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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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:
Requires preparation like measuring and mixing
Most protein powders are not fortified with vitamins and minerals
May not be as tasty as ready-to-drink shake formula
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
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:
Pre-made shakes have a higher cost on a per-serving basis
Contains more carbohydrates and fat per serving
The packaging of pre-made protein shakes in single-serving bottles create more waste than protein powder sold in larger containers
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.
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: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/milk-protein-concentrate
- Low-Calorie Sweeteners // The President and Fellows of Harvard College: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/
- Protein Purification Methods // Comis.Med: https://cutt.ly/o9DfHWz
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.