Best Protein Shakes For Weight Loss 2023: 5 Products Reviewed

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Reviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez Cueto, MD

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best protein shakes for weight loss

Many individuals strive to achieve weight loss as part of their healthy lifestyle, but the process is often gradual and requires consistent effort. As a result, some people have turned to dietary supplements, such as protein powders, to support their weight loss goals alongside a balanced diet and regular exercise.

While protein powders are primarily marketed for building muscle mass, some of their qualities can provide additional health benefits, including weight loss. However, some individuals may have reservations about using protein powders due to conflicting research on their effectiveness.

It is important to note that the success of protein powders is often based on marketing tactics rather than scientific evidence. Therefore, when considering which protein shakes are best for weight loss, it is crucial to research and select products that have a proven track record of success.

Ultimately, the decision to use protein shakes as a supplement for weight loss should be based on individual needs and goals, and should always be paired with a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.

Best Protein Shakes For Weight Loss In 2023

Best Protein Shakes For Weight Loss: Are They Worth It?

Although many protein shakes are advertised to help you lose body fat or weight, they are only meant to supplement you. This is especially the case for those who plan to replace certain meals[1] with protein shakes; while it may help lower your daily calorie intake, you will need to eat solid and whole foods that may cause excess weight to come back. Additionally, drinking protein shakes in addition to your usual diet can make it harder to lose weight if you’re not exercising as well because you could still be in a caloric surplus.

It has also been noted that protein supplements are processed products[2]. As such, they do not contain all of the essential nutrients that people need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Best Protein Shakes For Weight Loss In 2023

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

With its perfect balance of taste, mixability, and health benefits, it’s no wonder why this is considered the world’s best-selling whey protein powder.

  • 24 grams of protein per serving
  • Gluten-free
  • Tested for banned substances
  • Doesn’t contain casein

Despite some negative reviews regarding the formula not suiting certain individuals, this product has garnered overall positive feedback. The powder’s taste has been widely praised, boasting a selection of over 20 delicious flavors. Additionally, the protein in the formula aids in building and preserving muscle, while also containing 5.5 grams of natural BCAAs that help support endurance and post-workout recovery. These benefits can make the weight loss process more manageable and even enjoyable.

Naked Whey

This whey protein powder goes far beyond the basic functions of a typical protein powder, all while using just one active ingredient.

  • No additives or artificial sweeteners
  • Free of soy, gluten, and GMOs
  • Various health benefits
  • Doesn’t mix as well 
  • Not much flavor

Regarding health benefits, this product does much more than help build and maintain lean muscle. The whey from grass-fed cows is advertised to help boost the immune system, aid in burning fat during exercise, and improve heart health. This is the most likely reason why there is almost a near-perfect average rating on the official website. However, it is rather mediocre in all other aspects; not only is it reported to not mix with water as well as other protein powders, but the super mild taste is also nothing to write home about.

Orgain Organic Protein

This brand of protein powders offers various flavors and ingredients, but it may be too many for consumers.

  • Variety of flavors available
  • Free of soy, gluten, and GMOs
  • Vegan/vegetarian friendly
  • Has various unnecessary filler ingredients
  • More expensive (per gram) than other protein powders

In terms of helping to build muscle, the 21 grams of protein in each serving from organic sources such as pea protein and chia seeds is effective enough to allow for maximal muscle protein synthesis. 

However, some reviewers have pointed out that this blend contains various filler ingredients –such as high oleic sunflower oil and rice dextrin– that are unnecessary for typical protein powders. The most notable of these unneeded ingredients is natural flavor, which has some toxicity concerns[3] as a flavoring agent. There also does not appear to be much of a focus on weight loss.

GNC Lean Shake Burn

With more of a focus on meal replacement, this formula helps achieve weight loss in a way that some of the other listed products don’t.  

  • Contains 23 vitamins and minerals
  • Provides an energy boost from caffeine
  • Proven to burn 3x more calories
  • May not taste good or sit well with some consumers
  • Some advertised health benefits not evaluated by the FDA

This protein powder’s thermogenic blend consists of various ingredients, such as 30 grams of whey protein isolate and six grams of fiber. Although you will have to replace one of your daily meals to be able to use this product properly, this meal replacer helps to burn calories while still allowing you to feel fuller for longer. By both limiting your dietary intake and helping to burn calories during exercise, this product allows an extra boost in weight loss when you need it. 

Elm & Rye Protein Supplement

The composition and effectiveness of this protein powder make it a restorative product that can help increase muscle mass while decreasing fat. 

  • Helps to build lean muscle and endurance
  • Contains nine essential amino acids
  • Made from 100% pasture-raised cows
  • Relatively expensive compared to other similar products
  • Non-vegan

This product’s mix of BCAAs, turmeric, collagen, mushroom complex powder, and even ashwagandha justifies it being deemed the “healthiest protein powder ever created by Discovery Science.” The 27 grams of protein in each serving can help to support muscle performance and recovery. It also focuses on the inclusion of essential amino acids that are typically found in protein-rich foods, which can help build proteins, hormones, and neurotransmitters that your body needs. In terms of taste, its three flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and cookies & cream) are also reported to be good.

What Are Protein Shakes For Weight Loss? 

Protein powders[4], which are used to make protein shakes, are dietary supplements that can be used to aid in muscle gain and maintenance when working out. While most are centered around building muscle mass, some can also be useful with weight loss while still increasing muscle mass. As such, these products are typically marketed for consumers that are physically active regularly, especially athletes.

Protein powders are made from protein[5] that can come from a variety of sources, from certain plants such as peas and soybeans to dairy products in the form of casein or whey. They can also contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), vitamins and minerals, and sugars or artificial flavoring in some cases.

Protein powders are also relatively simple to use: simply mix a certain amount of the formula (this amount varies between different brands and products) with water or milk.

Benefits Of Protein Shakes For Weight Loss

Aids in muscle growth

Although it is commonly believed that protein supplements can help build muscle mass, the actual explanation[6] behind it is not that simple. The increase in protein intake through protein shakes contributes to net protein balance and muscle protein synthesis; these are both needed to allow for muscle hypertrophy when combined with certain forms of exercise, such as resistance training. This allows for maximized lean muscle mass growth and function.

Promotes weight loss

Again, the explanation behind more protein helping you to lose weight is not as simple as just burning it off. Diets that are high in protein are scientifically proven to contribute to improvements[7] or modifications in energy metabolism, appetite, energy intake, and cardiometabolic risk factors. Evidence from multiple feeding studies appears to support this, as greater weight loss and decreased fat while preserving lean mass have been reported, among other things.

Some protein shakes are also designed as meal replacements, which can decrease your daily calorie intake and prevent your body from gaining excess weight. This can be considered a form of appetite control that can help in managing weight. 

Improves recovery post-exercise

This is especially crucial for people who partake in resistance exercise training. A normal diet does not provide enough protein to facilitate muscle damage that occurs during exercise.

Who Should Take Protein Shakes For Weight Loss?

While protein shakes can technically be used by anyone looking to lose weight, they are primarily designed for physically active individuals such as athletes. Protein shakes can help the body recover and restore after workouts, making them particularly beneficial for those who exercise frequently and intensely.

Moreover, protein shakes are recommended for individuals who do not consume enough protein in their daily diets to maintain muscle mass or support their metabolism. However, it is important to note that consuming too much protein, especially without exercising or reducing overall calorie intake, can actually impede weight loss efforts.

Therefore, it is crucial to use protein shakes in conjunction with a balanced diet and exercise routine that aligns with your weight loss goals. By incorporating protein shakes into a healthy lifestyle, you can potentially enhance your weight loss efforts and achieve better overall results.

How To Choose The Best Protein Shakes For Weight Loss?

When it comes to choosing the best protein powder for your needs, it is important to consider two key factors: the composition of the product and its intended health benefits.

In terms of composition, there are a range of protein powders available, with some being vegan-friendly and others not. Additionally, different protein powders use different sources of protein, with some being derived from dairy and others from plants. It is important to select a protein powder that aligns with your dietary preferences and requirements.

In terms of intended health benefits, different protein powders may have different effects on the body. For example, some protein powders are designed to support muscle growth and recovery after exercise, while others are formulated to aid weight loss by controlling appetite or boosting metabolism. Understanding your personal goals and choosing a protein powder that aligns with those goals is crucial for achieving optimal results.

By carefully considering both the composition and intended benefits of a protein powder, you can select the product that is best suited to your unique needs and goals.

What Are The Risks?

It is important to note that protein powder supplements lack FDA oversight, which means there is no way to verify if the supplement contains what the manufacturer claims. Additionally, there is limited data on the long-term effects of consuming high amounts of protein supplements. People with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance may experience digestive discomfort. Some protein powders may contain high amounts of added sugars and calories, which can contribute to weight gain and an unhealthy spike in blood sugar levels. The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 24 grams of added sugar for women and 36 grams for men.

Final Thoughts

In summary, protein shakes do not offer a quick-fix solution for weight loss. While they may have some benefits, they are not infallible and have their own set of drawbacks. Research suggests that protein powders may not always lead to noticeable weight loss, and in some cases, they may even be detrimental to one’s health.

That being said, protein shakes can still be a useful supplement for individuals who are following a balanced diet and exercise routine. With so many different types of protein powders available, it is possible to find one that suits your specific needs and goals. However, it is important to keep in mind that protein shakes should not be relied upon as the sole method of weight loss, and they should be consumed in moderation.

Ultimately, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight requires a holistic approach that includes regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and a balanced lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much protein should I consume daily? 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans[8], an average adult needs 46 to 56 grams of protein per day. However, the exact amount for any given individual depends on their current weight and overall health. Those who exercise regularly tend to need more protein than the average adult.

What is the difference between whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate?

Whey protein concentrate is the most commonly used form of whey protein and typically contains around 70-80% protein. It is produced by separating whey from milk and then removing some of the non-protein components, such as fat and lactose. This results in a powder that is rich in protein, but may also contain some carbohydrates and fat. Whey protein isolate, on the other hand, is a more refined form of whey protein that typically contains over 90% protein. It undergoes further processing to remove almost all of the fat, lactose, and other non-protein components. This results in a highly concentrated protein powder that is lower in calories, carbohydrates, and fat than whey protein concentrate.

What is net protein balance, and how does it work?

Net protein balance is defined as the difference between muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. A rise in synthesis (which can also be increased through resistance training) leads to anabolism, while a reduction in the breakdown can lead to catabolism.

When should I take protein shakes?

Generally, protein shakes can be taken at any time of the day, but it is especially helpful to enjoy one after a workout.

+ 8 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Can protein shakes help with weight loss? [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/protein-shakes/faq-20058335
  2. Samal, J.R.K. and Samal, I.R. (2017). Protein Supplements: Pros and Cons. Journal of Dietary Supplements, [online] 15(3), pp.365–371. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28937838/
  3. Nicole, W. (2013). Secret Ingredients: Who Knows What’s in Your Food? Environmental Health Perspectives, [online] 121(4). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3620743/
  4. Kårlund, A., Gómez-Gallego, C., Turpeinen, A.M., Palo-oja, O.-M., El-Nezami, H. and Kolehmainen, M. (2019). Protein Supplements and Their Relation with Nutrition, Microbiota Composition and Health: Is More Protein Always Better for Sportspeople? Nutrients, [online] 11(4), p.829. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521232/
  5. Harvard Health. (2018). The hidden dangers of protein powders – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-hidden-dangers-of-protein-powders#:~:text=What%20is%20protein%20powder%3F,thickeners%2C%20vitamins%2C%20and%20minerals.
  6. West, D., Abou Sawan, S., Mazzulla, M., Williamson, E. and Moore, D. (2017). Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients, [online] 9(7), p.735. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537849/ ‌
  7. Leidy, H.J., Clifton, P.M., Astrup, A., Wycherley, T.P., Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Luscombe-Marsh, N.D., Woods, S.C. and Mattes, R.D. (2015). The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 101(6), pp.1320S1329S. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25926512/
  8. Dietaryguidelines.gov. (2020). Home | Dietary Guidelines for Americans. [online] Available at: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine VanDoren, Nutritionist
Personal Trainer, Nutritionist, Health & Wellness Writer
Christine VanDoren created Edge of Longevity, an online personal training company, which helps people all over the world engage in a healthier lifestyle. After becoming an NSCA certified personal trainer and ACE nutritionist, she started spending her time training in the gym and online and creating content for Edge of Longevity, all of which is about how she has worked to better herself, and in turn, hopes to help others better themselves too. She believes the healthier one is, the happier one can be, and through Edge of Longevity, she hopes to spread that happiness to people in every country, every lifestyle, of every age and gender, and ethnicity. She warmly welcomes you to this community of people trying to make a change. In addition to sharing knowledge through her personal training and nutrition services, she enjoys writing articles and blog content over any health and wellness-related topic!

ABOUT MEDICAL REVIEWER

Elizabeth Gonzalez Cueto, MD
Medical Doctor & Medical Writer
My name is Elizabeth and I am a Medical Doctor (MBBS) with experience as a medical and research article writer, reviewer and proofreader. I have worked for the American Journal of Case Reports, the Medical Science Monitor, and Pacific Medical Training as a medical article reviewer and writer. Besides, I have worked as a medical interpreter and translator for Angel City research and SC3 Research group as a medical research assistant for several clinical trials. My academic background includes many international scientific environments like Oxford University, United Kingdom. Hannover Medical School, the University of Tours, France. the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico.
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