9 Unhealthiest Protein Shakes To Avoid
Protein shakes are meant to give you a nutritious boost. On top of that, they can help you build muscle while also getting rid of fat and making sure you feel satisfied without being too full. However, there are plenty of different kinds of protein shakes on store shelves and not all are created equal. In fact, while some rely on high-quality ingredients, others aren't as ideal as you might have assumed and could actually be harming your efforts to stay fabulously fit and wonderfully healthy as opposed to helping.
"There are several factors that can contribute to a protein shake being considered unhealthy," Lori Walker, MS, RD and Freelance Food and Nutrition Writer with Easy Kitchen Guide, tells Eat This, Not That! "These include high amounts of added sugars, artificial ingredients and preservatives, low nutrient density, and excessive calories or unhealthy fats."
Walker explains that "protein shakes that are marketed as meal replacements may also not contain enough essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, making them an inadequate substitute for a well-rounded meal." Beyond that, "some protein shakes may contain controversial ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to negative health effects." That's why Walker says that "it's important to carefully read and analyze the nutrition label and ingredient list of any protein shake before consuming it to ensure it aligns with your personal dietary needs and goals."
That's also why you'll want to check out the following protein shakes which may be ones that you simply want to avoid. For what to buy instead, don't miss 9 Best Store-Bought Protein Shakes, According to a Dietitian.
Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus Coffee
Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus Coffee certainly delivers on what the name promises. Of course, that may not be a good thing. Walker tells us, "While this shake may provide a convenient caffeine boost, it's important to note that it also contains 49 grams of sugar per serving." That's not to mention the 400 calories. Walker suggests that this "may be best suited as an occasional treat rather than a daily meal replacement option."
Nesquick Protein Power Strawberry Protein Milk Beverage
Nesquick is probably best known for its line of ready-to-drink powder and syrup dessert-like drinks, so it might be a surprise to find out that it also offers a number of protein-based beverages. But despite the healthy addition of over 20 grams of protein, the sugar content found in the Nesquick Protein Power Strawberry Protein Milk Beverage may not seem far from its school lunchbox companion. With a whopping 39 grams of sugar, this is one protein shake to avoid.
Fairlife Core Power Elite Chocolate
Fairlife Core Power Elite Chocolate offers you 42 grams of protein which might pique your interest. However, Walker notes that "it's also important to note that this shake contains artificial sweeteners and additives such as carrageenan and cellulose gum."
When it comes to carrageenan, it's been found to cause gastrointestinal during animal experiments, according to a 2001 study published by the Environmental Health Perspectives journal. As for cellulose gum, a 2021 study found in Gastroenterology warned that making it a part of your diet over the long term can negatively affect the amount of beneficial bacteria and nutrients in your gut. In turn, this could lead to problems with inflammatory conditions such as colitis, colon cancer, and metabolic syndrome.
SlimFast Original Chocolatey Royale
When it comes to SlimFast Original Chocolatey Royale protein shakes, Walker admits that they "provide a convenient and easy-to-make option for individuals looking to control hunger and support their weight loss goals." However, she is sure to add that "with 19 grams of sugar per serving," it may simply be too sugary. As Walker points out, "It's important to keep an eye on your overall sugar intake throughout the day."
Muscle Milk Pro Advanced Nutrition Protein Shake
At first glance, the nutritional information for Muscle Milk Pro Advanced Nutrition Protein Shake may seem rather favorable. Relatively low fat, as well as only 1 gram of sugar, could be reason enough to enjoy the beverage. But, once you peruse the ingredient list, you'll notice plenty of artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose and acesulfame potassium which is 200 times sweeter than natural sugar and comes with some negative health consequences, according to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics.
Isopure 32g Protein Drink Alpine Punch
The Isopure 32 Gram Protein Drink Alpine Punch boasts low fat, sodium, and sugar which seems ideal, however, the full ingredients list suggests something different. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose are added along with polysorbate 80 which increases the shelf life of a product. At the same time, it can be detrimental to gut health according to a 2015 study, via the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This shake also contains Red 40 which is an artificial dye that can cause chemical changes in the brain as well as inflammation, according to the Children's Environmental Health Center Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Pure Protein Salted Caramel Protein Shake
Pure Protein Salted Caramel Protein Shake is anything but pure protein. Instead, the drink that comes in a relatively small bottle still manages to contain almost 15 percent of your maximum daily sodium intake, as recommended by the FDA. Beyond that, among the listed artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and acesulfame, there is maltodextrin which is an additive that has an increased glycemic index which quickly raises a person's blood sugar. This ingredient can be incredibly harmful for those with diabetes.
GNC Total Lean Lean Shake 25 – Girl Scout Adventurefuls
Those active folks who use protein shakes such as GNC Total Lean Lean Shake 25 to boost their energy before or after a workout should be mindful of the ingredients in the small print to ensure they are getting the best nutrients for their body. The Girl Scout Adventurfuls flavor of this GNC product is particularly jam-packed with artificial sweeteners as well as monoglycerides and diglycerides which are fatty acids that are added to improve longevity and texture. Although safe in small doses, higher amounts have been known to increase the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, according to a study published in the BMJ journal.
Boost High Protein Rich Chocolate Nutritional Drink
Boost High Protein Rich Chocolate Nutritional Drink is another option that can't quite balance the good aspects with the less-than-ideal. As Walker says, "This shake offers a decent amount of protein per serving, but its high sugar content may not be suitable for individuals with diabetes or those trying to minimize added sugars in their diet."