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Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss

What are the best protein shakes for weight loss? Ask Dr. Erica Schulte, a clinical psychologist and weight management researcher.

This is a question I get a lot: what are the best protein shakes for weight loss?

With many options available in stores and online, it can be difficult to choose which protein shake is best for you. I hope this article clears some of the confusion!

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Why Use Protein Shakes for Weight Loss?

There are many reasons to consider incorporating protein shakes into your weight management plan, including:

  • Having a convenient go-to meal replacement or snack option that is calorie-controlled
  • Being able to grab a protein shake when you would have otherwise skipped a meal, which can lead to overeating later in the day
  • Using protein shakes as post-workout recovery fuel for your muscles
  • Helping you preserve lean muscle mass as you lose weight (Mettler et al., 2010)
  • Facilitating weight loss for patients with metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (Flechtner-Mors et al., 2010)
  • Choosing from flavors that may satisfy your cravings (chocolate peanut butter, anyone?)

Do any of these benefits sound good to you?

The perks of protein shakes for weight loss have long been recognized by science. Many researchers choose to prescribe protein shakes to participants as part of a dietary intervention because they aid in weight loss and people generally find it easy to stick to this recommendation. My patients have also reported success with using protein shakes as a way to simplify their healthy eating plans, which is a great example of diet optimization!

What to Look for in a Protein Shake: Quality Matters

If you feel that integrating protein shakes into your diet would help you get closer to your weight management goals, the next step is to get specific about the ingredients you put into your body.

Your top three priorities when selecting the best protein shake for weight loss should be:

  1. Fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving
  2. More than 15 grams of protein per serving
  3. Fewer than 180 calories per serving

When a protein shake meets these nutritional benchmarks, you can feel more confident that it is a good option for your weight management goals. Beyond this, I encourage you to pay attention to the quality of the protein source, prioritizing organic and grass-fed if this is an option for you.

The 9 Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss

Here are some examples of brands that fall within the nutritional guidelines I described above. All of these options are ready to drink, so you just need to store them in the refrigerator and grab them anytime! My patients have reported appreciating these already-made protein shakes for being the easiest and most convenient way to reap all of the benefits!

More interested in my take on protein powder that you can use to make your own shakes– check out my article on that here!

Milk Protein Bases (Dairy and Non-Dairy)

#1: Among my favorite options is the Orgain Grass Fed Clean Protein Shake. This product is made from 100% New Zealand-sourced grass-fed milk protein, which is a high-quality way to fuel your body. The vanilla bean flavor is balanced and delicious!

  • Calories: 130, Sugar: 3g, Protein: 20g

#2: Another popular brand is Premier Protein, whose shakes use a combination of milk protein and casein (contains dairy) to provide a complete profile of amino acids to support your muscles. This brand is well known for having the most flavors to choose from!

  • Calories: 160, Sugar 1g, Protein: 30g

#3: One of my patients’ most trusted companies for great-tasting, high-protein products is Quest Nutrition. The Quest Nutrition Protein Shakes come in delicious flavors like salted caramel, chocolate, and vanilla.

  • Calories: 160, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 30g

#4: Speaking of delicious flavor options, Pure Protein Shakes has six unique flavors, including chocolate peanut butter and s’mores. The protein is also made from milk protein isolate, which can be easier to digest among people who are lactose intolerant.

  • Calories: 140, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 30g

#5: If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, the Muscle Milk 100 Calorie Protein Shake is an excellent option! While it has milk protein, this shake is non-dairy, so it is also safe for those who are lactose intolerant!

  • Calories: 100, Sugar: 0g, Protein: 20g

#6: The last brand I’ll highlight is Core Power, which has phenomenal reviews (13k reviews with a 5-star average!). The calories and sugar are a bit on the higher end of what I recommend for weight management, but still within range.

  • Calories: 170, Sugar: 5g, Protein: 26g

Plant-Based Protein Shakes

#1: An excellent brand for plant-based protein is Evolve, whose shakes contain non-GMO verified pea protein and have the added benefit of 10 grams of fiber to keep you fuller for longer!

  • Calories: 150, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 20g

#2: Another great option for a shake with pea protein is OWYN Vegan Protein Shakes, which not only contains all of the essential amino acids but also has a blend of superfoods like broccoli for added micronutrients!

  • Calories: 180, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 20g

#3: Lastly, I would recommend considering the Pirq Vegan Protein Shake as a potential option for a high-protein snack. While it doesn’t quite hit my recommended target for 20g of protein, the calories and sugar are low, and this brand contains a blend of superfoods that can help with inflammation (like turmeric!).

  • Calories: 110, Sugar <1g, Protein: 12g

Dr. Schulte’s Summary

Protein shakes are a convenient, ready-to-go way to meet your nutritional needs while you work towards your weight management goals. I encourage you to pay attention to the calories, sugar, and protein of the shake you select. The good news is that there are many fantastic options available to you, so have fun experimenting with the brands and flavors you enjoy most!

Questions? Drop a comment below or send an email to erica@drericaschulte.com!

References

Flechtner‐Mors, M., Boehm, B. O., Wittmann, R., Thoma, U., & Ditschuneit, H. H. (2010). Enhanced weight loss with protein‐enriched meal replacements in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews26(5), 393-405.

Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., & Tipton, K. D. (2010). Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc42(2), 326-37.

Disclaimer: all opinions are my own and are not affiliated with my employers. Please seek medical guidance before pursuing weight loss or making significant changes to the way you eat or your physical activity routine.

4 replies on “Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss”

Dr. Schulte, I am happy to have found your website on health-related issues. I use already-made shakes from different sources and usually combine two products. Do you think it is a good idea? I ask because when I read about the ingredients written on them, I try to select two products with complementary ingredients. It helps me somehow but I am afraid if I may have a long-term side effect.

Hi Dr. Mau,

I think it is perfectly reasonable to combine two products that are both high-quality protein sources. Which products do you use? What I take away from your question is that this current approach works for you, and that is what I always care about most! 🙂 

I just love protein shakes! I used to drink milk protein, but now that I am going to be vegan, I use more plant-based protein powder and I drink protein smoothies at least 3 times a week. I really liked them because I am quickly full and I can consume them at anytime during the day. They are also full of vitamins and are excellement for my health so I’ll keep doing them!

Amazing! Which brand do you use for plant-based protein powder? Have you tried Evolve? They are my favorite vegan option!

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