Athlete’s Guide To Ready To Drink Protein Shakes

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Athlete’s Guide To Ready To Drink Protein Shakes

I have previously done reviews on the best whey and plant-based protein powder options for athletes, but these can be difficult to utilize if you are constantly on the go without access to a blender or fridge. Ready to drink (RTD) protein shakes are a convenient alternative to transporting protein powder with you, but what is the best RTD protein shake? Which is the most affordable, has high-quality protein and highest quality ingredients? Dana and I reviewed 14 of the most popular RTD protein shake options.

This review is not sponsored in any way. I was not paid by these brands or compensated for this review.

In this review, we look at 7 dairy-based protein shakes and 7 plant-based protein shakes. Each protein shake was reviewed using the criteria below to determine if we would recommend the product. Vanilla was the standard flavor reviewed and there was only one product (Orgain Plant-Based Protein) that does not come in this flavor; chocolate was reviewed instead.

Protein Content

Nutrient Profile 

Ingredients

Cost

Additional Considerations

A few notes before we dive into this review:

  • Adequate post-workout nutrition requires larger amounts of carbohydrates than a majority of these shakes provide. Like protein powders, these shakes should be paired with additional carbohydrates, for example a banana, if they will be a part of your post-workout nutrition.  

  • If you have read either of our previous reviews on protein powders, you may be wondering if these products need to have third-party testing certifications. Unlike protein powders, protein shakes contain a nutrition food label vs. supplement label, therefore are considered food products and are regulated by the FDA.

  • Nearly all of these products contained some form of artificial sweeteners. We have an article all about our thoughts on artificial sweeteners which you can read here. Several also contained preservatives, artificial flavors, and other ingredients we don’t recommend consuming on a regular basis. These may be a convenient option when necessary, but if time and resources allow, we recommend opting for a whole food smoothie instead.

Dairy-Based Options


corepower shake

Core Power Vanilla Protein Shake

Core Power recently reformulated from an 11.5-ounce option to a 14-ounce option. The 14-ounce option is what is being reviewed here. The nutrition labels do vary between products.

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 26 grams 

Nutrient Profile: 170 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 260 mg sodium. This shake also provides 50% DV of calcium, 25% DV vitamin D, 15% DV potassium, and 25% DV vitamin A. 

Ingredients: The first ingredient is filtered low fat grade A milk, followed by natural flavors, monk fruit juice concentrate, stevia leaf extract, carrageenan, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, lactase enzyme (to help digest lactose), vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3.

Cost: $26.42 for a pack of 12 on Amazon, which comes to $2.20 per bottle. 

Additional Considerations: Lactose and gluten-free. Does contain multiple forms of artificial sweeteners and carrageenan which may be problematic (GI issues) for some athletes.


Fairlife Nutrition Plan

Fairlife Nutrition Plan High Protein Shake

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 30 grams 

Nutrient Profile: 150 calories with 2.5 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, and 190 mg sodium. This product provides 60% DV of calcium, 25% DV of vitamin D, 60% DV of vitamin B12, 35% DV of zinc, 40% DV phosphorus, 10% DV magnesium, and 20% DV selenium.  

Ingredients: Ingredients include filtered Lowfat Grade A Milk, followed by natural flavors, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, maltodextrin (starch), carrageenan, lactase enzyme (to help digest lactose), acesulfame potassium, sucralose, monk juice concentrate, salt, stevia leaf extract, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3.

Cost: $23.41 per 12 pack (Amazon), which comes to $1.95 per bottle. 

Additional Considerations: Lactose and gluten-free. Does contain artificial sweeteners and carrageenan which may be problematic (GI issues) for some athletes. Ingredients are almost identical to Core Power but this product provides more protein, less fat and carbohydrates and is fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. 


optimum nutrition

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Drink

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 24 grams

Nutrient Profile: This product contains 150 calories with 3.5 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 300 mg sodium. This shake provides 10% DV calcium and 10% DV potassium. 

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, whey protein concentrate, natural and artificial flavor, sunflower oil, cellulose gel, potassium citrate, sunflower lecithin, salt, sucralose, cellulose gum, calcium chloride, carrageenan, acesulfame potassium (sweetener), and dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E). 

Cost: $34.99 for a pack of 12, which comes to $2.92 per bottle. 

Additional Considerations: Gluten-free, contains milk and processed in a facility that processes soy and nuts. Contains artificial sweeteners and flavors. Whey protein concentrate ranges from 30-89% protein with the rest coming from lactose or fat, while whey protein isolate contains 90% or greater protein content. The higher protein content may provide greater benefits with a larger amino acid content.


gatorade

Gatorade Recover Protein Shake  

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 30 grams

Nutrient Profile: This product contains 280 calories with 1 gram of fat, 46g carbohydrates (20g added sugar), and 340 mg sodium. This shake also provides 45% DV calcium, and 10% DV potassium.

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, maltodextrin (starch), milk protein concentrate, sugar, dextrose, natural and artificial flavors, salt, cellulose gel, whey protein concentrate, cellulose gum, carrageenan, and sucralose.

Cost: $23.99 for a pack of 12, which comes to $1.99 per bottle.

Additional Considerations: Contains artificial flavors and sweeteners. Does provide 46g carbohydrates per bottle (sources: maltodextrin and sugar). Similar to whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate can vary in protein content with the rest coming from fat or lactose. 


Orgain Protein

Orgain Grass Fed Organic Protein

Flavor: Vanilla Bean

Protein Content: 30 grams

Nutrient Profile: This product contains 130 calories with 2 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams added sugar, and 170 mg sodium.  

Ingredients: Protein is provided from grass-fed milk protein concentrate and the product is sweetened with agave, natural flavors, vegetable glycerin (sugar alcohol), monk fruit extract, and reb a (stevia extract). This product also contains sea salt, gellan gum, and locust bean gum.

Cost: $29.99 for a pack of 12, which comes to $2.50 per bottle.

Additional Considerations: USDA organic. Contains sugar alcohols which may be problematic (GI issues) for some athletes. Does not contain artificial sweeteners (contains ‘nonnutritive sweeteners’ monk fruit and stevia).


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Premier Protein

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 30 grams

Nutrient Profile: This product contains 160 calories with 3 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 230 mg sodium. This product also contains a vitamin and mineral blend that contains 24 different nutrients.

Ingredients: Protein is a blend of milk protein concentrate and calcium caseinate followed by high oleic sunflower oil, natural and artificial flavors, inulin (synthetic fiber), cellulose gel and gum (thickeners), salt, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (sweetener), carrageenan, and vitamin and mineral blend.

Cost: $7.99 for 4 pack, which comes to $2.00 per bottle

Additional Considerations: Contains inulin which may be problematic (GI issues) for some athletes. Contains artificial sweeteners and flavors.


Quest Protein

Quest Protein Shake

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 30 grams

Nutrient Profile: This product contains 160 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 gram carbohydrates, and 250 mg sodium. This product provides 70% DV calcium, 2% DV potassium, and 10% DV iron.

Ingredients: Milk protein concentrate, followed by sunflower oil, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin, salt, gellan gum, and sucralose.  

Cost: $27.99 for a pack of 12, which comes to $2.33 per bottle.  

Additional Considerations: Processed in a facility that processes soy and tree nuts. Contains artificial sweeteners. Protein source is milk protein concentrate.

Plant-Based Options


evolve

Evolve Protein Shake

Flavor: Ideal Vanilla

Protein Content: 20 grams

Nutrient Profile: 150 calories, with 2.5 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams added sugar, and 360 mg sodium. This product provides 15% DV of calcium, 25% DV of iron, 4% DV of potassium, and 6% DV of zinc.

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, pea protein, soluble vegetable fiber, cane sugar, natural flavors, calcium phosphate, gellan gum, potassium chloride (thickener), organic stevia extract, and sodium phosphate.

Cost: $28.47 for 12 a pack which comes to $2.37 per bottle.

Additional Considerations: Certified Vegan, dairy, gluten, and soy-free. Does not contain artificial sweeteners. Only protein source is pea – for plant-based proteins, we would like to see a blend of protein sources to provide a wider amino acid (specifically branched-chain amino acids) profile.


Vega

Vega Protein Nutrition Shake

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 20 grams

Nutrient Profile: This shake is 170 calories with 4.5 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, and 240 mg sodium. This shake also provides a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, B12, E, D, iron, calcium, and magnesium to name a few. This product also provides 1 gram of ALA (plant-based form of omega-3).

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, pea protein, coconut palm sugar, flaxseed, natural flavors, hemp protein, pumpkin seed protein, spinach powder, kale powder, acerola cherry extract, carrot juice powder, quinoa sprouts, spirulina, marine algae, stevia leaf extract, gellan gum, dried fruit and vegetable blend (spinach, broccoli, carrot, beet, tomato, apple, cranberry, orange peel, blueberry, strawberry), sunflower seed oil powder, mushroom powder. We do not advise drug-tested athletes to consume any hemp containing products to avoid the chance of testing positive for trace amounts of THC.

Cost: $29.99 for a pack of 12, which comes to $2.50 per bottle.

Additional Considerations: Certified vegan, gluten-free. Contains coconut. We do not advise drug-tested athletes to consume any hemp containing products to avoid the chance of testing positive for trace amounts of THC.


Koia

Koia Protein Shake

Flavor: Vanilla Bean

Protein Content: 18 grams

Nutrient Profile: This shake is 190 calories with 7 grams of fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of added sugar, and 240 mg sodium. This shake provides 10% DV iron, 4% DV calcium, and 2% DV potassium.

Ingredients: Ingredients include almond milk (filtered water, almonds), Koia proprietary protein blend (brown rice protein, pea protein, chickpea protein), chicory root fiber, organic cane sugar, natural flavors, vanilla extract, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, monk fruit extract, locust bean gum, and gellan gum.

Cost: $23.94 for a package of 6, which comes to $3.99 per bottle.

Additional Considerations: Gluten, dairy, and soy-free. Contains multiple protein sources for a wider amino acid profile. Does not contain artificial sweeteners.


orgain

Orgain Plant-Based Protein Shake

Flavor: Creamy Chocolate

Protein Content: 20 grams

Nutrient Profile: This shake is 150 calories with 4.5 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, and 450 mg sodium. This product also provides 50% DV iron for women and over 100% for men, 6% DV potassium, and 10% DV calcium. This product does contain 450 mg sodium per serving, which may be beneficial for athletes who are finishing intense training sessions, but is a lot for individuals who are not training as much. 

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, pea protein, alkalized cocoa, natural flavors, high oleic sunflower oil, sunflower lecithin, trisodium phosphate, tripotassium citrate, gellan gum, monk fruit extract, a fruit and vegetable blend, and sea salt.   

Cost: $29.99 for a pack of 12, which comes to $2.50 per bottle. 

Additional Considerations: Gluten-free, dairy-free, USDA organic. Only one source of plant protein (pea). Does not contain artificial sweeteners.


Owyn

Owyn Protein Shake

Flavor: Smooth Vanilla

Protein Content: 20 grams

Nutrient Profile: This shake is 180 calories with 7 grams of fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of added sugar, and 220 mg sodium. This product provides 2% DV calcium, 20% DV iron, and 535 mg ALA (plant form of omega-3 fatty acid).

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, protein blend (pea, pumpkin seed, flax oil), vegetable fiber, cane sugar, sunflower oil, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin, guar gum, greens blend (broccoli, spinach kale), monk fruit extract, pink Himalayan salt.

Cost: $35.99 for a pack of 12 which comes to $2.99 per bottle

Additional Considerations: Allergen-friendly (no dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten). The protein in this shake is provided from a blend of pea, pumpkin, and flax oil which provides a larger variety of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) than just one source of protein. Does not contain artificial sweeteners.


Ripple

Ripple Protein Shake

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 20g

Nutrient Profile: This shake is 200 calories with 7 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams added sugar, and 240 mg sodium. This shake provides 45% DV calcium, 15% DV iron, 60% DV phosphorus, and 15% DV potassium.

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, pea protein, cane sugar, high oleic sunflower oil, natural flavor, dipotassium phosphate, tricalcium phosphate, salt, mixed tocopherols (preservative), sunflower lecithin, monk fruit extract, gellan gum, guar gum.

Cost: $9.99 for a pack of 4, which comes to $2.50 per bottle.

Additional Considerations: Vegan, lactose-free, gluten, dairy, nut, and soy-free. Only one source of plant protein (pea).


tone it up

Tone it Up Plant-Based Protein Shake

Flavor: Vanilla

Protein Content: 10 grams

Nutrient Profile: This shake is 130 calories with 6 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates (5 grams added sugar), and 270 mg sodium. This product provides 8% DV potassium.  

Ingredients: Ingredients include water, pea protein, sunflower oil, cane sugar, gum acacia, rice protein, potassium citrate (preservative), sea salt, natural flavor, monk fruit extract, and gellan gum.

Cost: $7.99 for a pack of 4, which comes to $2.00 per bottle.  

Additional Considerations: Dairy, gluten, and soy free. Only 10 grams of protein, the lowest of all options reviewed.

Based on this review, our top recommendations would be:

Koia

Orgain

Owyn

Fairlife Core Power/Nutrition Plan


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