10 Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss

Best protein shakes to lose weight

Protein shakes are a great addition to any weight loss plan. This is because protein gives our bodies that feeling of fullness, which can help you consume fewer calories over the course of the day. 

And if you are trying to lose weight, it is likely you are also exercising. Protein is essential for muscle recovery after a workout, and therefore muscle growth. Research shows that “increased protein intake contributes to greater strength and muscle mass gains when coupled with resistance exercise”(1).

A high protein diet, which preserves lean muscles, is essential not only for metabolism but also for weight loss, to say the least.

Walk into any health food store and you’ll be met with dozens of different protein powders, from whey protein powders to plant-based protein supplements. It can certainly be overwhelming to the untrained eye. So, I’m here to answer your question – what is the best protein powder for weight loss? 

Protein and Weight Loss 

Weight loss shakes

There are many diets that claim to help people lose weight. For example, high fat and low carb or gluten-free diets. While these diets are effective for weight loss, they are not recommended by most nutritionists due to their extreme nature. 

A balanced diet that is rich in protein with a moderate intake of carbohydrates and fat, along with an active lifestyle, is the best option for weight loss. This is because protein only contains 4 calories per gram (compared to fat which contains 9 calories per gram) while also increasing the metabolism, stabilizing blood sugar, therefore, reducing cravings, suppressing appetite, and preserving lean muscle mass – all of which help with weight loss and overall health.

Protein plays a big role in satiety, our feeling of fullness. It has the ability to reduce ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone.” One study found that “protein induces prolonged ghrelin suppression and elevation of . . . hormones that delay gastric emptying, regardless of the type of protein consumed (3).”

In other words, the hormone that makes us feel hungry is kept quiet for longer, helping to meet weight loss goals with little effort. Protein intake is especially important if you are exercising. This is because when you lose weight, you not only lose body fat, but you also lose muscle! 

In order to prevent muscle loss and re-build muscle mass, it is important to strength or resistance train and follow a high protein diet.

A good rule of thumb for weight loss is 1.5-2 grams of protein for every kilogram you weigh (to get kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2).

For example, a 160-pound person would aim to eat 110-145 grams of protein per day. It is important to eat regular meals with high-quality protein spread throughout the day. To see if you are getting enough protein and other important nutrients, it is a good idea to track your foods in a food journal or on an app. 

High-Protein Foods

There are many choices when it comes to adding protein to your daily diet. Protein drinks or meal replacement shakes high in nutritional value are one convenient way to take in a lot of protein.

Another way is to include more high protein foods in your meals. If you choose to skip dietary supplements, filling your plate with high-protein whole foods is a good way to satisfy the macronutrient.

Here are some of the top picks for high protein foods.

  • Nuts: Peanut butter and almond butter provide 3-4 grams of protein per tablespoon and are a tasty addition to smoothies or morning oatmeal. Almonds and other nuts are excellent sources of plant protein-packed with healthy fatty acids and should be part of any healthy diet. 
  • Eggs: Both egg whites and yolks are a great source of protein with very little carb. The whites are pure protein, while the yolk offers a few grams of healthy fat and slightly less protein. Choose eggs from grass-fed cows.
  • Legumes: Just 1/2 cup of cooked beans, peas, and lentils can contain anywhere from 6-10 grams of plant protein and over 5 grams of dietary fiber. While they are a great option for those on a vegan diet, they are not paleo diet-friendly. 
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and quinoa are good options when it comes to plant-based protein foods. They also help to relieve constipation! Not to mention, they are a great choice (and safe!) for those with a nut allergy. 
  • Grains: whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and oatmeal, are a good source of protein too! They typically contain 5 grams or more per serving. When using grains as a protein source, be mindful of their carb content as they are high in carbohydrates. Also, if you are gluten sensitive, be sure to avoid gluten-containing grains. 
  • Dairy: Cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese sticks, and other milk products are healthy snacks, offering 8 g protein or more per cup. Dairy is also high in vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium, all of which are essential nutrients for overall health. If you have lactose intolerance, you may need to minimize or avoid dairy-based food products. 
  • Seafood: Just 3 ounces of cooked shrimp provides 21 grams of protein. If you like oysters, you can also get over 291% of the daily recommendation for zinc, a nutrient especially important for the immune system. Seafood is also a great way to add more omega 3 fatty acids in your daily diet.
  • Meat: Chicken breast, turkey, pork, and lean beef are familiar protein sources for most people on a low-calorie diet. Let alone, it’s the go-to source for those on a paleo diet. These products are high in Leucine, one of four branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine is a building block for muscle and can help prevent age-related muscle loss.

Protein Powders

Protein powders can help you reach your protein goal because they pack a lot of nutrition into a small amount of food (a term R.D.’s like to call Nutrient Density). You can incorporate protein powder into your diet as a snack, or add more calories to make it a meal. Meal replacement shakes made with clean ingredients are a convenient way for people who find it hard to eat a lot of food or are too busy to eat 3 square meals.

So now, let’s see if we can find the best protein powder for you!

Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the more popular protein supplements on the market with a complete amino acid profile. It is made from the cheese-making process when cows milk is separated into curds (solids) and whey (liquid). The whey is dehydrated to create a powder. Another place you can find whey is in the liquid on top of your yogurt, before you stir it up! 

Whey is actually one of two types of protein found in milk, the other being casein. Whey protein and casein are each considered to be a complete protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids (EAA).

When shopping for whey protein, you may see two options: whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. While similar in name, they are not the same in terms of how they are made. Whey protein concentrate is made when the liquid whey is dried.

It consists of 80% protein and 20% carbohydrates and fat. Whey protein isolate, however, is processed even further to create a product that is 90% protein and only 10% carbohydrates and fat. On average, whey isolate contains 5 more grams of muscle-building protein. 

Whey protein powders don’t have much taste on their own, so they are usually flavored with chocolate or strawberry flavoring. When choosing a supplement to aid your weight loss efforts, it’s important to check the ingredient list since some can contain artificial ingredients or artificial sweeteners like Sucralose (Splenda). Stevia and monk fruit are natural, calorie-free sweeteners.

If you are conscious of your carb and caloric intake, be sure to check the nutrition label for the total calories and carbs in order to avoid high-calorie supplements that’ll derail you from your weight loss plan. 

Since whey is a milk protein that contains lactose (milk sugar), those with lactose intolerance or a sensitivity to dairy products should avoid whey protein. Whey protein isolate contains less lactose than whey protein concentrate.

Other Types of Protein Powders 

Besides whey, there are a variety of other protein powders on the market. But regardless of the source, all proteins have muscle-building potential in the body. Ultimately, the best product for you will depend on what you desire in a supplement.

Some powders, such as Garden of Life, are boosted with prebiotic fiber, probiotics, or digestive enzymes, while others like Vega Protein Sport offer sports nutrition products.

Here are a few other nutritional supplements available for your protein drink besides whey. 

  • Casein protein: Complete protein. Dairy-based with all nine EAA. 
  • Soy protein: Complete protein. Plant-based with all nine EAA. It also contains soy isoflavones, which is said to provide some health benefits.
  • Hemp protein: Plant-based packed with omega-3s and 6s. Technically a complete protein, but low in the amino acid lysine. 
  • Brown Rice protein: Plant-based. Incomplete protein and low in the amino acid lysine.
  • Pea protein: Pea protein is a plant-based powder made from split peas, a type of legume with high-protein content. Low in Methionine (essential) and Cysteine (non-essential). Many plant-based brands like Orgain and Vega include pea protein in their vegan options (4).

Why Are Amino Acids Important? 

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. If a protein includes all nine essential amino acids in its chain, it is considered to be a “complete” protein. If one or more of these essential amino acids are missing, the protein is considered to be “incomplete.” Incomplete proteins tend to be plant-based – hence the traditional pairing of rice and beans! Together, they provide all nine essential amino acids.

While it is important to consume all nine essential amino acids in a day, it is not as important to consume them in the same meal, so don’t let that dissuade you from trying something plant-based. 

How Do I Choose the Right Protein Powder for Me? 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to selecting a protein powder. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, it will depend on what is important to you and your goals! Whey and casein-based protein powders may cause gastrointestinal upset in some with dairy intolerance, while others digest it just fine.

Soy, hemp, rice, and pea protein are vegan – meaning they don’t contain any meat, dairy, fish, eggs, or their byproducts. Soy is popular because it is a complete protein, however, it is also a very common allergen. Hemp, rice, and pea proteins are allergy-friendly, but they contain the least amount of essential amino acids. 

Some people may prefer a non-GMO product, while others are more concerned with getting the best results. In addition, protein powders come in a variety of flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, peaches, and cream. If you are craving certain sweets like cheesecake, you can also bet that there is a flavor for that!

I usually go with traditional vanilla, but it would be fun to try a dessert flavored one once in a while! Other considerations are texture and taste. You may want to browse customer reviews before purchasing, just to make sure the powder isn’t gritty or gross. 

What Is the Best Thing to MIX With Protein Powder? 

Protein powder can be mixed with water for a quick pick-me-up, or blended with fruits, yogurt, milk, nuts/seeds, and even vegetables for additional nutritional benefits. Protein smoothies make a great on-the-go meal replacement or afternoon snack. The best time to enjoy a protein shake is after intense physical activity, like strength training. 

A few of my favorite things to add to my protein shakes are berries, kale or spinach, almond milk, chia or flax seeds, nut butter or powdered nut butter (like PB2), green superfood powder, and Greek yogurt. Some days, I even add extra dark cocoa powder to make a chocolate version! Collagen peptides are also becoming increasingly popular for an additional protein boost.

You can also mix protein powder into your oatmeal (half-a portion) or favorite pancake recipe. 

What You Need in a Healthy Protein Shake for Weight Loss 

To create the best protein shakes for weight loss, consider these four things: 

  1. Protein content – at least 15 grams of protein is ideal. 
  2. Addition of carbohydrates and fats – provides energy, helps round out the drink, and adds flavor 
  3. Rich in vitamins and minerals that support health – think vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12 potassium, magnesium, iron, and folate 
  4. Low in calories, sugar, and sodium

You will also need a high-power blender or magic bullet to blend your shakes. Any of the recipes below can be made with skim milk instead of almond milk for extra protein.

10 Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss 

While you can certainly grab a protein drink at a local health store, making one at home is usually the healthiest option. You can pick your own ingredients and avoid artificial additives and high-sugar add-on like corn syrup. Once you master a few nutrient-dense meal replacement shake recipes, you can easily add them to your daily routine and make them part of your healthy diet. 

1. Banana Protein Shake 

banana shakes

This protein shake recipe is a great go-to shake that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. You get your protein from the protein powder and Greek yogurt, carbohydrates from banana and honey, and fat from the Greek yogurt and almond milk. At right around 300 calories, it’s good for weight loss. Looking for a filling meal replacement shake recipe? This one is sure to provide satiety and last you until the next meal. 

  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 serving plant-based or whey protein powder 
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • 1 collagen peptides (optional) 
  • Ice as needed

Nutrition: 323 calories, 7 grams fat, 47 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 26 grams sugar, 24 grams protein 

2. Banana Chocolate Protein Shake

Banana chocolate shake

If you’re in the mood for something chocolatey but don’t want to overdo it on cookies, give this delicious shake a try. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll be able to satisfy your sweet tooth and stay on track with your diet. Bonus: cacao powder contains antioxidants! 

  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1 scoop protein powder (flavor of your choice!)
  • 3 tbsp raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1 tsp flax seeds 
  • Ice as needed

Nutrition: 278 calories, 8 g fat, 34 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 9 g fiber, 22 g protein 

3. Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake 

Pumpkin pie shake recipe

Pumpkin is not just for lattes and pancakes! Pure pumpkin puree is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making it a great addition to any smoothie. Try this smoothie by The Real Food Dietitians. 

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tsp maple syrup or another natural sweetener like stevia (optional)
  • 1/2 cup ice

Nutrition: 293 calories, 11 g fat, 33 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 20 g protein

4. Hemp Strawberry Banana Milkshake 

Hemp protein strawberry milk shake

Hemp protein powder is unique in that it usually only contains one ingredient – hemp! It is high in fiber and high in iron. Just 1 serving (~3 tablespoons) provides almost half the recommended daily value of iron-based on a 2,000 calorie diet. It is slightly green in color and has a mild earthy taste. This shake would be great after a workout! 

  • 3/4 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen 
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop hemp protein powder, such as Nutiva (or 1/3 cup shelled hemp seeds)
  • 2 tsp ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Ice as needed

Nutrition: 291 calories, 8 g fat, 47 g carbs, 16 g fiber, 21 g sugar, 19 g protein 

5. Green Tropical Protein Smoothie 

This tropical smoothie is packed with vitamin C, which works in our body to create collagen, absorb iron, and heal wounds. Top with shredded coconut or a fresh pineapple wedge just for fun! 

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (carton, not canned) 
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple 
  • 1/4 cup frozen peach 
  • 1/4 cup frozen mango 
  • 1 scoop protein powder 
  • 3/4 cup spinach or kale (a large handful) 
  • 1 tsp wheatgrass powder
  • Ice as needed

Nutrition: 274 calories, 7 g fat, 35 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 19 g sugar, 23 g protein 

6. Tri-Berry Avocado Protein Smoothie 

Berry smoothie with avocado

Have you ever had avocado in a smoothie? Don’t knock it until you try it! When blended up with fruits and other ingredients, the avocado adds a satisfying creaminess and healthy fats to keep you feeling full for the rest of the day.

  • 1/3 medium avocado 
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen 
  • 1/3 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen 
  • 1/3 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tsp spirulina 
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Nutrition: 295 calories, 13 g fat, 28 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 23 g protein 

7. Zucchini Blueberry Smoothie 

Zucchini blueberry smoothie recipe

One of the best things about smoothies and shakes is that you can hide vegetables in them. This awesome veggie-packed smoothie by The Minimalist Baker is a healthy option that combines celery, zucchini, kale or spinach, and blueberries, but truly only tastes like a blueberry smoothie! With 13 grams of fiber, it’s sure to leave you feeling full and satisfied. 

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1/2 large stem celery
  • 1/3 cup sliced zucchini, fresh or frozen
  • 1 small handful of greens, such as kale or spinach 
  • 1 scoop protein powder 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Nutrition: 217 calories, 5 g fat, 37 g carbs, 13 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 18 g protein 

8. Coffee Protein Shake 

Coffee shake

Skip the line, save your money, and stay on track with your diet. This coffee protein shake is just like a Frappucino but without all the sugar! You can make it the night before and leave it in the refrigerator for a convenient option the next day. The chocolate protein powder with the coffee is a delicious combination! 

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder 
  • 2/3 cup cold-brewed coffee (or chilled leftover coffee)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 tsp flax seeds 
  • 1 tsp sweetener of your choice 

Nutrition: 183 calories, 4 g fat, 23 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 9 g fiber, 17 g protein

9. Apple Cinnamon Protein Shake

Apple cinnamon protein smoothie

All the ingredients of apple pie in a smoothie….. mmm yes, please! The addition of ginger adds a nice kick while also fighting inflammation. If you don’t have fresh ginger, use a pinch of ground ginger powder.

  • 1 organic apple, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup old fashion oats 
  • 1 scoop protein powder 
  • 2-inch piece ginger
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 tbsp nut butter 
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • Walnuts (optional) 

Nutrition: 415 calories, 13 g fat, 56 g carbs, 12 g fiber, 18 g sugar, 22 g protein 

10. No-Banana Protein Shake 

Oat protein shake recipe

If you’re not a fan of bananas, try this banana-free protein shake, which is thickened with oats and chia seeds. This shake makes a good base for you to add in anything else you like, such as raspberries, coconut or spinach. 

  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats 
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 2 tsp nut butter 
  • 1 tsp chia seeds 
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 tsp cacao powder (optional, for chocolatey flavor) 
  • Ice as needed

Nutrition: 365 calories, 13 g fat, 39 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 23 g protein 

Last Word

Protein shakes can be a healthy part of a weight loss plan and are an easy way to provide a nutritional boost for those who don’t usually like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Furthermore, a filling shake with much protein content can help prevent weight gain, build lean muscles, and increase your metabolic rate. 

It is important to know that not all protein powders are created equally. Some contain added sugar, stabilizers, artificial flavorings, and other synthetic ingredients. Always read the nutrition facts label and check the ingredients before deciding which is the best for you! 

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