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Protein Powder vs Protein Shake: Your Guide

by Mara Welty March 16, 2023 7 min read

 Man scooping protein powder


Whether you’re a life-long fitness buff or a newbie who’s ready to take your health and wellness to the next level, you know it all starts with nutrition. Achieving the right balance of lean protein, unprocessed carbs and healthy fats is key to unlocking your fitness goals—and adding a protein supplement can help get you there.

When it comes to protein powder vs protein shakes, the right fit for you depends on your fitness and wellness goals. 

Supplementing your diet with extra protein is a smart choice if you want to drop weight without losing muscle tone or if you’re looking to bulk up.

Protein powders may be a good option for those aiming to build lean muscle mass, while a protein shake can be the perfect choice for a quick, nutritious meal replacement if your priority is maintaining your ideal weight. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide which one is the best fit for you. 

Protein Powders vs Shakes: What’s the Difference?

If you need a convenient way to add protein to your diet, you may be wondering how to choose between the best protein powder and a protein shake for your wellness. It can get confusing, especially since some protein shakes come in powder form. Other protein shakes are sold ready to drink, but these often contain a lot of artificial ingredients.

Let’s explore protein powder vs shake. 

Protein Powder

Protein powder is exactly what it sounds like — a powder you add to other foods and beverages to boost protein content. It’s often used by bodybuilders and athletes to help build muscle mass, but it may also be beneficial for weight loss. 

Protein powders can be made from various sources of protein. Each of these sources has its own unique properties. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common protein sources you’ll have to choose from, along with their pros and cons:

  • Whey – Derived from milk, the whey protein isolate contains all the essential amino acids. For most people, it’s easily digested, quickly absorbed and ideal for post-workout recovery.
  • Casein – Another milk-derived protein, casein is absorbed more slowly, making it a good choice for a bedtime snack or a filling meal replacement.
  • Soy – Soy protein contains all essential amino acids and can help lower cholesterol. It may provide relief for some women during menopause, and it also provides sustainable weight loss support and building blocks for healthy bones.
  • Pea – Yep, the humble pea is secretly a protein-packed powerhouse. It’s easy to digest, hypoallergenic and budget-friendly.
  • Brown rice – Looking for a plant based protein option? Protein extracted from brown rice is a fantastic choice for vegetarians or those who need to avoid dairy products. Plus, it's gluten-free.
  • Hemp – Hemp protein is another plant protein option, and it packs a punch with its omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Egg – Protein from eggs is absorbed more slowly than many other forms of protein, making it helpful for keeping your protein levels steady throughout the day.

Keep in mind that some protein powders may contain added ingredients like sugar, artificial sweeteners and other additives which can be harmful to your health. Additionally, protein powder can be expensive, and the taste may not be to everyone's liking.

Protein Shakes

A protein shake is a drink made by blending protein powder with other ingredients like milk, yogurt or fruit. You can buy them ready to drink or make your own at home.

Protein superfood shakes are convenient and customizable, making it easy to increase your protein intake on-the-go. They can also be made with whole foods, such as Greek yogurt, which can be a more natural and healthy option. If you’re wondering, can a protein shake replace a meal?, it can! Just be sure to check the ingredient list to ensure your protein shake can serve as a meal replacement.

However, protein shakes can also be high in calories and sugar, especially if they're store-bought. Some brands can also contain added ingredients that you may not want to consume. 

To avoid these pitfalls, opt for protein shakes that are:

  • Low in sugar – How can you tell? It’s easy: Stay away from powders and shakes that list sugar in the first three ingredients.
  • Low in carbs – Aim for a max of 15 grams per serving.
  • Free of artificial ingredients – Some protein shakes, especially prepackaged options, are high in artificial ingredients and are less beneficial than consuming whole foods. 

Now that you know a little more about protein shakes, you may be asking, Can you drink protein shakes every day? Or, are protein shakes keto? Visit our blog to learn more. 

How Do Protein Powders and Protein Shakes Compare?

When comparing protein powder and protein shakes, it's important to consider the nutritional value, convenience, cost and taste:

  • Nutritional value – Both protein powder and protein shakes can provide a good source of protein. However, protein powder is often more concentrated and may contain more protein per serving than a protein shake. 
  • Convenience – If convenience is the name of the game, a ready-to-drink protein shake comes out on top. Carry one in your bag for an on-the-go snack whenever you need a quick energy boost.
  • Versatility – If you’re all about creating customized meal plans that hit your precise nutritional goals, you’ll want to use protein powder or a DIY protein shake. You can add it to any food or drink you can dream up. Longing for a tropical vacay? Whip up a coconut-pineapple shake to enjoy in the afternoon. Need more greens? Add your protein to a custom green drink.
  • Affordability – Protein shakes can be more expensive in the long run than protein powder, especially if you're buying them pre-made. Protein shakes made at home can be a more affordable option.
  • Taste – When it comes to flavor, protein powder may not be as palatable as protein shakes, but this can vary depending on the brand and flavor you choose.

Why Use a Protein Supplement?

Supplementing your diet with extra protein is a smart choice if you want to drop weight without losing muscle tone or if you’re looking to bulk up. Protein is an essential nutrient for many bodily functions, including:

  • Muscle growth and repair
  • Hormone production
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system

No matter the source, protein can help reduce muscle loss during weight loss and improve muscle strength: 

  • Research suggests that boosting carbohydrate and protein intake before a workout might reduce the breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise (also known as catabolism).
  • Increasing your carb and protein intake after resistance training might help keep your body in an anabolic state (the state when muscle mass is built and maintained).

However, you might find it difficult to get enough protein from their diet alone, especially if you want to add nutrients without weight gain. That’s where protein powders and shakes come in. These protein supplements can be a convenient and effective way to increase your intake without a lot of calories, complicated recipes or long grocery lists.

How Do I Choose a Protein Supplement?

So you’ve decided to add protein supplementation to your diet — good choice. Now, it's important to choose wisely. Here are four points to consider when buying protein powders and shakes:

  • Quality of protein source – Not all protein sources are created equal. Some protein powders and shakes are made with low-quality protein sources, which may not be as easily absorbed by the body. Look for high-quality sources of protein, such as whey, casein or egg white protein. Be sure milk-derived protein comes from antibiotic-free and hormone-free sources, like INVIGOR8’s grass-fed whey.
  • Added ingredients – Some protein powders and shakes contain added ingredients that you may not want to consume, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives or fillers. Check the ingredient list and avoid any products that contain unnecessary additives.
  • Taste and texture – Some protein powders and shakes can have an unpleasant taste or texture, which can make it difficult to stick to a supplement routine. Look for products that are palatable and easy to mix with your preferred liquid.
  • Cost and serving size – Protein powders and shakes can be expensive, so take a look at the cost per serving. Be sure to check the serving size to ensure you're getting enough protein per serving. At least 20 grams of protein per serving is best for long-lasting energy.

And remember, consulting with a healthcare professional before taking any new protein supplements is never a bad idea. 

How to Get the Most Bang For Your Buck From Your Protein

To make sure your protein supplement is as effective as possible, here are some tips on how and when to use it:

  • For maintaining or reaching a healthy body weight – Try incorporating protein in small portions throughout the day to help keep you feeling full. Not sure how much protein is the right amount for you? Aim for at least 3 ounces or 20 grams of protein per meal for a good starting point.
  • For muscle building – For optimal post-workout recovery, research shows that it’s best to consume a protein source within one hour of finishing your exercise.

Shake Up Your Nutritional Goals With INVIGOR8

When you’re ready to step up your healthy-eating game, try different types of protein powders and shakes to find what works best for you. Keep in mind that adding protein shakes to your diet shouldn’tmean adding excess sugar, artificial sweeteners and other questionable additives. Look for options that:

  • Are nutrient-dense without being calorie-packed
  • Offer at least 20 grams of protein per serving to curb hunger longer

At INVIGOR8, we make sure all of our protein shakes are delicious, nutritious and ready to help you build muscle, reduce recovery time and hit your body weight and nutrition goals. Our shakes are made with natural protein powder ingredientsand contain no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, so you can drink up and feel your best. 


Cleveland Clinic. How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for You.

Metabolism. The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength.

SF GateDifference Between Protein Shakes and Supplements

Sports Medicine. Dietary Supplements and the Promotion of Muscle Growth with Resistance Exercise

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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