The 6 Best Protein Shakes for Women of 2023

Ripple protein shake has 20 grams of protein and is high in calcium and iron

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Protein shakes can be a convenient way to add protein and other nutrients to your diet, particularly if you lead a busy, on-the-go lifestyle and have trouble meeting your nutritional needs from food alone. They can also serve as a good post-workout snack to aid muscle repair and may help replenish glycogen stores if they contain adequate carbohydrates.

Women have unique nutrient needs that are influenced by a variety of factors, including activity level, age, pregnancy, and lactation needs. If you plan to add a protein shake to your diet, it’s helpful to know what to look for to ensure you’re getting the most out of the shake you choose. “When looking for a ready-to-drink protein shake, your needs will be based on your goals as well as if you are drinking it alone or in combination with other foods,” says Lindsey Cortes, MS, RD, CSSD, Owner and Sports Dietitian at Rise Up Nutrition, LLC and host of the Female Athlete Nutrition Podcast. In general, protein shakes are best consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet focused on whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and proteins.

There are many types of protein shakes on the market, including both plant and animal-based shakes. When selecting our top list of protein shakes for women, we considered taste, protein content, amino acid profile, nutrition profile, and additional ingredients, including sugar and other additives.

Here are our top picks for ready-to-drink protein shakes for women.

Verywell Fit Approved Protein Shakes for Women

  • Best Overall: Ripple Protein Shakes top our list for the best overall because they offer 20 grams of plant-based protein while also being an excellent source of calcium and iron. They taste great and are available in a variety of flavors.
  • Best Caffeinated: Slate Milk Mocha Latte is a protein-packed shake that’s an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. It also provides 175 mg of caffeine, making it our top pick for best caffeinated.

Always speak with a healthcare provider before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Are Protein Shakes Beneficial?

Protein shakes can be part of a healthy diet, but they are not required. In fact, it’s recommended that whole food sources of protein are prioritized over protein shakes. “There are plenty of whole foods that provide ample protein. Further, whole foods will provide other benefits, including vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and more,” says Cortes. 

However, many find protein shakes to be appealing because they’re a convenient way to add protein on the go. Some people may benefit from including them in their diet, such as:

  • Those with a limited diet or inadequate protein intake. Diets that restrict food groups have the potential to result in inadequate intakes of certain nutrients, including protein. In these cases, it may be beneficial to include a protein shake in the diet. Some protein shakes also contain additional vitamins and minerals, which may help fill the gaps that often result when following a restrictive diet. However, in cases where supplements are required to meet essential nutrient needs, it’s vital to work with a registered dietitian or other health professional to find the best way to meet your nutrient needs.
  • Those who are short on time. Protein shakes are convenient for drinking on the go, as many ready-to-drink protein shakes don’t require refrigeration making them an easy option for storing in your gym bag or desk drawer. This can be a good choice in a pinch but shouldn’t always be your primary choice, even if you lead a busy lifestyle. Alternatively, identifying solutions for fitting balanced meals into a busy lifestyle is the most sustainable and healthiest approach to maintaining a balanced diet. Protein shakes can act as a fallback on exceptionally busy days.
  • Active people with increased protein needs. Athletes and others who lead active lifestyles have increased protein requirements. In some cases, eating enough protein can be a challenge through food alone. It’s best to understand your individual protein needs as well as how much you’re eating from food prior to adding a protein shake to your diet. 

If you find your diet is lacking in protein, the addition of a protein shake may be beneficial. It’s important to note that athletes also need adequate carbohydrates, which many protein shakes don’t provide. “All active women should focus on a diet that has enough total calories, including carbohydrates,” says Cortes. “Many women restrict their carbs, however, all active persons need to keep in mind that carbohydrates fuel activity and performance.” Consider adding alternative sources of carbohydrates, especially if choosing a protein shake as a recovery drink after exercise.

Who May Not Benefit from Protein Shakes

While protein shakes are generally safe for most people, there are some groups who may not see an additional benefit from adding them to their diet. 

  • Those meeting their protein needs through food and/or those taking other protein supplements. Eating more protein than you need is not necessary for health, so if you’re already taking a protein supplement that helps you meet your daily protein needs, adding a protein shake will not have an additional benefit. Many protein supplements, including protein shakes, can contain added vitamins and minerals, which could result in taking too much of some nutrients if you’re combining both protein shakes with other protein supplements. 
  • Those with certain allergies or intolerances. Many protein shakes are made with dairy, soy, and/or egg, three of the major food allergens. Others may include additives that may irritate those with food allergies or intolerances. It’s essential to check the label of any protein shake you add to your diet to confirm the presence of one or more of the major allergens.

Best Overall

Ripple Protein Shake

Ripple Protein Shake Chocolate

Amazon

Pros
  • Free of common allergens

  • Excellent source of calcium and iron

  • Source of potassium and magnesium

Cons
  • Contains added sugar

  • Does not contain vitamin D

Ripple is a dairy-free, plant-based protein shake that’s made with pea protein. It tops our list for best overall, thanks to its great taste and favorable nutrition profile. One serving of the chocolate flavor offers 20 grams of protein plus 40% of the daily value (DV) for calcium and 25% of the DV for iron, two minerals important for women’s health. We also like that it provides a source of potassium and magnesium—two important electrolytes.

This protein shake is also free of many major allergens, including soy, nuts, and gluten making it a great choice if you’re looking for an allergy-friendly shake.

Like many other ready-to-drink protein shakes, Ripple doesn’t require refrigeration until after opening, so it’s a good choice to throw in your bag for snacking on the go. If you choose Ripple after a workout, you’ll likely want to add more carbohydrates to your post-workout snack since one serving only contains 13 grams of carbs. 

The one drawback to this shake is it contains 9 grams of added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day for women, so it’s important to consider how this shake fits into the context of your diet before adding it to your daily intake.

Ripple is available in three flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Both the chocolate and vanilla flavors are caffeine-free, while the coffee flavor offers 75 mg of caffeine per serving.

Price at time of publication: $32

Serving size: 12 ounces | Protein source: Pea protein | Grams of protein per serving: 20 grams | Grams of carbohydrates per serving: 13 grams | Artificial sweeteners: No

Best Caffeinated

Slate Milk Protein Shake

Slate Milk Protein Shake

Amazon

Pros
  • Excellent source of calcium

  • Excellent source of vitamin D

  • No added sugar

Cons
  • Only one flavor is caffeinated

  • More expensive

If you’re looking for a high-protein shake that also delivers your morning caffeine, Slate Milk is the best choice. Not only will you get 175 milligrams of caffeine in one serving of the Mocha Latte flavor, but you’ll also get 20 grams of protein.

Slate Milk is a lactose-free protein shake that has 0 grams of added sugar. Instead, it’s sweetened with allulose, a calorie-free alternative sweetener known as a rare sugar. A single serving also contains 40% of the DV for calcium and 25% each for the DV of vitamins A and D.

Slate Milk can also double as a post-workout recovery drink, however, you may want to add another source of carbohydrates since one serving only contains 16 grams of carbs.

If you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, you can choose from two additional flavors made without caffeine: dark chocolate milk and classic chocolate milk.

Price at time of publication: $40

Serving size: 11 ounces | Protein source: Dairy protein | Grams of protein per serving: 20 grams | Grams of carbohydrates per serving: 15 grams | Artificial sweeteners: No

Best High Protein

Fairlife Nutrition Plan Protein Shake

Fairlife Nutrition Plan Protein Shake

Amazon

Pros
  • Excellent source of calcium and vitamin D

  • Source of iron and vitamin A

  • Very high in protein

Cons
  • Contains artificial sweeteners

Fairlife Nutrition Plan is a dairy-based protein drink that uses ultra-filtered milk as the primary ingredient. The process of ultrafiltration concentrates the milk protein and calcium, meaning you get more of each nutrient per fluid ounce (compared to regular milk). The result is a protein shake with 30 grams of protein in a single 11.5 ounce bottle.

One Fairlife Nutrition Plan also contains 60% of the DV for calcium and 25% of the DV for vitamin D. This shake only has 2 grams of sugar per serving and instead is sweetened with multiple sugar substitutes, including acesulfame potassium, monk juice, stevia, and sucralose. 

Fairlife Nutrition Plan is not a good source of carbohydrates, with only 4 grams of carbs per serving. If you plan to use this shake as a post-workout recovery drink, be sure to add a source of carbohydrates to help with replenishing glycogen stores.

Fairlife Nutrition Plan comes in four flavors—vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, and strawberry.

Price at time of publication: $29

Serving size: 11.5 ounces | Protein source: Dairy protein | Grams of protein per serving: 30 grams | Grams of carbohydrates per serving: 4 grams | Artificial sweeteners: Yes

Best Vegan

OWYN Vegan Protein Shake

owyn-protein-shake

Amazon

Pros
  • Free of common allergens

  • Excellent source of iron

  • High in fiber

Cons
  • Contains added sugar

This ready-to-drink protein shake from OWYN is a vegan, plant-based shake that contains 20 grams of protein per serving. It requires no refrigeration before you open it, so it’s great to take on the go to work, while hiking, or anywhere you need to refuel along the way.

OWYN, short for Only What You Need, gets its protein from a combination of pea protein and organic pumpkin seed protein. It also has flax oil giving it a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Pea protein packs a ton of nutrition, and research suggests that it may be comparable to whey protein when promoting lean body mass, however, research is mixed. It is also a good source of two nutrients important for women—fiber and iron. While it does contain added sugar, it is only four grams per serving.

If you have allergies, OWYN is likely a good choice as it’s free from most common food allergens. It comes in multiple flavors like smooth vanilla, dark chocolate, sea salted caramel, cookies and creamless, strawberry banana, and cold brew coffee.

Price at time of publication: $35

Serving size: 12 ounces | Protein source: Pea protein, pumpkin seed protein | Grams of protein per serving: 20 grams | Grams of carbohydrates per serving: 10 grams | Artificial sweeteners: No

Best No Added Sugar

Orgain Plant Protein Shake

Orgain Plant Protein Shake

Amazon

Pros
  • No added sugar

  • Excellent source of iron

  • Free of most common allergens

Cons
  • High in sodium

  • Only available in one flavor

Orgain Plant Protein shakes are a vegan option with 20 grams of protein per serving. Not only do they come in a convenient bottle that doesn’t require refrigeration, but they’re made without added sugar, making them our top pick for a no added sugar protein shake. Instead, this shake is sweetened with monk fruit extract

In addition to being a significant source of protein, one shake contains 50% of the DV for iron, making it an excellent source of this important mineral for women. Iron is essential for oxygen transport, and research shows that many women are at risk for iron deficiency, especially during pregnancy.

One drawback to the Orgain Plant Protein shake is its sodium content. One serving contains 450 milligrams of sodium which is higher than many other ready-to-drink protein shakes. However, the high sodium content may be appropriate if you need to replenish sodium lost in sweat after a workout. 

Orgain Plant Protein shakes are gluten-free and made without dairy and soy, making them a good choice for those looking for protein shakes free of common allergens. However, these shakes are only available in one flavor, creamy chocolate, so if you’re not a chocolate fan, then you’ll want to skip this one.

Price at time of publication: $30

Serving size: 11 ounces | Protein source: Pea protein | Grams of protein per serving: 20 grams | Grams of carbohydrates per serving: 9 grams | Artificial sweeteners: No

Best Drinkable Yogurt

Chobani Complete Mixed Berry Vanilla Shake

Chobani Complete Shake

Chobani

Pros
  • Excellent source of calcium

  • No added sugar

  • Gluten-free and lactose-free

  • Source of fiber

Cons
  • Requires refrigeration

Chobani Complete is a high-protein, drinkable yogurt that has 25 grams of protein per serving. Unlike many other ready-to-drink protein shakes, Chobani Complete must be refrigerated even before opening. Because of this, this shake is best for drinking at home or whenever you have easy access to a cooler or fridge. 

This drinkable yogurt has no added sugar and is sweetened with monk fruit and stevia. Thanks to the addition of chicory root fiber, you’ll get over 10% of the DV for fiber or 3 grams per serving. Additionally, a single serving also provides 25% of the DV for calcium.

Chobani Complete also contains probiotics which may have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome. If you cannot digest lactose, this yogurt option has lactase added, making it lactose-free. In addition, Chobani Complete is gluten-free, contains no artificial flavors, and is available in four flavors—banana cream, mixed berry vanilla, strawberry cream, and vanilla.

Price at time of publication $3

Serving size: 10 ounces | Protein source: Dairy protein | Grams of protein per serving: 25 grams | Grams of carbohydrates per serving: 18 grams | Artificial sweeteners: No

How We Selected

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. For protein shakes for women, we specifically looked for shakes that offered a good amount of protein that may also be beneficial for women's nutritional needs by providing vitamins, minerals, or fiber.

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

Ready-to-drink protein shakes are available in a wide variety of options made from animal or plant-based protein. Because their ingredients and subsequent nutrition profile vary significantly, it’s best to have a clear understanding of your goals for choosing a shake while also knowing what to look for on the label. 

The following attributes are important to consider when choosing a protein shake.

Ingredients and Potential Interactions

Before you buy a protein shake, make sure to read the ingredient label. Protein shakes vary widely in their ingredients, including protein source. Check for ingredients you need to avoid, such as allergens and also be on the lookout for nutrients to limit, like added sugar. Additionally, note if other nutrients are added to the shake of choice, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, or herbs so that you can evaluate how they fit in the context of your diet.

Protein has no known potential interactions for healthy individuals and is an essential macronutrient for health. Additives in protein shakes, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants, or other compounds, may result in adverse effects if taken in excess or in combination with a medication that’s contraindicated. For this reason, it’s important to carefully check the ingredient list and speak with a health professional before adding a protein shake to your diet.

Form

Because protein shakes are made from a variety of protein sources and ingredients, they vary widely in their nutrient profile. Depending on your purpose for drinking a protein shake, the preferred nutrients and protein content will vary. 

“Generally speaking, a recovery protein shake should have between 15-30 grams of protein,” says Cortes. However, if you’re looking for a protein shake to complement a meal, then it may be preferred to have a reduced amount of protein in your shake. 

The type of protein in the shake matters, too. “Protein from animal products, most likely whey or milk-based protein shake, will have all essential amino acids including leucine, a powerful branched-chain amino acid for muscle recovery,” says Cortes. This is different from plant-based protein shakes, which vary significantly in their essential amino acid content. “If choosing a plant-based protein, consider looking for one that has 9-15 grams of essential amino acids or at least 2-3 grams of leucine for optimal recovery,” Cortes explains. 

Finally, be sure to opt for a protein shake that contains adequate carbohydrates for recovery if taking the shake after exercise. “You may want to look for a ready-to-drink shake that includes carbohydrates or be sure to eat a carbohydrate snack along with your shake, such as oatmeal, a granola bar, fruit, or an almond butter sandwich,” says Cortes.

Protein Shake Dosage

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams/kg body weight per day for the average healthy adult and is the minimum that should be consumed. Factors such as age, activity level, health status, and body size will influence recommended daily protein intake. Often these factors result in significantly higher protein intakes upwards of 1.2-2.0 grams/kg body weight per day. 

Protein shakes don’t have a specific dosage like supplements, however, the addition of a protein shake should be considered in the context of the diet as a whole. If other additives are included in the shake of choice, those must be considered as well, since additional nutrients will often have upper limits recommended for safety and efficacy. 

How Much is Too Much?

Eating more protein than you need has not been shown to have health benefits. While there is no tolerable upper intake level established for protein, some research suggests that excess protein intake may result in negative health outcomes, such as the increased risk for insulin resistance as well as digestive, renal, or vascular issues.

Additionally, excess dietary protein intake won’t result in increased muscle mass. Modifying body composition requires a balanced diet that meets energy and protein needs along with an appropriate resistance training regimen. 

Other Considerations

Women who are pregnant or nursing have increased protein needs. Protein shakes may be an appealing way to up daily protein intake due to food aversions, tolerance, and/or convenience, however, there are important factors to consider before adding protein shakes to the diet while pregnant or nursing.

“Because some protein shakes are sold as supplements, and others are sold as food, it can be confusing to know what is safe,” says Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN, dietitian for moms and owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, LLC. “I generally recommend the ones that are sold as food as the best choice.” Checking the label can help you identify which protein shake is considered a food versus a supplement. “To know the difference, look for one with a nutrition facts panel versus a supplement facts panel. These typically will have a protein source that is food-based, like milk, peas, nuts, or seeds,” Anzlovar says.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a difference between protein shake recommendations for women versus men?

    Protein recommendations are based on body size, meaning both men and women should follow the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein/kg body weight/day as a minimum intake. Protein alone will not differentiate a shake for women versus men, however, additional nutrients added to protein shakes may be advantageous for women.

    For example, women have greater iron needs at certain points throughout their lifespans, and some protein shakes offer an excellent source of this essential nutrient. Otherwise, protein shakes are not specific to men versus women and are more dependent on individual goals and nutrient needs.

  • Should women drink protein shakes every day?

    Women do not need to drink protein shakes every day. Cortes explains, “It is important that women eat enough protein, but it does not have to be through protein shakes.” She also emphasizes the importance of eating enough protein through food as food offers additional nutrients beyond protein alone, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and others.

    “If you find yourself consuming multiple protein shakes a day or relying on protein shakes for meals, then I would challenge you to branch out and find whole food options instead so that you are getting the benefits that whole foods provide as well,” she says.

  • Are protein shakes okay for pregnant women?

    Because protein shakes have significantly different ingredients by brand, it’s important to always check the label before drinking a protein shake while pregnant. “While most protein sources are safe, protein shakes often contain other ingredients that either may not be safe or not much is known about the safety for pregnant people and the baby,” says Anzlovar. “If it's a protein shake sold as a supplement (it has a supplement facts panel), look for one that is third-party tested and verified.”

  • Do protein shakes help with weight loss?

    Multiple factors influence weight loss, including total calorie intake. Protein shakes may be beneficial if weight loss is a goal, as they can offer a concentrated source of protein with minimal calories (in some cases). Sometimes, cutting calories may result in weight loss from lean muscle mass, an effect that many women want to and should avoid. However, eating enough protein can help. “Maintaining adequate protein intake/increasing protein during a caloric deficit will help mitigate muscle loss while losing total body weight,” says Cortes. 

  • How do I know when to drink a protein shake?

    The timing of drinking a protein shake will vary based on your diet and goals. For example, a protein shake may be appropriate if you struggle to eat enough protein at breakfast, but it might not be the best addition to a protein-rich lunch or dinner. When it comes to timing your protein intake after a workout, Cortes recommends drinking a protein shake as soon as possible after a workout. “Protein shakes can also be a part of your main meals or snacks to boost total protein intake at any time of day,” she says.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Allison Knott MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics with a master's degree in nutrition communication from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She is the founder of Anew Well Nutrition, a virtual nutrition consulting practice with a focus on fitness and performance nutrition.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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