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When you’re in the market for a go-to protein shake, whether it’s to build muscle, fuel a busy work life, lose weight, or recover from injury, the pressure to choose the best protein drink can be overwhelming. There are so many options on the market, from powders to pre-made shakes. Then you have to think about calories, grams of protein, flavor… the list goes on. That’s why, with the help of experts, we’re narrowing down the best options out there.
Meet the Experts: Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., C.D.C.E.S., author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.
“If you are looking for an easy grab-and-go option to add high quality protein to your meal plan, pre-made protein drinks work great,” explains Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., C.D.C.E.S., author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. “They are portable and typically shelf-stable and do not require refrigeration until after opening.” Protein powders, on the other hand, give you much more control and versatility when it comes to add-ins, flavor, and serving size. “Powders can also mixed into recipes such as baked goods or even soft foods as an easy way to boost protein at any meal or snack,” she adds.
The protein source is another thing to consider. “In animal-based protein drinks, whey protein is very common,” Palinski-Wade says. “Pea protein and soy protein often make up plant-based protein drinks and shakes.”

Instead of spending hours in the nutrition aisle reading labels and agonizing over a decision, just keep scrolling. Below, we dive into the best protein drinks for every need.
An old reliable when it comes to pre-made shakes, these from Premier Protein have earned an American Master of Taste Gold Medal for superior taste. So if you’re worried about buying one that’s chalky and difficult to choke down, grab this. They’re available in nine yummy flavors ranging from cake batter to chocolate, yet only contain 1 g of sugar.
Palinski-Wade, a nutrition advisory board member for Orgain, enjoys the low-sugar content of this shake, which is why it’s ideal for weight loss and also why she recommends it to people with diabetes. “It provides 20 g of high-quality protein with just 130 calories and only 3 g of added sugar,” she says. “This shake also provides 2 grams of fiber which, combined with the protein, can help to balance blood sugar.”
She continues: “With minimal calories, this shake provides a convenient and versatile way to satisfy hunger, either paired with additional foods for a balanced meal or enjoyed on its own as a delicious, blood sugar-friendly snack.”
“Personally I enjoy a protein powder with collagen, such as Great Lakes Wellness Quick Dissolve Collagen Peptides,” says Gans. “Research supports it may help with joint health, and preliminary research shows a positive association between daily collagen and skin elasticity. This brand is unflavored and mixes nicely in my morning coffee. 12 grams of protein is the added bonus.”
This extremely high-protein shake is best for people who go hard in the gym. But those who have tried it, love it. “They’re pricier than some drinks out there, but the flavor is SO GOOD, especially compared to the other protein drink options,” one Amazon shopper writes. “This is like a milkshake. But with a ton of protein.”
“For those following a plant-based diet, I love the Orgain Plant-Based Protein Powder, as it includes 21 grams of complete protein (with all nine essential amino acids) derived from a high-quality blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, and chia seeds,” says Palinski-Wade. “In addition to the protein content, this powder also provides 2 g of fiber along with 4 g of fat per serving (with only 150 calories and 0 g of added sugar), making it a great choice for blood sugar balance.”
High protein and low sugar make this protein powder ideal for your post-gym refuel. Plus, it’s super affordable. “I’ve tried many other protein powders over the years, especially during my competitive powerlifting days, trying to find the ‘best one’ and always found myself coming back to this brand,” Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.N. previously told Prevention. However, Gans adds an important disclaimer when it comes to any muscle-building journey: “Muscle gain does not simply come from a protein drink, it is far more involved than that. To gain muscle you have to consider your entire diet, as well as physical activity.”
Protein drinks can be tricky to navigate for those with food allergies and sensitivities, considering whey and soy are the leading ingredients in the plant-based and non-plant-based markets. Owyn’s shakes are made of an organic pumpkin seed, flax, pea protein blend to make pre-made protein shakes more accessible to all. They also contain flax oil, a crucial source of omega-3 fats for those who are vegan or vegetarian.
With over 11,000 Amazon ratings and a 4.5-star rank, this special protein powder deserves some time in the spotlight. Not only is it plant-based, it contains tart cherry, turmeric extract, and probiotics to support recovery after a day of exertion on the court or the field.
Consider the amount of protein: “Generally, 15 to 35% of your total daily calories can come from protein, so start by determining how many calories you need (or consume) each day,” says Palinski-Wade. “Using this, you can see the range of protein in grams you should aim for each day. People experiencing periods of growth, muscle gain, or repair/healing have higher protein needs. However, it’s best to consult a registered dietitian to determine the right amount for you.”
Pay attention to calories: The amount you need will depend on your drink’s intended use. One being used as part of a meal may contain anywhere from 100-200 calories, Palinski-Wade says, whereas meal replacement shakes generally have a higher calorie level, around 250 to 400.

Avoid added sugars: “Some brands include large quantities which can significantly add up,” says Palinski-Wade, and lead to you exceeding the recommended daily amount of less than 10% of your total calories.

Consider lifestyle: For someone in a hurry, a pre-made drink might be easier. “However, typically, I would recommend a powder because it can easily be combined with lots of other nutritious ingredients, and the risk for unnecessary added sugars is greatly reduced,” says Palinski-Wade.

Important disclaimer: Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases. Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing and be sure to consult your doctor before taking new supplements (or providing them to a family member) in any situation, as they can interfere with medication.
It depends. Many are, but it’s important to pay attention to ingredients lists, as some brands bury additives and preservatives in their formulas, especially in pre-made shakes. Added sugars are another stat to scope out. And if you plan on using your protein drinks as a meal replacement, Gans recommends checking with your doctor before doing so.
We consulted registered dietitians Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., C.D.C.E.S., author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet, as well as dozens of customer reviews to narrow down our top picks.
For more than 70 years, Prevention has been a leading provider of trustworthy health information, empowering readers with practical strategies to improve their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Our editors interview medical experts to help guide our health-focused product selections. Additionally, Prevention also examines hundreds of reviews—and often conducts personal testing done by our staff—to help you make informed decisions.


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