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The #1 Best Protein Shake for Weight Loss, According to a Dietitian

Not all supplements are created equal, and protein shakes are no exception.

Even as a dietitian, my head starts spinning a little when I venture down the supplement aisle. There are so many options, and it's understandable to feel a little overwhelmed with dozens of brands staring back at you. And although protein shakes always have an air of healthiness, don't let them fool you. When it comes to picking the best protein shake for weight loss, I recommend using a few quick criteria to evaluate a high-quality protein shake: added sugar and artificial sweeteners, easy to digest, and complete protein.

The majority of protein powders are packed with additives and sweeteners. If a product has a significant amount of added sugar (more than 8 g per serving), the resulting sugar spike and "crash" that may come from drinking it may not be worth it for your goals. Specifically, for weight loss, these added sugars can really sneak up on you throughout the day. (Related: 14 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugars)

What if the protein powder has artificial sweeteners?

While artificial sweeteners do not contribute any extra calories, they may have indirect effects on your metabolism and appetite cutes. Alternatives to sugar may not meet your needs either: artificial sweeteners when consumed in moderation are generally recognized as safe. However, many choose to avoid them due to associating them with headaches, stomach upset, and an increase in cravings. Your best bet is to choose more natural sugar alternatives like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol.

If you are wondering if alternative sugars are right for you, consider whether or not you are experiencing any of these side effects.

Look for complete protein.

Digestibility is another major concern with protein supplements. Commonly, protein supplements are derived from dairy or soy-based options. Options within these categories are whey, casein, and soy protein isolate. While many people do not have digestive repercussions with these varieties of protein powder, they have long been documented to cause bloating, GI upset, and loose stools. Weight fluctuations from these options can vary greatly due to bloating and water retention—especially if you are relying on protein supplements daily.

Adequate amounts of complete protein—meaning, the product contains all nine essential amino acids—are necessary for weight loss as they assist with building lean muscle, recovering from exercise, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Protein shakes on the market range from vegan to animal-based. Plant-based protein on its own is considered an incomplete protein source. Thus, the plant-based varieties must combine several types of plant proteins to be considered a complete protein option.

Regardless of the source, you'll want to make sure all essential amino acids are included.

The best protein powder brand to grab

orgain organic peanut butter powder
Courtesy of Orgain

If you're looking for a protein powder that checks all the boxes, I recommend Orgain Organic Protein. They use a plant-based formula using pea protein, brown rice, and chia seeds which includes all essential amino acids. They sweeten the shakes with organic stevia and erythritol to provide a lightly sweet taste that doesn't leave a weird aftertaste. They are highly digestible as their line of protein supplements are dairy and soy free.

If you prefer to find an unsweetened option, they have all the bases covered! Their line of naturally unsweetened protein is a great alternative. And if you want more comparisons, take a look at our review of nine different protein powders we taste-tested.

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Caroline Thomason, RDN
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more