Protein combines the highest quality plant protein, providing you with a whopping 22 grams of protein per scoop. Pumpkin seeds are also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which contain numerous health benefits for your heart, brain and overall health.

Furthermore, Swolverine plant protein contains quinoa, a high quality plant-protein grain that's rich in fiber and contains all nine essential amino acids.

With a complete nutrient profile and top-notch ingredients, Swolverine's plant protein is designed for both everyday use and high-intensity sports.

Pros

  • 22 grams of protein per serving
  • Contains all essential amino acids and high-quality carbohydrates
  • Omega-3s for additional health benefits
  • Reviewers rave about its flavor 

Cons

  • Only has two flavors and reviewers say they could be too sweet for some

How to Choose the Best Protein Shake for You

When picking your protein shake, you want to start by determining whether you are looking for a whey protein (milk protein) based or plant-based protein powder to accommodate your personal dietary preferences.

You should then look at the calorie and macronutrient profile to make sure it aligns with your diet plan.

From there, review the quality of ingredients, and whether a protein powder uses artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, and what flavor options are available. This is important because even if the protein powder is high quality, if it tastes horrible you aren’t going to use it.

Finally, I always encourage consumers to look at the price point and see how it compares to similar supplements. There are plenty of options available so that you can find one that fits with both your budget and your taste buds.

How We Chose the Best Protein Shakes

In order to find the best protein shakes we looked at a number of different factors including the overall quality of ingredients, online customer reviews, the price point and our own first-hand experience using these products.

There are so many different protein supplements that claim to be the best in terms of taste, muscle gain and performance, we wanted to see which companies delivered on their promises. Not only should your protein shake taste great, but it should also provide your body with the high-quality nutrients it needs.

Benefits of Protein Shakes

The primary health benefits associated with protein shakes are that they are a convenient and effective way to increase your daily protein intake. We know protein is important because it has a number of important roles in the body ranging from muscle building and muscle recovery to supporting weight loss and overall health and wellness. Therefore, shakes are not only a perfect option for some post-workout recovery, but they also can be fortified with additional ingredients like oats, fruits and vegetables to create nutritious and well-rounded meals.

Another added benefit is that protein is the most satiating macronutrient which means that it will help you feel full for a longer period of time and help you consume fewer calories throughout the day. These benefits, especially when used in conjunction with a well-designed resistance training protocol will have you well on your way to reaching your health and fitness goals.

Who Might Not Benefit from Protein Shakes

It is important to remember the definition of a supplement as something that enhances your diet. For example, if you eat a plant-based diet and have trouble getting enough protein from food alone, then a daily protein shake might prove beneficial. The same could be said for a bodybuilder or athlete who has increased protein demands due to their training and activity levels. In this case they might utilize a protein shake to supplement their diet. However, if you aren’t very active, or have a diet high in meat, eggs and dairy then you are likely getting enough protein from your food alone and won’t need the added protein from a shake.

FAQs

Are protein shakes actually good for you?

Yes, if used correctly, protein shakes can definitely be beneficial for you. These shakes are just an additional source of protein and calories for your body. They can be helpful for people who struggle to consume enough protein through their diet alone or have athletic performance or bodybuilding aspirations. These shakes can also be beneficial for individuals who have weight loss goals and are looking for a tasty low-calorie snack to supplement their meals. Protein shakes are no longer the nasty chalky tasting supplements of the past. In fact, when blended together with some milk and ice, most flavors transform into delicious milkshakes that can satisfy almost any sweet-tooth.

How many protein shakes can I drink per day?

In most cases, you probably want to limit your maximum protein shake consumption to two shakes per day. While these shakes might be convenient, they usually don’t provide the additional calories and nutrients from whole food sources that your body needs. Consuming too many shakes may also cause unwanted side effects such as nausea, stomach pain and digestive issues, especially if you are new to drinking these shakes. Remember, protein shakes should only be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and not as a complete replacement for whole foods.

How much protein do I need per day?

The World Health Organization advises a protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound of body weight). This protein intake is enough to maintain the muscle mass of a relatively sedentary person, but it is most definitely not enough to support or maximize muscle growth. The actual amount of protein someone needs depends on a number of different factors including age, weight, activity levels and fitness goals. 

For some recommendations regarding how much protein to consume on a muscle building, fat loss or body recomposition program, refer to our Best Protein Powders article.

Do doctors recommend protein shakes?

It is always smart to consult with a doctor before starting any new dietary supplement, including protein shakes. A doctor, especially a registered dietitian, will be able to provide recommendations and advice on the type of protein supplement that would work best for you. This is especially true for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or who are taking any medications. The doctor or dietitian will be able to help identify which protein shake supplement might be the best for your specific needs and goals.

Can you drink protein shakes without working out?

Yes, protein shakes are meant for anyone that isn’t getting enough protein from their diet alone. This is because protein is an essential nutrient that plays many different roles in the body and is not just for people looking to build muscle. So, whether you work out or not, if you are failing to consume enough protein then these shakes can be a great resource.

Can protein shakes replace meals?

Unless specified on the product, most protein supplements are not intended to act as meal replacement options. This is because most shakes are high in protein, but low in carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients. If you are looking to use protein shakes to replace one of your meals, then I would suggest adding additional ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to fortify the shake with the added nutrients and calories.

If you would like additional information regarding high calorie shake options designed specifically to replace meals, then check out our article on the Best Meal Replacement Shakes.

Final Thoughts

Protein plays a key role in almost all of the biological processes of the body and consuming enough daily protein is extremely important for overall health and wellness. While protein shakes are not a replacement for a well-balanced and varied diet, they are a convenient and tasty way for individuals who struggle to consume enough of the muscle building macronutrient from their diet to meet their daily protein needs.

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.