How many calories are in a protein shake?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

How many calories are in a protein shake? The number of calories in your protein shake depends on a number of factors. Keep reading to learn more.

Calorie content varies from shake to shake. 

What is a calorie? 

What is a protein shake?

How many calories are in a protein shake?

Why drink wholesome?

What is a calorie? 

A calorie is a unit of measurement used to indicate the amount of energy in a particular food. Understanding the calorie content of foods can be helpful for managing weight and maintaining a balanced diet.

What is a protein shake?

A protein shake is a dietary supplement designed to help increase daily protein intake. It comes in two forms: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and homemade protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make a protein shake at home, you have to mix protein powder with milk or water, which requires a blender or a shaker bottle. Some people prefer ready-to-drink protein shakes because they do not require any extra work, but they are sacrificing health for convenience.

Ready-to-drink protein shakes contain emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these are needed to make a shelf-stable product, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This, in turn, can play a role in the development of a number of chronic diseases

This is why I highly recommend that you make your own protein shakes with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes! More about this later. 

How many calories are in a protein shake?

The number of calories in a protein shake varies from brand to brand and depends on several factors, including the type of protein, the serving size, and the added ingredients. Most protein shakes range from 100 to 300 calories per serving.

If you are using a ready-to-drink protein shake, the calorie content is listed on the Nutrition or Supplement Facts. As long as you do not mix your protein shake with anything else, you will know exactly how many calories you are drinking.

If you are making a protein shake with protein powder, the calorie content will depend on the calorie content of the protein powder itself, how much protein powder you use, and what you mix the protein powder with. If you read the Nutrition or Supplement Facts, use the recommended serving size, and mix your protein powder with only water, you will know exactly how many calories you are drinking. If you adjust the serving size, or use ingredients like milk, frozen fruit, or nut butter, the calorie content can vary considerably.

Keep in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows for a 20% margin of error on Nutrition Labels. This means that there could be 20% more or fewer calories in your protein supplement than what is listed. A protein shake with 200 calories could therefore contain as few as 160 calories, or as many as 240 calories.

It is also important to acknowledge that scoops, especially heaping scoops, are not an accurate measure of serving size. The amount of protein powder in a scoop can vary considerably depending on how densely the powder is packed, so for an accurate serving size, you must weigh your protein powder using a kitchen scale. The serving size is always listed in grams (g) on the Nutrition or Supplement Facts panel.

Given all of the variables that can affect calorie content, it is not something worse stressing over. If you are looking to make a protein shake with the fewest number of calories, find a protein powder with a short list of ingredients and mix it with only water. On the contrary, if you want a high calorie protein shake, blend protein powder with ingredients like milk, banana, and peanut butter.

Why drink wholesome

drink wholesome is additive-free.

As you just learned, many protein supplements contain added ingredients that not only add empty calories to your diet, but that also cause side effects and long term but damage. One of the reasons why we we make the best protein powder is that we do not use food additives.

While consuming small amounts of food additives may not pose immediate harm, they can add up quickly (especially if you drink a daily protein shake), and cause various gastrointestinal (GI) side effects such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This occurs because t food additives are not easily digested and tend to linger in your digestive system longer than food should, granting your gut bacteria more time to eat.

As these bacteria munch, they generate gas, leading to bloating and abdominal discomfort. Furthermore, excessive gas can impede colonic transit, potentially causing constipation. Over time, the consumption of food additives can also disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which may contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other systemic inflammatory disorders.

It is particularly important to steer clear of artificial sweeteners. These additives rank among the most detrimental for your gut health as they can disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microbiota. This can result in severe and persistent gastrointestinal complications and widespread inflammation. It is worth noting that certain sweeteners, particularly sugar alcohols like xylitol, are poorly absorbed the gut, feeding your hungry gut bacteria and even causing diarrhea. Now, you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

As you can clearly see, drink wholesome is a simple alternative to the average protein powder. The calories in our protein powders come from real foods, not added junk. Plus, the calorie content ranges from 90 to 170 per serving depending on the flavor, so there is an option for every diet.


easy to digest

“I am a recently diagnosed Ulcerative Colitis mom of 3, and these powders have literally saved my life. On the days I cannot actually eat anything, I drink these as my means and it helps me retain calories and nutrition, AND they taste phenomenal!” – Sara

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Our unflavored protein powder has only 90 calories per serving.

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.