The Best Protein Shakes for Women, According to a Dietitian

The 7 Best Protein Shakes for Women, According to a Dietitian

Sip smarter and boost protein on-the-go

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks
"No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives."
"Contains an impressively low 3 grams of sugar per bottle, and is sweetened with a mix of agave, monk fruit, and stevia."
"A great tasting, ready-to-drink, gluten-free, vegan protein drink."
"Made from a mix of organic pea and brown rice proteins, the plant-based drink provides easily digested protein."
"12 grams of plant-based protein with a delicious coconut taste."
"Made with only five simple ingredients."

Ready to drink protein shakes are a convenient option, especially for women who are always on the go. On days when you’re unable to consume a balanced meal or snack, you may want to consider sipping a ready-to-drink protein shake to improve energy and boost satiety. That said, it’s best to think of these as a back-up when you’re strapped for time and healthy options rather than a daily supplement or meal replacement.

Despite the convenience and delicious taste of these products, many of the protein shakes on the market contain tons of added sugar, artificial additives, or undesirable hydrogenated oils. It’s important to check the label to know exactly what is in your protein shake.

Here, our top picks for the best protein shakes for women. 

Best Overall: Vega Protein Nutritional Shake

With a super clean ingredient list and impressive nutritional stats, Vega Protein's Ready to Drink Vegan Protein Shake takes the top pick. Made with real, plant-based food ingredients, Vega is committed to providing a superior product with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. The Certified Vegan shake provides 20 grams of protein from a blend of organic pea, sunflower seed, and pumpkin seed proteins.

Each ready-to-go bottle contains 170 calories with only 7 grams of sugar. You'll also get 25% of your daily value of eight key vitamins and minerals in each serving, all derived from veggies, greens, and plant-based proteins. The convenient four-pack comes in chocolate or vanilla flavor and it is great to stash in the fridge before bringing with you on the go. For those with allergies, the drink is free of dairy, soy, and gluten.

Best Low-Sugar: ICONIC Low Carb High Protein Drinks

Typical pre-made and powdered protein beverages contain tons of added sugar or tummy-troubling artificial sweeteners. Iconic Protein's Vanilla Bean Grass-Fed Protein Drink contains an impressively low 3 grams of sugar per bottle and is sweetened with a mix of agave, monk fruit, and stevia. It comes in five additional flavors including Café Au Lait, Chocolate Truffle, Coconut Matcha, Golden Milk, and Cacao + Greens.

The BPA-free bottle is easy to toss into your bag for a quick and filling snack on the run. Each drink contains 20 grams of grass-fed milk protein with 4 grams of fiber, 130 calories, and only 4 grams of net carbs. The sustainably farmed products are free of lactose, gluten, soy, GMOs, and carrageenan.

Iconic Protein recommends using the high-protein drink as an alternative to coffee creamer, as a smoothie base, or even mixed into pancakes and waffles instead of regular milk or water.

Best Vegan: OWYN Vegan Protein Shake

Yes, you can still get plenty of protein even if you don’t eat meat and dairy. This ready-to-drink protein shake from OWYN is 100% certified vegan and contains 20 grams of protein per serving. It requires no refrigeration before you open it, so it’s great to take on the go to work, while hiking, or anywhere you need to refuel along the way.

If you have allergies, OWYN is likely safe for you too as it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and tree nut-free. This product has also been recommended for those following a low-FODMAP diet. It comes in delicious flavors like smooth vanilla, dark chocolate, golden milk, and cold brew coffee.

OWYN, short for Only What You Need, combines pea protein, organic pumpkin seed protein, and organic flax oil to create their proprietary protein blend. Pea protein packs a ton of nutrition, and research suggests that it may be comparable to whey protein when promoting lean body mass in resistance-trained athletes.??

Best Stevia-Free: ALOHA Organic Plant Based Protein Shake

ALOHA Chocolate Sea Salt Protein Drink

Although stevia is a better choice than artificial sweeteners like sucralose, some people experience side effects such as bloating, gas, or nausea when they consume it. Monk fruit, an alternative to stevia, is commonly used as a replacement to sweeten products without extra sugar and calories. Crafted with 18 grams of plant-based protein and organic MCT oil from coconut, ALOHA's Protein Drink uses both organic coconut sugar and monk fruit to create a deliciously sweet vegan drink.

Made from a mix of organic pea and brown rice proteins, the plant-based drink provides easily digested protein that will provide you with an extra boost. It comes in three crave-worthy flavors including coconut, chocolate sea salt, and vanilla. The UDSA Organic beverage is also gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free.

Best Non-Dairy: Harmless Harvest Protein & Coconut Plant-Based Beverage

Known for their delicious organic coconut water, Harmless Harvest blends coconut meat with a mix of pea, sunflower, and pumpkin protein to create their Protein & Coconut Plant-Based Beverage. This naturally creamy drink delivers 12 grams of plant-based protein with a delicious coconut taste. The organic coconut milk, made from a mix of water, coconut meat, and coconut cream, provides 5 grams of MCTs from the coconut fat

The USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified beverage is an innovative alternative to typical ready-to-drink protein shakes on the market. Each 10-ounce bottle contains 10 ingredients or less, and includes only ingredients that you can read. With three flavors—chocolate sea salt, vanilla spice, and toasted coconut—Harmless Harvest's Protein & Coconut beverage appeals to almost all tastes preferences.

Best Tasting: Siggi's Whole Milk Drinkable Yogurt

Siggi's Vanilla Drinkable Yogurt

If you're looking for a wholesome protein drink that tastes great, Siggi's Whole Milk Drinkable yogurt is a crave-worthy choice. With 180 calories and 8g of protein per bottle, Siggi's drinkable yogurt provides satiating protein and lasting energy. Made with only five simple ingredients, the drinkable whole milk yogurts are an awesome choice for on-the-go women.

The beverages are available in nonfat and whole milk; however, for most women, whole milk may be a better choice as dietary fat can help to promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins K, A, D, and E. The whole milk version comes in deliciously creamy vanilla and blueberry flavors made with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and real blueberries.

While the product does require refrigeration, the protein-packed yogurt drink is an easy grab-and-go option that is full of live active and probiotic cultures. Studies show that probiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome which in turn may prevent disease.?? Siggi's drinkable yogurt contains 17 grams of sugar per serving, likely attributed to the natural sugar found in whole milk, as the drink is sweetened using organic agave nectar.

Final Verdict

For a great-tasting, plant-based protein shake that's full of key nutrients for women, try Vega Protein Shake (view at Amazon).

What to Look for in a Protein Shake

Ingredients:

Before you buy a protein drink, make sure to read the ingredient label. Check for artificial sugars, colors, and flavors. Also, keep an eye open for unfamiliar ingredients. Take a close look at the amount of added sugar and protein.

Dietary Restrictions:

When choosing a protein drink, you want to take into account any dietary restrictions or food sensitivities you may have. There are protein beverages to accommodate most diets, including dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan options, as well as those that have no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors. If you have any questions about adding a protein drink to your diet, talk with your doctor or a registered dietician.

Taste:

You don’t have to forgo flavor for nutrition just to get a few extra grams of protein into your diet. Many protein shakes come unflavored or with natural sweeteners that don’t leave a chemical taste in your mouth.

FAQs

How many protein shakes can I have each day?

Protein shakes are one way to incorporate additional macro and micronutrients into your diet. They are best consumed as part of a balanced diet, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein.

Recommended daily intake of protein shakes depends on individualized nutritional needs. For example, a high-endurance athlete may require a higher daily intake of protein and calories and therefore, they may want to incorporate more protein shakes in their diet to meet their needs. You should consider your daily intake goals for protein and calories to determine the quantity of protein shakes to consume.

Are protein shakes good for weight loss?

Protein shakes can support weight loss but must be considered within the context of the diet in its entirety. Effective weight loss plans consider the overall nutrition value of the diet as well as macronutrient intake, including protein and overall calorie intake. Whether protein shakes serve as meal replacements or snacks, they should be incorporated into a balanced diet, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. 

Drinking calories in the form of a shake versus eating calories may result in suboptimal satiety levels, which can lead to compensatory overeating come your next meal. Additionally, many protein shakes contain a significant amount of calories and added sugars, so it’s important to ensure you are not consuming excess calories and sugar through shakes when trying to lose weight.

Try swapping in a home-made protein smoothie for breakfast with one serving each of protein powder, fruit, leafy greens, and unsweetened nut milk—you’ll get the added benefits of fiber, antioxidants, and protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Can protein shakes help you gain muscle mass?

Adequate dietary protein intake is essential for optimal muscle protein synthesis. Protein shakes are one way to increase your daily protein intake, but they are not necessary for gaining muscle mass. Incorporating protein at each meal through animal and plant-based proteins should be considered. The American College of Sports Medicine estimates the requirements for strength trainers at 1.6 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (about 0.8 grams per pound) and may require an intake of up to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Some evidence suggests that protein supplementation before and/or after endurance or resistance training may enhance muscle recovery and rebuilding. Incorporating a shake with one-serving of protein powder, fruit (try banana), and milk or plant-based milk alternative may help to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through exercise and support muscle recovery post-workout.

When should I drink a protein shake?

Depending on the protein shake's nutrition profile, it can serve as a meal replacement or a supplemental snack. Consider your daily routine and overall dietary intake to determine when a protein shake may fit best into your diet. For example, a protein shake may be a good option for an on-the-go breakfast if you don’t have time to prepare a meal. If you practice resistance or endurance training, some evidence suggests that protein supplementation before and/or after training may enhance muscle recovery and rebuilding.

What Experts Say

“It’s important to avoid sucralose, an artificial sweetener, since it may negatively affect the health of the intestinal tract. Stevia is an acceptable additive as it is a natural, no-calorie, form of sweetness for a protein powder and does not impact intestinal health.”—Nicole German Morgan, RDN, LD, CLT

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I am careful to recommend supplements including protein drinks. I spent time reviewing the most current research on various types of proteins and looking at multiple products and brands. I believe the ready-to-drink protein supplements in the round-up are made by trusted brands that I would feel comfortable recommending to my clients, friends, and family.

I personally spent years volunteering, interning, and working in a clinical setting where many ready-to-drink protein supplements were recommended to patients for various reasons. The supplements in this round-up are superior in quality and taste when compared to typical protein drinks on the market. Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

Anne Cook Carroll, MS, RD, contributed to the FAQs.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Hemarajata P, Versalovic J. Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation.?Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2013;6(1):39–51. doi:10.1177/1756283X12459294

  3. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA.?How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution.?J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):10. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1

  4. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM.?Effects of protein supplementation on performance and recovery in resistance and endurance training.?Front Nutr. 2018;5:83.

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