Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (2023)

When it comes to building muscle and recovering after a workout, protein is an essential nutrient. Protein powders and ready-to-drink protein shakes are two popular types of high quality protein supplements, but they are not equal. In this article, we will compare protein powder vs protein shake and guide how to select the best protein supplement for your needs.

Protein powder vs protein shake differ in the form of the supplement (powder or ready-to-drink), the type of protein used in these products, the taste, and the ratio of the price per serving. Both are high-quality protein supplements, which help in building muscle, as well as promoting overall health and well-being.

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (1)

Pre-Made Protein Shakes vs Powder: What are the Differences?

Although both are popular ways to increase protein intake, it is important to understand the key differences between them in order to choose the best option for your needs.

Pre-made protein shakes are ready-to-drink beverages that are typically sold in single-serving bottles or paper boxes. They often contain a mix of proteins, such as milk protein concentrate or isolate, which includes both fractions of milk proteins: whey and casein, or isolated fractions of whey proteins and casein. They're usually high in protein per serving, fortified with vitamins and minerals (including plenty of calcium) and can be high in fiber. There are few or significant amounts of carbohydrates and fats in such drinks. To maintain a relatively low calorie content and reduce the consumption of added sugar, such drinks are sweetened with safe artificial sweeteners: sucralose and acesulfame potassium. These shakes are convenient and easy to use and typically require no preparation.

Protein powder, on the other hand, is a dry powder that is typically sold in containers. It can be either separate types of proteins (only whey, or only casein, or only soy), or a mixture of different proteins in one product. For improving taste, proteins can contain both natural sweeteners (such as coconut sugar) and non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose and / or acesulfame potassium, which contain few to no calories.

Some protein powders can be mixed with water or milk to create a shake, while others can be added to food, such as oatmeal or yogurt. Protein powder is generally considered to be more versatile than pre-made protein shakes, as it can be used in a variety of ways. However, it requires preparation and measuring to get the desired amount of protein.

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (2)

Pre-made protein shakes vs powder in terms of nutrition. Both can provide high-quality protein and help to support muscle growth and recovery. However, the nutritional content can vary between brands and flavors, so it's important to read the label carefully to compare ingredients and nutritional information.

Protein shakes and protein powder can provide high-quality protein but with different conveniences, costs and variations. Protein powder is a more versatile option that can be used in a variety of ways and is generally less expensive per serving. It also offers more flexibility, because we can add any fruit, peanut butter and other ingredients to our shake. We can also make a shake on both water and milk, including plant-based milk. We have the opportunity to influence the calorie content and composition of macronutrients in a shake made from protein powder.

On the other hand, ready-to-drink shakes in addition to protein usually contain a significant amount of vitamins and minerals, and therefore are better suited as a meal replacement. For example, a serving of regular protein powder contains 100-150 mg of calcium, while one bottle of ready-to-drink shake can contain 500 mg and even 650 mg of calcium. In general, they offer convenience and can be easy to grab and go, although it comes down to personal preference and what works best for your lifestyle.

I recommend Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate and there are many reasons for this: it contains only 100% protein isolate (not a mix of concentrate and isolate), a whooping 28 grams of protein per serving and zero grams of fat. This product has versatile macro breakdown and this is why it’s suitable for any goal.

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (3)

Talking about protein shakes, I would like to recommend the Premier Protein Shake in Chocolate flavor. It is a great option for those looking for a high-protein ready-to-drink shake with zero added sugar. The shake has 30 grams of protein and only 5 grams of carbs per serving, making it a versatile option for any goal: build muscle or lose weight. A whole bottle has only 160 kcal, as well as 5 g of fiber and a set of vitamins and minerals. And this is exactly the case when a serving contains a whopping 650 mg of calcium!

The chocolate flavor is rich and satisfying, and the shake is easy to mix and drink on the go. Just keep in mind that some people may find the taste to be too sweet. Overall, it is a great shake for those looking for a convenient and tasty protein supplement with a set of vitamins and minerals.

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (4)

Protein Shakes vs Protein Powder: How are They Processed?

The processing of pre-made protein shakes and protein powder can vary depending on the type of protein used and the manufacturer's methods.

Pre-made protein shakes are typically made by blending various ingredients, including dry protein powder, inulin (as a source of fiber), sweeteners, plus vitamin and mineral blend, and of course water. The mixture is blended until smooth and tastes good. The resulting shake is packaged into bottles and ready to be used as a convenient source of high-quality protein.

Protein powder, on the other hand, is typically made by extracting protein from a source such as milk, eggs, peas or other sources. The protein is then purified and concentrated through a process called microfiltration, ultrafiltration and other techniques. This process removes all or most of the fat, lactose, and other constituents of the raw source from the protein, leaving a concentrated form of protein. The product is then dried in powdered form and packaged. Many protein powders may also be flavored and sweetened during the manufacturing process.

(Video) 5 Best Protein Powders & How To Choose the Best Protein Powder Supplements | Doctor ER

Average Macronutrient Content of Pre-Made Protein Shakes vs Powder

In general, a serving of ready-to-drink shake and a serving of protein powder contain approximately the same amount of protein - 25-30 g. However, in terms of the cost of the serving and the amount of protein for your money, protein shakes are more expensive, even if you buy a pack of 12 bottles. On the other hand, protein powders are usually not enriched with vitamins and minerals, so the higher price for ready-to-drink shakes is generally justified.

To compare products by key characteristics per serving, see the table.

ProductProteinCarbsFatsCalories contentCalciumPrice
per serving
Ready-to-drink shake24-30 g4-8 g2-5 g140-170 kcal500-650 mg$2-2.5
Protein Powder20-30 g0-4 g0-2 g100-130 kcal100-150 mg$1.2-2

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (5)

As you can see, a standard serving of ready-to-drink shake contains more carbohydrates and fats, and accordingly, the calorie content is higher. You get 140-170 kcal from a 325-340 ml bottle.

By the way, a serving of the ProMix Protein recommended above costs closer to the lower price range of protein powders, which makes this product a great option for your budget.

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (6)


Get more reviews about training equipment, special offers and discounts from different stores.

Pros/Cons of Protein Powder


  • Provides a high-quality source of protein to support muscle growth and recovery

  • Versatile, can be mixed with water or milk to make a shake, or added to food such as oatmeal or yogurt

  • You have better control over the calorie content of a portion and can add many additional ingredients

    (Video) How To Pick The Best Protein Powder (CHOOSE WISELY!)

  • On average, it has less carbohydrates and fat per serving

  • Less expensive on a per-serving basis than pre-made protein shakes for the same amount of protein

Could be improved:

Protein Powder Vs Protein Shake: Selecting The Best Protein Supplement for Your Needs (8)

Pros/Cons of Protein Shake


  • Usually contain both whey protein and casein (we can use the advantages of both milk protein fractions)

  • Pre-made protein shakes are ready to drink and require no preparation

    (Video) Protein Powder: How to Best Use It For Muscle Growth (4 Things You Need to Know)
  • Usually contain a mix of vitamins and minerals; has a large amount of calcium

  • They are typically sold in single-serving bottles, making them easy to take on the go

  • Ready-to-drink formulas may taste better.

Could be improved:


Is a protein shake the same as a protein powder?

They are similar, but not the same. A protein powder is a dietary supplement in powder form, while a protein shake is a drink made by mixing protein powder with liquid and other ingredients. So, a protein shake is a type of protein supplement, but not all protein supplements come in shake form.

Can I replace protein with protein powder?

No, protein powder can be used as a supplement, but it should not replace whole foods that contain protein. Whole foods provide important nutrients besides protein, and it's important to maintain a balanced diet. It's best to get nutrients from whole food sources and use supplements only when needed.

Can I use protein powder to make a protein shake?

Yes, protein powder is a key ingredient used to make protein shakes. You can mix the powder with liquids like water or milk, and add other ingredients like fruits, peanut butter, oats and others.

(Video) Protein Powders at Walmart - What to Get & AVOID


So, we compared Muscle Milk vs Premier Protein, and although there’s no clear winner, I would give an advantage to the first product. If you have any other high-protein drinks that should be compared, let us know in the comment section.


  • Milk Protein Concentrate // ScienceDirect:
  • Low-Calorie Sweeteners // The President and Fellows of Harvard College:
  • Protein Purification Methods // Comis.Med:

Oleksandr Maksymenko

Oleksandr Maksymenko

Oleksandr is a professional fitness nutritionist, certified by FPA (Fitness Professional Association). Oleksandr adheres to the principles of evidence-based dietetics and instills in his clients a healthy relationship with food - without strict prohibitions on favorite foods and regular disruptions. His main task – not only get a result for you, but also maintain it for many years, enjoying tasty and delicious food.




Is protein shake or protein powder better? ›

If the ready to drink protein shake and the protein powder provide 20 grams, then your body is getting 20 grams of protein. Both are equally effective amino acids for digestion and muscle development. The difference is not found in the protein.

What is most important in choosing a protein supplement? ›

The Bottom Line

Choose a protein powder that's ideally unsweetened with as few ingredients as possible, protein as the first listed ingredient, and the NSF seal. If you can tolerate dairy, opt for whey-protein isolate. A ratio of about 150 calories per 25 grams of protein is good for muscle building and fat loss.

What is the best form of protein to take? ›

Whey protein is one of the most commonly used proteins and is best for day-to-day use. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is easily digested. It helps boost energy and can reduce stress levels. Whey isolates and concentrates are best to use after a workout.

Which protein shake is best for health? ›

25 Best Protein Shakes In 2023
  • Quest Protein Powder. ...
  • Body Fortress Whey Protein. ...
  • Orgain Organic Protein + Superfoods Powder. ...
  • Levels Grass Fed Whey Protein. ...
  • Pro JYM Protein Powder. ...
  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein. ...
  • Muscle Milk Protein Powder. ...
  • MuscleTech 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein.
Jan 2, 2023

Are any protein powders actually good for you? ›

So, is protein powder healthy? Yes, if it is a good quality third-party tested product with minimal sugar and void of harmful additives. Protein powders can fit into most eating patterns and help you meet your health goals. Remember, protein powder is a dietary supplement.

What are the two best protein choices? ›

Good sources of high-quality protein
  • Fish. Most seafood is high in protein and low in saturated fat. ...
  • Poultry. ...
  • Dairy products. ...
  • Beans. ...
  • Nuts and seeds. ...
  • Tofu and soy products. ...
  • Safety concerns. ...
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and make sure you're getting enough calcium in your diet.
Dec 6, 2022

Do doctors recommend protein shakes? ›

Most people don't need whey protein to meet their protein requirements if they're eating a healthy diet.” As with any supplement, it's best to discuss with your physician before you start taking protein supplements. They can interfere with some medications or may actually be harmful for people with certain conditions.

What are the 2 biggest drawbacks of using protein supplements? ›

Protein powder cons

Some experts think it can cause the kidneys to have to work harder, leading to complications for those with existing kidney problems, or increase calcium excretion, causing bone loss. Dehydration is also a risk for those consuming a lot of protein.

What is the number one best protein? ›

Healthline's picks for the top protein powders to build muscle
  • Garden of Life Sport Grass-Fed Organic Whey Protein.
  • Ghost Whey Protein.
  • NOW Sports Egg White Protein.
  • Transparent Labs Mass Gainer.
  • Gainful.
  • BiPro BOLD Whey + Milk Protein Isolate.
  • NOW Sports Chicken Bone Broth.
  • MuscleTech Nitro Tech 100% Whey Gold Protein.

What is the best protein to start your day? ›

Here are some top sources of protein that sound appealing in the morning and will help get you to 20 grams.
  • 7 oz Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat 20 grams protein.
  • ½ cup cottage cheese, low-fat 14 grams protein.
  • 2 oz turkey sausage 14 grams protein.
  • 2 large eggs 13 grams protein.
  • 1 cup milk, nonfat 8 grams protein.
Dec 19, 2017

What is the best protein to eat every day? ›

Top 10 Protein Foods
  • Fish.
  • Seafood.
  • Skinless, white-meat poultry.
  • Lean beef (including tenderloin, sirloin, eye of round) ADVERTISEMENT.
  • Skim or low-fat milk.
  • Skim or low-fat yogurt.
  • Fat-free or low-fat cheese.
  • Eggs.

Is it OK to drink protein shake everyday? ›

It is safe to drink protein shakes every day, but be sure to obtain the majority of your protein and other foods from whole food sources. Without whole food sources, you'll be missing out on other valuable nutrients that are vital for health and supporting your workout performance and recovery.

How much protein does a 60 year old woman need? ›

Older adults who are 50 years old and above will need to consume an average of around 75g of protein in a day while adults aged below 50 would need a little less at an average of 60g of protein per day. The timing of protein intake is important too.

Which protein powder is least harmful? ›

Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

The powder is made from organic peas, rice, and chia seeds. It is also non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. With 21 grams of protein per serving, this powder is a great way to get the protein you need without any of the unhealthy additives.

What 2 foods make complete proteins? ›

If the protein you eat has all the 9 types of amino acids you need to get from food, it is called a "complete protein." Great sources of complete proteins are: ‌Fish. ‌Poultry (chicken, duck, or turkey) ‌Eggs.

Why do doctors not recommend protein powder? ›

It may be high in added sugars and calories.

Some protein powders wind up turning a glass of milk into a drink with more than 1,200 calories. The risk: weight gain and an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.

Are protein drinks good for seniors? ›

Protein shakes or supplements can be a powerful part of the elderly diet that helps fill any nutritional gaps. Research suggests that seniors are not as able to use protein as younger people. In other words, senior bodies may require more protein to meet their needs.

Why do doctors not recommend whey protein? ›

Consuming high doses of whey protein causes acne, stomach pain, cramps, nausea, and headache. All the answers published in this website are written by Verified medical doctors, therapists and health experts.

What are the dangers of drinking protein supplements? ›

High doses can cause some side effects such as increased bowel movements, acne, nausea, thirst, bloating, reduced appetite, tiredness, and headache.

Why are protein powders not worth the money? ›

Protein powders are convenient, but unnecessary for most

Larger quantities simply contribute calories and can actually reduce muscle-building potential. So, having several scoops of protein powder at once is unlikely to be helpful. Plant-based powders often have less protein, but shouldn't be discarded as an option.

What are the negative effects of drinking protein shakes? ›

Potential side effects of protein shakes
  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps. ...
  • Hives rash, swelling, and a runny/stuffy nose. ...
  • Missing nutrients. ...
  • Protein powders can be high in added sugar and calories. ...
  • As a dietary supplement, protein powder manufacturers are left to regulate their products themselves.
Dec 23, 2019

What is the best protein to eat first thing in the morning? ›

1. Eggs. Eggs are a no-brainer breakfast protein, but it's important to remember that there are so many different ways to use them. Whether it's scrambled, poached, fried, hard-boiled, or cooked into an omelet, eggs are an inexpensive and versatile way to add some protein to breakfast.

How much protein should 60 year old eat? ›

Protein Requirements for Elderly Adults. Experts in the field of protein and aging recommend a protein intake between 1.2 and 2.0 g/kg/day or higher for elderly adults [3,8,15].

What breakfast meat has the most protein? ›

1. Turkey — best for low-fat and high protein. Sliced turkey, even if it's processed deli meat, is low in fat, low in calories, and high in protein. This makes it an ideal option for anyone attempting to increase muscle growth while limiting calories.

What kind of protein is best for seniors? ›

With lower fat and therefore lower calorie content, lean meat is an excellent source of protein for seniors.
Lean Meat
  • Skinless chicken and turkey.
  • Lean cuts of beef (the loin and round cuts)
  • Pork loin.
Jul 15, 2021

How much protein is required for seniors? ›

Adequate dietary protein intake (at least 1.0–1.2 g/kg/day) is recommended for adults aged over 65 years to optimise muscle health and function, and to support recovery from illness [13].

What can I eat that is 100% protein? ›

Pure proteins include the following:
  • Venison.
  • Halibut.
  • Skinless Chicken Breast.
  • Tilapia.
  • Haddock.
  • Tuna.
  • Cod.
  • Crab.
Aug 8, 2020

Is it better to take protein powder? ›

Simply put, protein powder is not bad for you. It's a convenient source of protein that helps many people meet their daily protein needs. Of course, if you have allergies to a certain type of protein or other ingredients in a protein powder, then it will cause you to have an allergic reaction.

Does protein powder really build muscle? ›

No protein supplement, natural or processed, will grow muscle on its own. If you exercise regularly protein will help build your muscles – but only if you exercise.

Does protein powder build muscle or fat? ›

Therefore, protein shakes may help you achieve your fitness goals, whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle. Protein shakes promote muscle gain and improve performance and recovery. They also prevent muscle loss and may even help increase muscle mass during weight loss.

Is it worth using protein powder? ›

Protein powders are convenient, but unnecessary for most

Older adults may benefit from increasing protein slightly, regardless of their exercise routine; however, for most of us, resistance training is more effective than simply supplementing with protein.

Who should not take protein powder? ›

People who eat a diet that is rich in meat, fish, dairy, and eggs and do not do intense weight training are unlikely to need to take protein supplements. People who wish to supplement their diet with protein powder should choose a high-quality product and speak to their doctor or a dietitian before using it.

What is the best protein to build muscle and lose fat? ›

Whey protein is the most widely used weight loss protein today. It's one of two milk proteins, with casein being another. This protein powder by Optimum Nutrition is one of the best whey protein for weight loss. It has 24 g of protein per serving (30 g) and may help you gain muscles and lose fat.

Can protein powders help aging muscles? ›

Whey supplementation has been shown to help prevent the loss of muscle mass in aging individuals, inhibit weight gain, and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This potent protein helps prevent frailty, obesity, and heart disease, while promoting longevity.

Is it better to build muscle without protein powder? ›

The answer is: YES! A million times 'yes'. If you're able to hit your daily protein targets through your daily diet, there is absolutely no need to consume protein powders or supplements. However, if you are not able to hit your daily protein target, you can gladly resort to protein supplements.

How much protein do I need a day? ›

The recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person who weighs 165 pounds, or 75 kilograms, should consume 60 grams of protein per day.

Does protein powder make your stomach bigger? ›

Bottom line: Typical protein intakes shouldn't make you bloat. If your belly's feeling more distended than usual, make sure you aren't eating too much overall, and then try to cut out processed sources of protein and stick to whole food-based ones—like eggs, fish, and chicken—as much as possible.

Is it good to drink protein powder everyday? ›

It is safe to drink protein shakes every day, but be sure to obtain the majority of your protein and other foods from whole food sources. Without whole food sources, you'll be missing out on other valuable nutrients that are vital for health and supporting your workout performance and recovery.

Is it okay to have protein powder everyday? ›

To be clear, there is no hard-and-fast rule about drinking protein shakes, and having too many of them in one day likely won't have any long-term detrimental effects. For most people, anywhere from one to three protein shakes per day should be plenty to help them meet their nutritional needs.

How can I get enough protein without protein powder? ›

14 Easy Ways to Increase Your Protein Intake
  1. Eat your protein first. ...
  2. Snack on cheese. ...
  3. Replace cereal with eggs. ...
  4. Top your food with chopped almonds. ...
  5. Choose Greek yogurt. ...
  6. Have a protein shake for breakfast. ...
  7. Include a high protein food with every meal. ...
  8. Choose leaner, slightly larger cuts of meat.


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