The calorie content of protein shakes varies greatly depending on what type you buy. Mass gain shakes, targeted at those looking to gain weight, can often top 500 calories per serving. Lower-calorie protein shakes are also available, designed for people looking to lose weight or simply bump up their protein intake without increasing calorie intake too much.
Counting the Calories
A typical serving of protein powder usually contains between 20 and 25 grams of protein. Protein has 4 calories per gram, meaning that your average protein shake has between 80 and 100 calories.The main types of protein powder are whey, casein, soy and egg. All of these have roughly the same nutritional profile, but you do need to check the packaging for the exact calorie content.
Looking for Additions
While one scoop of protein powder will take you almost to your 100-calorie limit, there's no reason why you can't have a half serving, but throw in a few extras. A half serving will leave you with 50 to 60 calories to spare for other ingredients. Dietitian Tami Broderick suggests using a flavored liquid such as milk or almond milk instead of plain water, perhaps some fruit or oats for an extra carbohydrate boost, a small serving of healthy fats like nut butter or hemp seeds, or green veggies such as spinach or kale.
You could attempt to make a 100-calorie shake without protein powder. The only issue with this, however, is that the protein content will be lower than when using protein powder, as powder is a concentrated source. Two-thirds cup of skim milk, blended with 1/2 cup of raspberries, for instance, would provide around 90 calories, but only 7 grams of protein. Even 100 calories' worth of skim milk on its own only contains 10 grams of protein.
Fitting Shakes Into Your Plan
A 100-calorie protein shake works well as a snack between meals. Just 100 calories on its own is not enough to constitute a meal, and protein shakes should not be used as a replacement for whole foods. Sedentary people need around 13 calories per pound of body weight per day to maintain their weight, while active and highly active people need 16 and 18 calories per pound, respectively. You'll need slightly more than this to gain weight and slightly less to lose weight. Work out your individual calorie needs, then fit one or two shakes per day into your plan, consuming the rest of your calories at nutrient-dense, whole-food meals.
- Sports Dietitians Australia: Fact Sheet: Protein and Amino Acid Supplementation
- Healthy Fit Nutrition: Building the Perfect Protein Shake
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Milk, Nonfat, Fluid, With Added Vitamin A and Vitamin D (Fat Free or Skim)
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Raspberries, Raw
- The Harvard Medical School: Good Nutrition: Should Guidelines Differ for Men and Women?