Protein drinks are sold in ready-to-use cans or bottles, so they are a convenient option for people who want to get more of this vital nutrient while on the go. These drinks are often marketed as meal replacements, weight-loss aids, energy boosters and endurance/recovery products for athletes.

ConsumerLab.com approves protein drinks based on their quality, value and taste. The products below also did not exceed contamination levels for such toxins as lead and cadmium.

Among the low-sugar protein drinks tested by ConsumerLab.com…

GNC Lean Shake 25
Price: $2.50 per bottle or $2 per 20 g of protein.

Why it’s a top pick: This skim milk–based drink, per its name, contains 25 g of protein, no measurable lactose and 3 g of fiber per bottle. Slightly thick with a pleasant milk-chocolate taste, it’s often used as a meal replacement for people trying to lose weight. This drink does have a significant sodium content (330 mg per bottle) but also boasts 500 mg of calcium and additional vitamins, providing 25% of the daily value for most key nutrients. The drink is gluten-free and has no trans fat and very little saturated fat.  


GNC Amplified Wheybolic 40
Price: $3.75 per bottle or $1.87 per 20 g of protein.

Why it’s a top pick: Containing even more protein at 40 g per bottle, this slightly thick drink also has a smooth chocolate flavor with mild non-sugar sweetness. As a whey protein isolate, it contains no measurable lactose. This drink shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement because it has very little fat—and you need some fat in your diet. The calorie content (190) is the same as the drink above, but this one has less sodium (190 mg). It carries significant calcium as well—800 mg per bottle. It is gluten-free.

Source: Tod Cooperman, MD, president, founder and editor in chief of ConsumerLab.com, a subscription-based website ($47.40 annually) that evaluates consumer products relating to health, wellness and nutrition. ConsumerLab.com recently completed an extensive product review of protein powders, shakes and drinks. For a complimentary, 24-hour pass to read this report, go to ConsumerLab.com/BottomLine.