The 7 Best Protein Shakes of 2023

Owyn is our top choice for active people short on time

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The Best Protein Shakes, According to a Dietitian

Verywell / Chloe Jeong

The protein needs of active individuals are higher than the general population. Adequately refueling with enough protein and carbohydrates after exercise is critical if you want to optimize your training and recover quickly. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, protein needs can usually be met through diet alone, without the use of supplements. Protein can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, tempeh, and in varying amounts in grains and legumes.

However, there may be situations in which a ready-made protein shake can come in handy. Kathryn A. Bohling, MD, a family medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland, says, “People who may benefit from protein shakes include people who aren't getting enough protein in their diet because of dietary restrictions, those who are trying to lose weight, or anyone trying to build muscle.” Additionally, protein shakes can be a good option for people looking for a high-protein breakfast or snack on the go.

So if you find yourself in need of a protein boost, a protein shake can be a quick and convenient way to help you meet your needs. When considering what protein shake to buy, consider the amount of protein, protein source, ingredients, and price. We incorporated both premade, bottled protein shakes as well as protein powders that can be mixed with water or milk of your choice or added to a smoothie.

Editor's Note

Our team of registered dietitians reviews and evaluates every single supplement we recommend according to our dietary supplement methodology. From there, a registered dietitian on our Expert Review Board reviews each article for scientific accuracy.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and to find out what dosage to take.

Best Overall

OWYN Vegan Protein Shake



  • Free from major allergens

  • Contains omega-3 fats, potassium, calcium and 30% Daily Value of iron

  • Vegan friendly

  • May not be an adequate carbohydrate energy source for pre or post workout

Owyn Plant-Based Protein Shake packs 20 grams of pea and pumpkin seed protein per serving in addition to 30% of the Daily Value of iron and 5 grams of fiber. It contains all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, including the branched-chain amino acids needed to enhance muscle recovery.

As an added benefit, Owyn contains flax oil, providing a source of omega-3 fats that you might struggle to obtain if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. It also contains a greens blend for additional nutrients such as iron, calcium, and potassium, which may be especially beneficial if you are an athlete.

We also like that Owyn Plant-Based Protein Shakes are suitable for a variety of dietary needs. Owyn participates in third-party testing to ensure they are free from the top eight allergens, including dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. It also comes in a variety of flavors, such as dark chocolate, coffee, and strawberry banana, so you will be sure to find one that suits your taste buds.

Please note, however, that Owyn is sweetened with monk fruit, a sugar- and calorie-free sweetener, so the shake only contains 10 grams of carbohydrates. If you are using this shake to recover after a workout, be sure to also eat a food source of carbohydrates, like a banana, to help you adequately recover and replenish your energy stores.

Price at time of publication: $37 for a pack of 12 shakes

Key specs:
Liquid | Protein Per Serving: 20 g | Protein Source: Pea protein, pumpkin seed protein | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 10 g | Fiber Per Serving: 7 g | Sweetener: Monk fruit extract, organic cane sugar

Best for Athletes

Momentous Essential Whey Protein Isolate Chocolate

Momentous Essential Plant-Based Protein Chocolate


  • NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport Certified

  • Whey isolate form has optimal amino acid profile, including BCAAs, to support muscle repair and synthesis

  • Whey sourced from milk from grass-fed cows

  • May not be an adequate carbohydrate energy source for pre or post workout

  • Powdered form requires mixing into liquid

If you find that protein shakes and powders upset your stomach, Momentous Essential Protein may be a good choice for you. Momentous Essential Protein contains 20 grams of protein per scoop in the form of whey isolate, which contains an optimal amino acid profile and BCAAs to support muscle repair and synthesis. Whey isolates are whey proteins that have been processed to reduce fat, lactose, and cholesterol. This leaves mainly protein, which makes it easier for some to digest.

Take note that this powder, like many protein powder options, is low in carbohydrates and fat, which are important nutrients for recovery after exercise. Because of this, we recommend blending Momentus into a smoothie with other ingredients, such as yogurt, fruit, and nut or seed butter, for a complete workout recovery meal or snack.

Momentous is a brand we can trust because its products are NSF and Informed Sport certified. These certifications ensure the powder is free from contaminants and substances prohibited for athletes and contains the amount of protein listed on the label. It comes in chocolate and vanilla flavors and can be mixed into water or smoothies. Momentous also makes other protein powders likely to fit all needs, including a plant-based powder made with pea protein isolate and rice protein concentration, and a recovery powder. 

Price at time of publication: $60 for 24 servings

Key specs:
Powder | Protein Per Serving: 20 g | Protein Source: Whey isolate | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 3 g | Fat Per Serving: 1.5 g |
Sweetener: Stevia

Best Vegan

Evolve Plant Based Protein Shake, Double Chocolate, 20g Vegan Protein

  • Vegan friendly

  • Contains 20% Daily Value of zinc, calcium and iron, and 15% DV of B12

  • A blood sugar stabilizing option for those with diabetes

  • May not be an adequate carbohydrate energy source for pre or post workout

  • High fiber content may cause GI upset if used before exercise

If you are looking for a vegan protein shake, Evolve Plant Based Protein Shakes are an excellent option. These shakes contain 20 grams of protein in the form of pea protein isolate. Pea protein, similarly to whey and casein, is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids (the amino acids we need to obtain from the diet) as well as the branched-chain amino acids needed for recovery from exercise.

In addition to the high-quality protein, we like that Evolve contains vitamins vegans sometimes struggle to obtain. These shakes contain 15% of the Daily Value for vitamin B12 as well as zinc and 25% of the Daily Value for iron. 

Evolve shakes have 15 grams of carbohydrates, with 10 of these grams coming from soluble corn fiber. Fiber has many health benefits, though this is a high amount of fiber for a protein shake and may cause digestive discomfort for some, particularly before exercising. Since fiber cannot be used as an energy source, Evolve shakes do not have many carbohydrates that can be used for energy. We recommend pairing them with a food source of carbohydrates, like a piece of fruit. Please keep in mind that Evolve may contain soy, a major allergen.

Price at time of publication: $27 for a pack of 12 shakes

Key specs:
Liquid | Protein Per Serving: 20 g | Protein Source: Pea protein isolate | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 15 g | Fat Per Serving: 2 g | Sweetener: Stevia, cane sugar

Best Yogurt-Based

Chobani Complete Mixed Berry Vanilla Shake

Chobani Complete Shake


  • Contains probiotics and antioxidants

  • Contains carbohydrates for energy from blended fruit and dairy

  • Contains 25% Daily Value of calcium

  • Requires refrigeration

Chobani Complete Mixed Berry Vanilla Shake is a great on-the-go option, containing 20 grams of protein from cultured, low-fat milk and 16 grams of carbohydrates from a pureed blend of berries. We love this option as a convenient snack. If you want to make this more of a complete meal (for breakfast, for example), add a handful of nuts for some added healthy fats. Depending on the level of intensity and duration of your exercise, this could also be a good pre or post workout snack.

This product comes in four flavors, including Mixed Berry Vanilla, Cookies & Cream, Strawberry Cream, and Vanilla, all with similar nutritional profiles. They all contain added lactase, which breaks down the lactose in the yogurt, making it lactose-free and, therefore, suitable for those with lactose intolerances.

Price at time of publication: $3 for 1 shake

Key specs:
Liquid | Protein Per Serving: 20 g | Protein Source: Cultured low-fat milk (yogurt) | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 16 g | Fat Per Serving: 2.5 g
| Sweetener: Monk fruit, stevia

Best High Calcium

Orgain Grass Fed Clean Protein Shake

Orgain Grass Fed Clean Protein Shake


  • Contains 45% Daily Value of calcium and smaller amounts of iron and potassium

  • Contains carbohydrates for energy from agave and dairy

  • Not suitable for those with a lactose allergy or intolerance

As an active individual, it is important to get enough calcium to support bone strength and muscle function. Orgain Nutritional Shakes contain 45% of the Daily Value of calcium, so you can be sure you’re getting a good dose.

In addition to its calcium content, we like that Orgain Nutritional Shakes contain 20 grams of protein along with 11 grams of carbohydrates per serving, making this a bit more of a well-rounded, pre or post-exercise supplement. However, this amount of carbohydrates is likely still not high enough to support optimal recovery from exercise, so you might consider pairing it with carbohydrate-containing foods.

Orgain Nutritional Shakes contain protein from milk protein concentrate, so they are not suitable if you are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. They do, however, also make a vegan version with pea protein and chia seeds.

Price at time of publication: $30 for a pack of 12 shakes

Key specs:
Liquid | Protein Per Serving: 20 g | Protein Source: Milk protein concentrate | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 11 g | Fat Per Serving: 2 g | Sweetener: Agave, monk fruit, stevia

Best Coconut Base

Aloha Plant-Based Vanilla Protein Drink With MCT

Aloha Plant-Based Vanilla Protein Drink With MCT


  • Vegan-friendly

  • Contains 40% Daily Value of iron

  • Certified USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified

  • Not suitable for those with tree nut allergies

  • May not be an adequate carbohydrate energy source for pre or post workout

Many protein shakes are water-based, so if you are looking for a creamier option, Aloha makes a coconut-based protein shake. This shake contains 18-20 grams of protein (depending on the type of bottle) in the form of pea protein and brown rice protein. It also contains 9 to 11 grams of carbohydrates, of which 3 grams come from dietary fiber, so the amount of carbohydrates your body can use for energy is limited. Therefore, you might want to pair this shake with a food source of carbohydrates.

Aloha shakes come in three flavors: Vanilla, Coconut, and Chocolate Sea Salt. In addition to being vegan, Aloha shakes are organic, non-GMO, and free from gluten, soy, and artificial flavors. It also sources Fair Trade Certified Coconuts, so you can feel good about your purchase.

Price at time of publication: $40 for a pack of 12 shakes

Key specs:
Liquid | Protein Per Serving: 20 g | Protein Source: Pea protein and brown rice protein | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 11 g | Fat Per Serving: 5 g | Sweetener: Monk fruit, coconut sugar

Best Organic

Kate Farms Organic Vanilla Nutrition Shake

Kate Farms Organic Vanilla Nutrition Shake

Kate Farms

  • Higher carbohydrate content suitable for replenishing energy stores post-exercise

  • Contains a phytonutrient blend from organic fruits and vegetables and is fortified with vitamins and minerals

  • Vegan-friendly and Certified USDA Organic

  • Slightly lower in protein than other options

Kate Farms Organic Nutrition Shakes are USDA Organic and contain 38 grams of carbohydrates and 16 grams of protein per serving. Farms shakes are a higher carbohydrate, certified USDA Organic shake. Since these shakes are higher in carbohydrates, they can be a useful supplement to support hard workouts. They also contain 12 grams of fat from sunflower, coconut, and flaxseed oil, making this a more filling shake, which may help if you do not have time to consume a meal.

Kate Farms uses a vegan protein source, pea protein, and adds 5 grams of dietary fiber from inulin. These shakes also contain a phytonutrient blend with extracts from green tea, turmeric, kale, cinnamon, and other organic fruit and vegetables. Phytonutrients are compounds found naturally in plants that provide health benefits related to their antioxidant content. These shakes are also fortified with many vitamins and minerals, including 35% of the Daily Value of vitamin D, 30% of the Daily Value of iron, and 90% of the Daily Value of vitamin B12.

Price at time of publication: $51 for a pack of 12 shakes

Key specs:
Liquid | Protein Per Serving: 16 g | Protein Source: Pea protein | Carbohydrates Per Serving: 38 g | Fat Per Serving: 12 g | Sweetener: Agave and brown rice syrup

Are Protein Shakes Beneficial?

While we recommend using food to meet your protein needs when possible, there are certain situations in which protein shakes may be useful.

We do not, however, recommend relying on protein shakes over whole food meals often because shakes tend to be low in other necessary nutrients such as fiber, carbohydrates, and certain vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that your carbohydrate needs will also be greater with exercise. Be sure your shake has adequate carbohydrates, or pair it with a carbohydrate source such as grains, fruit, dairy, or starchy vegetables.

The following groups may benefit from protein shakes:

  • Those who are active and short on time: As an active person, your protein needs are higher (about 1.2-2 grams per kilogram per day). If you do not meet your protein needs, it can impact bone metabolism and athletic performance and contribute to menstrual irregularities. However, keep in mind that consuming more protein than this does not help you add more muscle. It is also best to spread your protein intake throughout the day rather than having it in one sitting. If you are exercising and know you will not have time to adequately refuel with a meal, you might consider using a protein shake to meet your increased protein needs.
  • Those with certain dietary restrictions: If you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from meeting your daily protein needs, a shake can be a helpful way to increase your intake alongside whole food sources.
  • Older adults: As we age, we begin to experience muscle loss and decreases in appetite. Consuming adequate protein can help combat this loss of muscle, especially when paired with resistance exercise. If you are not able to consume enough protein through foods, protein shakes may be beneficial.

Who May Not Benefit From Protein Shakes

While protein shakes may be useful in specific situations, there are certain groups of people who may not benefit from protein shakes. 

  • Those consuming a balanced diet: If you do not have any dietary restrictions and you consume protein on a regular basis, you can likely meet your needs through food alone.
  • Those with kidney disease: If you have kidney disease, you may need to be aware of your protein intake. Discuss your protein needs with your healthcare provider to determine if a protein shake will be appropriate.
  • Those with dairy allergies or sensitivities: Some protein shakes contain dairy products, including milk or milk-derived proteins. If you have a dairy allergy or are lactose intolerant, you might consider a plant-based protein shake. 
  • Those with urea cycle disorder: Protein consumption can cause dangerously high levels of ammonia in those with urea cycle disorder, a rare genetic condition.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

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.

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 Look for in a Protein Shake

Third-Party 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. The third-party certifications we can trust are:, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. 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.

Protein shakes and powders may be contaminated with heavy metals and toxins such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, or mercury. Protein supplements may also not contain the amount of protein listed on the label. It is, therefore, best to use protein shakes that have been third-party tested, especially if you are a competitive athlete.


Protein shakes are typically sold as ready-made liquid drinks or as powders that can be mixed with a liquid of choice. Ready-made drinks typically combine liquid, such as milk or plant-based milk, with a protein source and sometimes a carbohydrate source. Popular protein sources include milk-derived whey or casein or vegan sources such as pea or hemp.

The protein sources most commonly used in protein shakes and powders include:

  • Whey: Whey protein is derived from milk and is found in many protein shakes. Whey contains all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that we need to obtain from food. It also contains high levels of branched-chain amino acids, which are often depleted after exercise and are necessary for muscle tissue maintenance. Whey protein is often digested and absorbed quickly.
  • Casein: Casein is another protein derived from milk. It also contains all of the essential amino acids and is particularly high in glutamine, the predominant amino acid in muscles. However, a lower percentage of protein is absorbed and utilized when compared to whey.
  • Soy: Soy protein may be a good choice if you are vegan or vegetarian. Soy protein contains all of the essential amino acids, although it is lower in the amino acid methionine, which is typically not an issue for most people. Studies show that compared with whey protein, soy protein paired with resistance exercise can result in similar increases in lean muscle mass. However, if you are allergic to soy, be sure to avoid soy-based supplements.
  • Pea: Pea protein is similarly suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It contains all essential amino acids and is rich in branched-chain amino acids. Studies show that pea protein may be equivalent to whey protein in terms of its ability to promote muscle growth.

All sources of protein can help build muscle, as long as you are also engaging in routine resistance exercise. In addition to the above, other popular sources include rice and hemp protein. You should consider the form that best suits your needs and preferences.

A Note on Carbohydrates

Low carbohydrate diets have become increasingly popular, and many protein shake companies have gotten on board with this trend. Because of this, we found it difficult to find good protein shake options that contain adequate carbohydrates for those who need them.

“We wanted to highlight that including carbs actually makes for a more well-rounded, effective shake if you're using it to recover from moderate to high-intensity physical activity or need to make up for a missed meal or snack,” says Autumn Rauchwerk, MS, RDN, RYT. "While it makes sense to want to choose options without much added sugar, sugar is usually the only way to find carbohydrates in a protein shake." However, if you are looking for a protein shake as an on-the-go breakfast or snack option and not for a workout recovery beverage, you may want to choose an option with less added sugar.

Many shakes on the market are sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners and provide very small amounts of carbohydrates. “Most of the carbohydrates they do contain are in the form of fiber. While fiber has great health benefits, your body cannot use it as fuel,” Rauchwerk says. "Most people don't need protein shakes and would benefit more from eating food instead, but if you do need a protein shake and you choose one without added sugar, it's a good idea to pair it with a carbohydrate-containing food, like a piece of fruit."

It is important to remember that non-fiber carbohydrates (including sugar!) are the body’s preferred fuel source during exercise. If you don't replenish these carbohydrates before and after exercise, the resulting depleted carbohydrate stores can make it difficult to recover and exercise with strength and vitality.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

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.

Some protein shakes and powders may contain additional ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs. If you are taking any vitamin or mineral supplements, be aware that you are not consuming harmful levels. Protein shakes also come in many flavors and may contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, or additives. 

Whey protein may reduce the absorption of drugs such as Albenza, Fosamex, and certain antibiotics. If you are using any of these medications, consult your healthcare provider before using whey-based shakes.

Protein supplements may cause stomach upset, such as gas or bloating, in some people. If you are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins, you may want to opt for a plant-based protein shake. If you have kidney disease, you should consult with your healthcare provider before using protein shakes.

Protein Shake Dosage

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults should consume around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, or 0.36 grams (g) per pound (lb). However, if you are engaging in strength or endurance exercise, the recommended protein intake increases to 1.2 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.5-0.9 g/lb), depending on gender, activity, intensity, and carbohydrate and calorie intake. The American College of Sports Medicine emphasizes that you must consume enough calories overall to maintain your body weight for optimal protein use and performance.

Higher intakes may be necessary during periods of intense training or when you first begin an exercise regimen. The essential amino acids, in particular leucine, are necessary to initiate the process of building new muscle.

Note that serving sizes of protein drinks vary widely, from one cup to over two cups for drinks, and can contain anywhere from 10 grams of protein per serving up to over 90 grams for powders. Consider the amount of protein appropriate for your needs when deciding on a supplement.

How Much Is Too Much?

Protein shakes are typically well tolerated, but they may cause gastrointestinal upset such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation in some individuals. Consuming excess protein (over 2 grams per kilogram of body weight) for long periods of time may increase your risk of digestive, kidney, and blood vessel related issues. Consuming protein beyond your needs will not help you build more muscle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many protein shakes should I have in a day?

    According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults should consume around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily (0.36 g/lb). We advise having whole-food meals in addition to protein shakes to ensure you are getting adequate protein and are not missing out on other important nutrients.

  • Do protein shakes help you lose weight?

    Weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than your body utilizes for energy. Protein shakes do not themselves help you lose weight, but eating enough protein, some of which can come from protein shakes, can help you feel full and satisfied. This may help you eat in a way that better supports your body, which may or may not lead to weight loss. We recommend focusing on eating in a way that makes you feel good and maintains your energy levels rather than focusing on the number on the scale. We do not advise replacing meals with protein shakes on a regular basis as you may miss out on other key nutrients.

  • What time of day should I drink a protein shake?

    You can drink a protein shake at any time of day to help meet your protein needs. You might consider using one before or after a strength training session, but consuming adequate protein throughout the day is more important than precise timing.

  • How do I make my own protein shake?

    To make your own protein shake, combine a protein powder with a liquid of choice. You can turn it into a smoothie by adding in ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

    Try this homemade chocolate berry protein shake: 1 scoop of chocolate Vega protein powder, 1 cup non-dairy milk, ¼ cup frozen blueberries, ¼ cup frozen raspberries, 1 cup fresh spinach, 1 Tbsp almond butter, 1 small banana, 1 cup ice.

  • Do protein shakes help you build muscle?

    Protein shakes can help you build muscle when paired with resistance exercise. Protein, however, can also be obtained through whole food sources. Consuming protein drinks without exercise will not result in increases in muscle.

  • Can a protein shake replace a meal?

    Grabbing a protein shake if you don’t have time for a full meal can be helpful when you’re in a pinch. However, they likely will not provide enough calories to replace a full meal. We do not recommend using protein shakes to replace meals on a regular basis since these shakes are often lower in other necessary nutrients such as carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you would like to use protein shakes, we recommend using them as a supplement to your diet rather than as an ongoing meal replacement.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Tamar Kane, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and marathon runner. Tamar has her master's degree in nutrition and exercise physiology from Teachers College Columbia University and specializes in working with plant-based athletes in need of quick protein sources. Her goal is to help people understand how to properly fuel their bodies (and supplement if needed!) to optimize performance and wellbeing.

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