4 Protein Shakes With the Highest Quality Ingredients
Making a protein shake can be a great way to get your protein in post-workout, for a midday snack, or as a meal replacement if you're struggling to eat enough of this macronutrient.
According to Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Board, making your own shake at home is a great way to focus on the nutrients you're getting. "Blending milk, Greek yogurt, fruit, and nut butters is a great way to amp up the nutrients and protein in a protein shake, and it's a bonus if you can add spinach or kale because you'll add more fiber and nutrients," says Goodson. (For some ideas, check out 5 Best Protein Smoothie Recipes for Stronger Muscles.)
But there are going to be plenty of days when all you have the time or the energy for is something that's already been made and is ready to go. So if you're in a bind and just need to grab a pre-made protein shake on the go, it's helpful to be aware of the ingredients inside. Some companies market these shakes as "healthy" just because they contain a lot of protein, but the amount of fat and added sugar, as well as the quality of the ingredients, can make a significant difference.
Read on to learn about a few of the best pre-made protein shakes with the highest-quality ingredients. And for more health tips, check out 9 Ice Cream Brands That Use the Lowest Quality Ingredients.
Orgain Whey Protein Shake
Orgain products are delicious, gluten-free, and come with both whey and pea-protein options. You can also enjoy these pre-made shakes, or opt for one of their powdered proteins as well.
"I love Orgain as a whey-based protein shake. Whey protein is considered a 'complete' protein as it contains all essential amino acids, along with the highest percentage of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs have been known to be depleted after intense exercise so a supplement rich in these essential amino acids can be helpful," says registered dietitian Rachel Fine, RDN, the founder of To The Pointe Nutrition.
OWYN Protein Shake
If you're avoiding whey protein options and going for a plant-based protein instead, it's important to look for shakes that have a "complete protein source," meaning they have all 9 essential amino acids.
"These contain 20 grams of plant-based protein powder, with all of the essential amino acids, and they taste good without having too many calories or sweeteners. These are a low-sugar option, with only 4 grams of sugar and they combine pea protein, pumpkin seed protein, and organic flax oil," says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our medical expert advisory board.
Kate Farms Organic Vanilla Protein Shake
"Kate Farms Protein Shakes are vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, and they have a higher carbohydrate content for those that do harder workouts," says Dr. Young.
Kate Farms sells a variety of different shakes and formulas on their website, all of which are made with USDA Organic pea protein, making this company a great option for those who are plant-based.
Ensure Plus High-Protein Shake
"Ensure Plus is a great choice and often more economical than other brands," says Fine. "With up to 16 grams of muscle-repairing protein, this option is a great post-workout recovery addition to your meal or snack."
And according to Fine, the fact that Ensure uses real sugar instead of alternatives can actually be a good thing for your goals.
"I like how the company sweetens this product with sugar, versus sugar-sweetener alternatives, because while some fear the added sugar, small amounts can help to replete muscle glycogen stores and overall optimize full body recovery," says Fine.
A previous version of this article published on Aug 21, 2022, featured Premier Protein shakes, which are currently subject to a voluntary recall by manufacturer Lyons Magnus LLC. That entry has been removed and the list has been updated to include Ensure Plus High-Protein Shake.