Are Ready-Made Protein Shakes Good For You? (Ask A Dietician)

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When you are hungry and on the go, the easiest thing to grab is a ready-made protein shake to help you withstand long hours without eating. 

However, are ready-made protein shakes good or bad for you? Ready-made protein shakes are an excellent option for those that need a quick snack that is high in protein. However, some shakes have sugar and additives that are not the best for your health. So it’s important to consume ones that have the calorie and macronutrient profile that aligns best with your dietary needs.

As you can tell, not all ready-made protein shakes are created equal.  

Deciding which ones are healthier for you comes down to understanding the ingredients, calories, and macronutrient profile. 

Below, I’ll explain each of these things further so you know how to pick the right one.  As well, I’ll also provide a list of my ‘dietician approved’ ready-made protein shakes.

What Makes A Ready-Made Protein Shake Good or Bad? 

3 factors that make a ready-made protein shake either good or bad

The 3 factors that make a ready-made protein shake either good or bad for you are the (1) ingredients, (2) calories, and (3) macronutrient profile.  

1. Ingredients 

Protein shakes are good for you, as increasing your protein intake allows you to maintain and build muscle mass, and increase your satiety levels throughout the day (i.e. feelings of fullness). 

However, it depends on the ingredients you find in each product. When it comes to ready-made protein shakes versus protein shakes that you make yourself, sugars and certain additives are things to consider when opting for the ready-made protein shake. 

The two ingredients you need to watch for are sugar and additives.  Let’s cover those now.

Sugar

Although sugar in moderation is perfectly acceptable in a healthy diet, the problem comes when we ingest more sugar than our body needs.

The American Hearts Association recommends not having more than nine teaspoons of sugar for men and no more than six teaspoons of sugar for a woman.

The World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, recommends having no more than 10% of your total caloric intake coming from sugar. For an average adult with a caloric intake of 2,000 kcal per day, this is ten teaspoons of sugar per day.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that people, on average, consume 15-20% of their total caloric intake coming from sugar. 

There are several health consequences of having too much sugar added to your diet.

  • Higher risk of depression. Studies have found a link between those with a high sugar diet and the risk of suffering depression.

When it comes to a ready-made protein shake, you need to know if it contains any added sugar and how much it has.

Be on the lookout for words like sugar, cane sugar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, or honey.  

For example, Ensure Plus is a bad example of a ready-made protein shake because it is very high in sugar. 

In 8 oz of drink, you can find 22 g of sugar, which represents 4 teaspoons or almost 50% of the recommended amount for the day. 

On the other hand, a ready-made protein shake like Pure Protein has less than 1 gram of sugar added. The reason is that they use a sugar-free alternative called sucralose. 

Takeaway: Choose ready-made protein shakes made with sugar-free alternatives (stevia, monk fruit, or sucralose) to avoid adding any more sugar to your diet. If it does contain sugar, make sure that it has less than 10 grams of sugar as a maximum. 

Related Article: Can You Eat Sugar While Bulking? (Complete Guide)

Additives

The second ingredient to watch out for are additives.  

In order to preserve the protein shake (i.e. keep it fresh for a longer period of time), the food industry needs to add additives to increase its shelf life. Some of these additives might cause certain health problems (in some people). 

Here is a list of the most common additives you need to consider.

For example, the Gold Standard Whey has 300 mg of sodium, which is twice the recommended sodium intake for food. On the other hand, a ready-made protein shake like the Iconic Protein shake only has 85 mg of sodium. 

  • Sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohol is a way of reducing the number of sugar in the mix. However, it might create stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea for people with IBS

2. Calories

In some cases, ready-made protein shakes can often be high in calories. For someone that is in a bulking phase, it might be a good option to include those extra calories you need. However, if you are in a maintenance phase or trying to lose weight, it might not be the best option.

In general, ready-made protein shakes can range from 250-500 kcal. This can vary between each brand, as some products are meant for bulking, while others for cutting.

For example, Naked Proteins and Greens has 400 kcal, which can represent a very hearty meal. On the other hand, Organic Clean Protein only has 130 kcal. 

Naked proteins and greens and Organic clean protein Calories Comparison

If you are on a weight loss journey, or you’re just someone who wants to control their weight to a greater extent, count carefully the number of calories in the protein shake and add them towards your daily caloric intake to ensure you don’t surpass that amount. 

To learn more, check out Protein Bars vs. Shakes: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Best?

3. Macronutrient Composition

The macronutrient composition plays an essential role in whether a ready-make protein shake is good or bad. In other words, how much protein, carbs, and fats the shake contains.

One of the most important things to pay attention to is the ratio between carbs and protein.  You want to have a 2:1 carb to protein ratio (having twice as many carbs than protein) or less, especially if you want to maintain or lose weight.   

For example, Slim-Fast has a composition of 24 g of carbs and 10 g of protein.  This is a 2.4 to 1 carb to protein ratio, outside our recommended ratio.  

A better option would be something like Muscle Milk, which has 14g of carbs and 20 g of protein.  This is a 0.7:1 carb to protein ratio, which is within our recommended ratio, and means that the protein shake will contain less sugar.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of the macros you should follow when buying ready made protein drinks:

  • Carbs: Less than 25 g
  • Protein: 20-25 g
  • Fats: Less than 10 g

Should you take whey protein?  If so, when and how much?

Related Article: Does Protein Powder Have Carbs? 8 Types of Protein Explained

Reasons To Include Read-Made Protein Shakes In Your Diet

Pros vs Cons of including read-made protein shakes in your diet

As a Registered Dietician, there are several reasons why I recommend having ready-made protein shakes.

Lack of Time

If you don’t have time to create protein shakes from scratch or have a proper snack throughout the day, then you can benefit from a ready-made protein shake. 

A ready-made protein shake can provide you with the necessary food to avoid getting too hungry during the day.

If you don’t have time to eat throughout the day you have an extended amount of time without eating. This often leads to people to skip meals and then when you do have the time to sit down and eat, you probably are going to be extremely hungry. This often leads to overeating, which leads to weight gain. 

However, if you spread your meals throughout the day, the next time you reach your meal time you won’t be as hungry having smaller and adequate portion sizes. That is why ready-made protein shakes can help you prevent overeating. 

Pro-tip. If you often forget your snacks or don’t have a lot of time. I typically recommend having a ready-made protein shake in your office or your car. That way, if a meeting takes longer or you are out running errands, you can grab it and avoid snacking on something less healthy.

Versatility

In some cases, packing a proper snack with you like yogurt, apple, and nuts can be complicated for busy people. 

For those that have difficulty taking several items at once, having a ready-made protein shake provides you with all the macronutrients that you need in one convenient bottle. 

For example, if your snack is based on ¼ cup of oatmeal, 1 scoop of protein, and 1 oz of nuts, you can easily replace it with a bottle of Aloha protein drink. It has almost the same calories and macronutrient composition. 

Related Article: 5 Protein Bar Alternatives That Are Cheaper & Healthier

Adding Calories

When you are in a bulking phase, it might be challenging to find new ways of adding calories without feeling too full during the day. A ready-made protein shake is an easy and convenient way of piling calories. 

The difference between someone bulking and someone cutting is that the person who is bulking is going to eat a meal AND drink a ready made shake.  On the other hand, someone who is cutting will simply replace their meal or snack with a ready made protein drink.

Related Article: What To Mix Protein Powder With (13 Examples)  

Reasons NOT To Include Ready Made Protein Shakes Into Your Diet 

Although they can be live savers, ready-made protein shakes are not for everyone. ‘Here is a list of people that shouldn’t drink them or need to be more mindful of the type of ready-made protein shake they consume.

Weight Loss

Depending on the brand and the calories it contains, having a ready-made protein shake might be jeopardizing your results. If they are too energy-dense (more than 300 kcal per bottle), I recommend avoiding it if you are trying to shed off those pounds.

IBS

Some ingredients in ready-made protein shakes can produce flare-ups in people with IBS. It might cause stomach cramps, nausea, and even diarrhea. Make sure to read the food label thoroughly and have a small dose to check for tolerance. 

Related Article: Whey Protein Foods: 10 Foods Naturally Rich In Whey Protein

Drinking Ready-Made Protein Shakes Every Day: Is It Healthy? 

You can drink ready-made protein shakes every day as long as you count them towards your total daily calories.

Also, when drinking ready-made protein shakes every day, you’ll need to make sure to balance out your macros (protein, carbs, and fats) during the rest of the day. 

For example, if the protein shake you consume has less protein, you’ll need to add more protein to your other meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner). This can easily be done by increasing a couple of ounces of chicken, meat, eggs, cheese, or Greek yogurt to other meal times.

Also, remember that variety is key to a healthy diet. You need whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to provide nutrients and fiber to your diet, which you simply cannot get from drinking read-made protein shakes. 

Want to know whether other liquids are good for bodybuilding?  Check out:  Is Diet Soda Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?

Which Are The Healthiest Ready Made Protein Shakes?

Here are my top 5 favorites ready-made protein shakes that I recommend: 

Skinny Girl Protein – Best For Women In Weight Loss

Ready-Made Protein ShakeWho Is It ForFind Product

Skinny Girl ProteinSkinny Girl Protein

Best For Women
In Weight Loss
Check Today's Price on Amazon

The Skinny Girl Protein Shake has the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 80
  • Carbs: 5 g
  • Protein: 12 g
  • Fats: 1.5 g

For those that don’t need a very large protein intake (like women that are in weight loss), this protein shake is the ideal snack to have. It only contain 80 kcal which is the same as one slice of bread but it provides 12 grams of protein which is the same as almost 2 oz of chicken.

Iconic Protein Drink – Best Keto-Friendly Ready Made Protein Shake 

Ready-Made Protein ShakeWho Is It ForFind Product

Iconic Protein DrinkIconic Protein Drink

Best Keto-Friendly Ready Made Protein Shake 

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The Iconic Protein Drink has the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 140
  • Carbs: 8 g
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Fats: 3 g

This is an excellent option for those looking to add mainly protein to their diets. It only has 8 g of carbs, 4 of those are from fiber. This means that it only has 4 g of total net carbs (it is an excellent choice for those in a keto diet).

Additionally, it doesn’t contain any added sugar. 

Muscle Milk – Best For Men With Higher Protein Requirements

Ready-Made Protein ShakeWho Is It ForFind Product

Muscle MilkMuscle Milk

Best For Men With Higher Protein Requirements

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Muscle Milk has the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 220
  • Carbs: 12 g
  • Protein: 40 g
  • Fats: 2.5 g

One of the advantages of this drink is that it is very high in protein, which is better for men who have higher protein requirements. Typically, in a regular protein shake, you get 20-25 g. In this case, you have double that amount (40 g). This is also a great shake to have if you simply have a  hard time reaching your protein intake. 

Pure Protein Complete Protein Shake – Best For Weight Loss

Ready-Made Protein ShakeWho Is It ForFind Product

Pure Protein Complete Protein ShakePure Protein Complete
Protein Shake

Best For Weight Loss

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Pure protein complete protein shake has the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 140
  • Carbs: 6 g
  • Protein: 30 g
  • Fats: 2 g

This is an excellent option for those on a ketogenic diet. For those in a weight loss journey, this protein shake is the ideal option to have. It is very low in carbs, but very high in protein. Additionally, it is not very high in calories since it only contains 140 kcal, which is ideal for a snack. 

Aloha Drink – Best Plant-Based Ready Made Protein Shake

Ready-Made Protein ShakeWho Is It ForFind Product

Aloha DrinkAloha Drink

Best Plant-Based Ready Made Protein Shake

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Aloha drink has the following nutritional information.

  • Calories: 170
  • Carbs: 11 g
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Fats: 5 g

The Aloha drink is a great choice for those looking for a plant-based option. It has 20 g of protein. It comes with MCT, which means that it can also help you burn a little more fat (If you want to know the benefits of mixing MCT oil with a protein shake, you can check my other article).

Keep in mind that it has 4 g of added sugar, which means you need to consider your total sugar intake. 

Related Article: Why Is Protein Powder So Sweet? How To Make It Less Sweet

EAS Myoplex Original Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake – Best For Bulking

Ready-Made Protein ShakeWho Is It ForFind Product

EAS MyoplexEAS Myoplex
Original Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake

Best For BulkingCheck Today's Price on Amazon

EAS Myoplex has the following nutritional content.

  • Calories: 300
  • Carbs: 20 g
  • Protein: 42 g
  • Fats: 7 g

If you are in a bulking phase, this is the ready-made protein shake that you need. It has all three macronutrients and it has 300 kcal that can help you add them in addition to your meals to achieve that caloric surplus. 

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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.