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Avoid Protein Shakes With These Low-Quality Ingredients

You may want to steer clear of store-bought shakes if see these things on the list of ingredients.
FACT CHECKED BY Justine Goodman

Blending up a delicious shake with your favorite fruits, veggies, and protein powder is a great way to get a boost before or after a workout, or even as a breakfast option if you struggle with getting enough protein throughout the day.

But sometimes life gets a bit busy, and it may be difficult to find the time for a homemade shake on certain days. That's where store-bought protein shakes come in.

Making your own protein shake at home is always going to be the best option because you can control the ingredients that go inside, but buying a pre-made shake can still help you get your boost of protein on the go.

Because they're pre-made, it's extra important to read the nutrition label and be aware of the ingredients you want and the ones you may want to leave behind.

To help you choose the best pre-made protein shakes, we gathered a list of a few common protein shake ingredients that may be harmful when consumed on a regular basis. Store-bought protein shakes that contain these ingredients are considered some of the lowest quality shakes you can buy, and should be avoided when possible.

Read on, and for more healthy eating tips check out The Best Tasting Protein Powders.

Too many added sugars.

drinking protein shake

Consuming protein shakes with some added sugar is perfectly safe, especially because sometimes a little bit of sugar post-workout can help your muscles recover. However, many popular pre-made options on the market are loaded with too much added sugar, which can cause a spike in blood sugar and potentially derail weight loss goals if they are consumed on a regular basis.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day for women and 36 for men. To put that in context, a Bolthouse Protein Plus Chocolate Shake, for example, may deliver 30 grams of helpful protein, but it's also loaded with 49 grams of sugar, including 37 grams of added sugars.

Artificial sweeteners.

protein shake

Many protein shakes are made with artificial sweeteners like sucralose (commonly known as Splenda). For example, the Special K Milk Chocolate Protein Shakes may seem appealing at first because it contains lower sugar than something like Bolthouse, but these shakes are packed with artificial flavorings and sweeteners, including sucralose.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that sucralose may contribute to lowered insulin sensitivity and can negatively impact your glucose metabolism. In other words, it might lead to higher blood sugar levels. Another report published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that sucralose can have negative effects on your gut microbiome.

High-fructose corn syrup.

Make a protein shake smoothie with hand held blender

High-fructose corn syrup is another ingredient to look out for when selecting a protein shake. This sweetener, which is made from corn starch, is often used in soft drinks and other heavily processed items. Research has linked consistent consumption of high fructose corn syrup to metabolic issues and weight gain, increased risk of diabetes, and increased inflammation.

One example of a popular pre-made shake that uses high-fructose corn syrup is SlimFast Protein Shakes—which unfortunately contain sucralose, too! So while you may be drawn to them because they only contain 5 grams of added sugar, it's important to read the full ingredient list first.

5 Protein Powders to Stay Away From Right Now

Hydrogenated oils.

protein shake

Unfortunately, hydrogenated oils are in many of our favorite drinks, including some popular non-dairy milks. These oils, with the most popular being canola, are also in many pre-made protein shakes like SlimFast and Special K.

Heavy consumption of hydrogenated oils has been linked to increased blood sugar levels, inflammation, and higher levels of "bad" cholesterol.

We know that finding the right protein shake among a sea of options can be overwhelming, especially when they contain long paragraphs of ingredients you've never heard of. Hopefully, this list of ingredients to watch out for can help you feel more prepared on your next shopping trip.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha