Muscle Milk Protein Powder Review

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

This in-depth Muscle Milk protein powder review covers the ingredients, Nutrition Facts, and much, much more. Find out whether or not Muscle Milk protein powder is right for you.

muscle milk protein powder

An in-depth review of Muscle Milk protein powder. 

Muscle Milk protein powder Nutrition Facts. 

Muscle Milk protein powder ingredients.

Muscle Milk protein powder taste and texture.

Muscle Milk vs drink wholesome. 

Muscle Milk protein powder Nutrition Facts. 

1 serving of Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder contains 280 calories, 9 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrates, and 32 grams of protein. Compared to the average protein powder, this is a high calorie, high fat, high carbohydrate, high protein option. Honestly, the Nutrition Facts look more like those of a mass gainer than those of a protein powder. Protein powders tend to be high in protein and low in everything else, whereas mass gainers tend to have more fats, carbs, etc. When I first saw this, I could not help but wonder where the extra fats and carbs come from. To find out, I had to look at the ingredients list.

Muscle Milk protein powder ingredients.

milk protein concentrate

The first ingredient and main source of protein in a Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder is milk protein concentrate, a dairy product. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no official, legal definition for a milk protein concentrate. That said, it is generally understood to be any product made by removing the non-protein components of milk, thereby concentrating the protein components to higher levels. If you are familiar with protein supplements, you will know that many are made with milk protein (whey) isolates. The main difference between an isolate and a concentrate is that a concentrate has less protein and more carbs (lactose) and fat per serving. This explains why Muscle Milk has so many calories, fats, and carbs.

milk protein isolate

The second ingredient in Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder is milk protein isolate. Ingredients are listed in terms of descending weight, so we know that there is more milk protein concentrate than milk protein isolate in Muscle Milk. This is common for budget protein powders, which Muscle Milk is, because protein concentrates are much cheaper to make than protein isolates as they require less processing. Although this may be a good thing for your wallet, it is not a good thing for your digestion.

Because they contain lactose (the sugar in dairy), milk protein concentrates are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body does not make enough lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. It is estimated that roughly two thirds of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance, which makes sense because humans no longer “need” the ability to digest milk after breastfeeding. Common symptoms include bloating, gas, and diarrhea. 

Just because milk protein isolates contain less lactose does not mean that they are good for your gut, however. I will not go into the details, but protein isolates undergo heavy mechanical and sometimes chemical processing. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food, which is a huge problem because the less an ingredient looks like food, the harder it is to digest. 

muscle milk protein powder ingredients


The third ingredient in Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder is Isomalto-Oligosaccharides, or IMO for short. IMO is a high-maltose syrup made up of a mixture of short-chain carbohydrates. It is marketed as a sweet, non-caloric prebiotic fiber that has virtually zero effect on blood sugar. Although IMO occurs naturally in some whole foods, it is not economically feasible to extract it from whole foods on a commercial scale, so almost all IMO syrups are manufactured from corn starch using an enzymatic process. This means that IMO, like protein isolates, looks nothing like real food. For this reason, our bodies do not know what to do with it, and it causes digestive issues. This is especially the case for people with gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). If you have a sensitive stomach, or trouble digesting FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols), IMO may cause terrible gas and bloating.

food additives

Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder contains over half dozen food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are hard to digest and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon) and can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

Here are the food additives in Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder:

Calcium Caseinate, Maltodextrin, Maltodextrin, Sodium Caseinate, Canola Oil, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide

artificial sweeteners

All Muscle Milk products are sweetened with artificial sweeteners, which are among the most harmful additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!

Here are the artificial sweeteners in Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder:

Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose

When it comes to identifying food additives and artificial sweeteners, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. 

Muscle Milk protein powder taste and texture.

Taste is so subjective that I hesitate to include it in this Muscle Milk protein powder review. A protein powder that one person loves might make another person gag, so if you read product reviews on Amazon, you will find both 5 star reviews and 1 star reviews of the same exact recipe. For the sake of this Muscle Milk protein powder review, however, I will share my thoughts on how Muscle Milk tastes and mixes.

Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème protein powder tastes pretty good, if you can tolerate artificial sweeteners. Because it contains so much fat and carbohydrates, it does not taste chalky like many protein supplements. It also mixes well with both milk and water (no clumps or grit). The only thing I really did not like was the aftertaste. As you just learned, Muscle Milk contains 2 artificial sweeteners (acesulfame potassium and sucralose), which, like most artificial sweeteners, activate bitter taste receptors. This bitterness lingered in my mouth for a few hours after drinking my shake. 

Muscle Milk vs drink wholesome

Muscle Milk is one of the most heavily-processed, artificial protein powders out there. If you are looking to boost your protein intake at whatever cost, then Muscle Milk is a decent option. It is affordable, widely available, and tastes pretty good. If you care at all about your gut and overall health, however, then I highly recommend finding an alternative. Muscle Milk is notorious for causing side effects, and can most certainly lead to long-term damage to your gut microbiome. 

The “gut,” also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) system, is made up of several organs including the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and colon. The term “gut microbiome” refers to the microorganisms living in your intestines, and the term “gut health” describes the function and balance of these organisms. The gut does much more than just help us to digest food. It also protects against pathogens, educates the immune system, and affects directly or indirectly most of our physiologic functions.

Several recent studies have examined the role of the gut in diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of a variety of diseases, and have concluded that it plays an integral role in overall health. Given the important role that your gut plays, you should consider the ways in which the foods you eat affect it. You should also consider the potentially enormous impact that protein powder can have on your gut microbiome. Protein powder is not just any food, it is a food that you probably consume regularly, if not daily. 

This is the point in the article where I shamelessly pitch my own protein powder company, not because I just want to sell you something, but because it is a healthy alternative to Muscle Milk. Hi! My name is Jack, and I am the founder of drink wholesome. A few years ago, I was sick and tired of protein supplements that upset my stomach, so I made my own with simple, real food ingredients.

Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, I use egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are a gut-friendly, natural alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. Moreover, unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, and naturally alkaline. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. If you cannot eat eggs, our almond protein powder is easy to digest too, and a great option for vegans.

Muscle Milk’s ingredients:

Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Isolate, Isomalto-Oligosaccharides (Soluble Vegetable Powder), Calcium Caseinate, Non Dairy Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Maltodextrin, Sodium Caseinate (Milk Derivative], Mono- and Diglycerides, Tocopherols), Maltodextrin, Sodium Caseinate, Canola Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Organic Oat Fiber, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Calcium Phosphate, Less than 1% of: Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Ascorbic Acid, Lactoferrin, Cholecalciferol, Vitamin A Palmitate.


easy to digest

“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse

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drink wholesome is a healthy alternative to Muscle Milk.

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.