Looking for a way to lose weight?
Add more protein to your diet.
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for weight loss and getting rid of belly fat.
How does protein help you lose weight?
Protein is known to decrease appetite and increase satiety— all essential for weight loss.
In one study, participants who ate a high-protein breakfast ate less calories the rest of the day (1).
In another study, 60% reduction in cravings was seen when overweight men on a weight loss diet increased their protein intake to 25% of total calories (2).
This is because protein requires more energy to digest and metabolize than the other macronutrients (carbs and fats). This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF).
While protein has a TEF of 15-30%, carbs and fats' TEFs only reach up to 5-10% and roughly 3% respectively (7).
Getting sufficient protein can also increase your total resting metabolism.
Muscles, which are built and supported by protein (more precisely, amino acids), are shown to contribute about 20-25% of your total resting metabolism.
Needless to say, protein is one of the most important nutrients for weight loss.
Protein Sources—What You Need to Know
When it comes to protein sources, thankfully, we have plenty.
From animal protein to plant-based protein, we have a seemingly endless list of protein foods.
But if your aim is to improve your health and lose weight, you need to look beyond how much protein each source offers.
Does it come with healthy fats or unhealthy ones?
Essential vitamins and minerals or hidden salt?
Protein is all about the protein package.
As Harvard School of Health notes, it's what comes along with protein that makes a difference for health (8).
Animal protein, like beef, is high in protein and contains all essential amino acids (complete protein) but it is also high in saturated fat and calories.
You can also find a high level of hidden sodium in many processed meat products.
Plant-based proteins such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts, on the other hand, are full of vitamins, fiber, and minerals, and are free of hidden salt and saturated fat.
Yet, they lack one or more essential amino acids, making their protein incomplete.
Many are also often high in carbs and calories.
In a perfect world, you’d want a protein source high in protein, key vitamins, fibers, and minerals, and low in harmful fats, sugar, simple carbs, and calories.
Eating protein is certainly a balancing act, constantly taking into consideration not just the protein level and its completeness but also what comes along with it.
Eating Protein Vs. Drinking Protein Shake
Besides eating your way to a protein requirement, you can also drink protein shakes to meet your daily needs.
The real difference is in the number of calories and fat.
Not all, but some protein shakes have a huge advantage in the weight loss scene, helping you take in high protein without the bad fats and calories.
We call those skinny shakes.
The best protein powders certainly fit this description.
Depending on the protein powders, they also contain vital nutrients such as fiber and vitamins, helping you increase your diet's nutritional profile.
Mayo Clinic registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. also attests to protein shake benefits in weight loss. She advises, "Because drinking protein shakes can reduce your daily calorie intake, they are often successful in weight loss plans."
It's a way to get the best of both worlds and stay above what can hinder your weight loss and health.
Protein Shakes for Post-Workout
Protein shakes are also preferred over protein foods as a post-workout meal or snack.
This is because, in liquid form, protein gets into the body and delivered to your muscles much faster.
Best Kinds of Protein Powders for Weight Loss
So what are the best kinds of protein powders for weight loss?
Not all protein powders deserve such high praise. I'm the first one to admit that.
Many pre-made shakes contain large amounts of refined sugar and artificial ingredients. Some only contain protein from an incomplete protein source, not entirely meeting one's protein needs.
Most protein shakes on the market contain one or more of these types of protein.
- Whey protein: Complete protein. Dairy-based with all nine essential amino acids (9).
- Casein protein: Complete protein. Dairy-based with all nine essential amino acids (9).
- Soy protein: Complete protein. Plant-based with all nine essential amino acids. Also contains soy isoflavones, which is said to provide some health benefits (10).
- Hemp protein: Plant-based packed with omega-3s and 6s. Complete protein but low in the essential amino acid lysine (11).
- Rice protein: Plant-based. Incomplete protein low in the essential amino acid lysine (12).
- Pea protein: Plant-based. Low in the essential amino acid, methionine and the non-essential amino acids, cysteine, and methionine (13).
Which Type of Protein is Best?
What you want, obviously, is a protein of quality.
By quality, I mean having all essential amino acids.
Whey, casein, and soy contain all the essential amino acids your body needs, requiring no additional source of amino acids to form a complete protein.
Rice, pea, and even nut proteins are considered incomplete, lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids.
University of Massachusetts advises that these proteins must be mixed together to make a complete protein (14).
Something else to take note of is different protein types have different effects on the body.
For example, compared to casein, whey gets digested and absorbed quicker, increasing your satiety in the short-term (15).
One study reported obese participants lost 5 lbs more fat consuming 56 grams of whey protein a day than the same amount of soy protein (16).
Another shows whey is 3 times more effective in the preservation of lean muscle mass during a long-term weight loss than soy (17).
That being said, not all reports support that whey is more effective, so take these results with a grain of salt.
If you are lactose intolerant, look for other protein sources, like hemp, that are non-dairy.
5 Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss
When you put all this into consideration, what makes the best protein shakes for weight loss boils down to these four things:
- High in protein (46g a day is recommended for adult women. If eating 3 meals a day, 30% DIV in a single shake is considered high.)
- Provides complete protein (contains one of the complete protein sources: whey, casein, or soy, or a mix of incomplete proteins)
- Rich in vitamins and minerals that support one's health (preferably contains superfoods rich in essential nutrients)
- Low in calories, sugar, and sodium
Here are the five best protein shakes for weight loss:
1. Vega’s All-in-One Shake
- Protein sources: pea, flaxseed, hemp and sacha inchi
- Protein per scoop: 20g
- Calories: 160
- Sugar: 1g
- Sodium: 240 mg (10% DIV)
- Vitamins & Minerals: Vitamin A (90% DIV), Vitamin C (70% DIV), Vitamin D (50% DIV), Vitamin E (50% DIV), Riboflavin (60% DIV), Vitamin B6 (50% DIV), and VitaminB12 (12% DIV).
Super foods: kale, hemp, beet, spirulina, maca root, cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, pomegranate, acai, goji, and maqui.
Benefits: If you are lactose intolerant and need to avoid dairy, this vegan protein shake is one of the best protein powders for those sticking with plant-based protein. It has a lot of nutrients and is low in sugar.
2. Skinny Shake® Protein Powder
- Protein source: whey, flax seed, and pea protein
- Protein per scoop: 16g
- Calories: 140 (low)
- Sugar: 5g (low)
- Sodium: 110 mg (5% DIV)
- Vitamins & Minerals: 25 vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin A (100% DIV), Vitamin C (300% DIV), Vitamin D (50% DIV), Vitamin E (50% DIV), Thiamin (Vitamin B1) (100% DIV), Riboflavin (76% DIV), Vitamin B6 (100% DIV), VitaminB12 (100% DIV), calcium (38% DIV), and Manganese (100% DIV).
Superfoods: kale, flaxseed, quinoa, maca, camu-camu, spinach, maitake, rose hips, green tea, basil, cinnamon, hemp, beet, spirulina, cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, pomegranate, acai, and goji berry.
Weight loss benefits: This protein shake ranks as the best protein powder in my book, containing not only high-quality complete protein (16g, 32% DIV) but also 25 vitamins and minerals, many of which satisfy well over a day's worth of requirements.
Because whey is being used as one of the protein sources, you can definitely use it as a post-workout protein shake, counting on its fast absorption and delivery to muscles, which leads to faster and better recovery after an intense workout.
I'm also in awe of just how many superfoods are contained in their protein powder.
While many protein powders named as top protein shakes for weight loss are nothing more than a compilation of proteins from different sources, Skinny Shakes set the bar high by making it highly nutritious and full of nutrient-dense superfoods.
Skinny Shake® protein powder is also one of the few that contains green tea. Green tea has long been known for its weight loss benefits, yet I don't see many protein shakes that take advantage of this weight loss super leaf.
I'm certainly happy to see it here and it definitely scored a few extra points with that.
3. Garden of Life Raw Protein
- Protein source: sprouted protein blend (pea, sprouted brown rice, chia seed, flaxseed, quinoa sprout, millet sprout, lentil sprout, etc..)
- Protein per scoop: 28g
- Calories: 170
- Sugar: <1g
- Sodium: 200 mg (8% DIV)
- Vitamins & Minerals: Vitamin A (30% DIV), Vitamin D (250% DIV), Vitamin E (100% DIV), Vitamin K (100% DIV), and Chromium (100% DIV).
Superfoods: chia seed, quinoa, buckwheat sprout, and flaxseeds.
Benefits: This is a raw vegan protein powder made of organic sprouts. This blend of sprouts offers a complete protein with all the essential amino acids your body needs, making this a great choice for a raw vegan.
4. Nutiva Hemp Protein
- Protein source: hemp
- Protein per scoop: 15 g
- Calories: 90
- Sugar: 1g (low)
- Sodium: 0 mg
- Vitamins & Minerals: fiber (32% DIV
- Superfood: hemp
Benefits: Hemp contains 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential ones. It also contains highly sought after Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. Nutiva’s hemp protein is cold-pressed, keeping all nutrients intact during processing.
This is a good example of protein powder that’s void of harmful ingredients.
5. Primal Kitchen Primal Fuel Whey Protein Powder
- Protein source: whey protein isolate
- Protein per scoop: 20 g
- Calories: 190
- Sugar: 2g
- Sodium: 375 mg
Benefits: If you think you’ve got a good handle on your daily nutrition and are purely looking to add just a healthy protein, then look no further. Primal Kitchen protein powder contains nothing but whey protein and some coconut milk.
It has none of the added benefits of superfoods and extra nutrients, but at least you know it’s free of harmful things like refined sugar and hidden salt.
If you are Paleo or gluten free, Primal Kitchen offers a good option.
There you have it!
The five best protein shakes for weight loss! What protein powder do you use for your weight loss diet? Leave us a comment below to let us know. We’d love to know which ones are your favorite.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by SkinnyCo., but all opinions are my own.