Diabetic Protein Shakes
Navigating a diabetic-friendly diet can often feel like walking through a nutritional maze, but finding the right protein shake shouldn't be a confusing journey.
I've put together a list of the 6 best protein shakes for diabetics based on first hand testing and research.
Whether you're on the hunt for a low-carb or keto option, these shakes and supplements can provide a quality protein source that won't send your blood sugar into oblivion.
First a quick note: this website is reader-supported. I spend a lot of time personally evaluating, testing and reviewing each product on this list. When you buy through links on our site, I may earn an affiliate commission.
The Best Protein Shakes for Diabetics
Best for Gut Health
Best Ready to Drink Protein
1. Best Overall: Now Sports Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder
If you're diabetic, consider Now Sports Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder. It's bioavailable, easily digested, and suits people looking for a no frills, complete protein source.
The protein powder is derived from the milk of pasture-raised, grass-fed cows, ensuring a natural and high-quality source. It stands out for being free of synthetic hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, emphasizing its commitment to purity and health.
Each serving, equivalent to one scoop, provides 110 calories. The nutritional breakdown includes:
- 25g of protein
- 0g of carbs
- 0g fat
Ingredients: Whey Protein Isolate, Sunflower Lecithin.
The big benefit in my mind is the 3rd party testing that NOW sports uses with the Informed Sport program. They test each batch to make sure it is free from banned substances or nasty performance enhancing drugs that are bad for your heart health.
The high-quality protein source ensures that users are getting the best nutrition possible. Its formulation is particularly beneficial for diabetics, ensuring minimal spikes in blood sugar levels.
There's three simple flavors: chocolate, vanilla and unflavored. I often use the vanilla because it is neutral and can be mixed with just about anything. The unflavored provides a nice blank canvas to which you can add things.
It's reasonably priced, offering a great value for the quality.
2. Best for Gut Health: Bluebird Provisions Chicken Bone Broth Powder
Bluebird Provisions' Chicken Bone Broth Powder is easily digestible and has 3 grams of glycine, which is shown to decrease blood sugar responses to carb heavy meals for those with diabetes (1).
The powder option boasts the same health benefits as liquid bone broth, making it a convenient choice if you are on the move. It also has 11 grams of collagen protein per serving, which can help reduce digestive issues, promote glowing skin and alleviate joint discomfort.
I love that Bluebird Provisions is non-gmo and is free from gums, fillers and artificial flavors. In a world full of processed foods, this is a breath of fresh air.
The broth powder also has hydrating electrolytes like potassium (300 mg), magnesium, phosphorous and chloride, which can be particularly beneficial for diabetics who often need to monitor their electrolyte balance.
Ingredients: Water, pasture raised chicken bones.
I noticed improved digestion, better sleep and noticeable benefits in skin, hair and joint health after starting using this bone broth last year.
The ingredient list is straightforward and I appreciate that the brand uses environmentally friendly packaging that is 100% recyclable.
3. Best Collagen: Ancient Nutrition Multi-Collagen Protein
Ancient Nutrition is a popular collagen protein that uses collagen types I, II, III, V and X from 4 food sources (Beef, Chicken, Fish and Eggshell Membrane).
If you are looking for a collagen protein shake, look no further. They also add in crucial vitamin C to help with absorption and probiotics for gut health.
Another advantage is its versatility; it mixes seamlessly with a range of foods, allowing you to incorporate it into your favorite meals and drinks. With a serving size of 2 scoops, which equates to 20g, you're getting a substantial 18g of protein, ensuring you're fueling your body with the right amount of protein it needs.
Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Bovine Hide Collagen Peptides, Chicken Bone Broth Collagen Concentrate, Hydrolyzed Fish Collagen Peptides, Eggshell Membrane Collagen, Natural vanilla flavor, stevia (leaf) extract. Contains: Haddock, Cod, Pollock, Egg
Its zero sugar and zero carbs content make it a top choice for diabetics. The only thing to keep mind of is the natural flavors and stevia. Some people like these flavors while some do not. I found the vanilla flavor to be a bit on the bland side, but that makes it easy to mix.
I'll mention that they do have an unflavored version, which means you can add nutrition to your meals without altering their taste, ensuring you get the best of both worlds.
This product is a bit more pricey than some other collagen products, but the quality is fantastic.
Lastly, keep in mind that its diverse animal sources might not align with everyone's dietary preferences.
4. Best Ready-to-Drink: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Protein Shake
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is a top-notch choice for diabetics, who can handle dairy proteins. It's cost-effective and offers support for optimum muscle recovery and overall health.
I like that it has high-quality protein from whey and milk, providing a whopping 24g per scoop. This ensures that you're getting a substantial amount of protein with every serving.
It's also commendable for its low content of sugar, fat and carbs, making it a balanced choice if you're diabetic. Furthermore, it's enriched with 5.5g of BCAAs and 4g of glutamine, nutrients that are essential for muscle recovery and overall health.
Ingredients: Water, milk protein isolate, milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate, cocoa, sunflower oil, natural flavors, cellulose gel and gum, vitamins and minerals blend, potassium phosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, heavy cream, salt, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, carrageenan.
When it comes to pricing, the Gold Standard Protein Shake is affordably priced compared to others. The ready-to-drink nature gives it a convenient spin on other protein shakes on the market. I just take them with me when I'm on the go.
Another delightful feature is the variety of flavors it offers, catering to diverse taste preferences. I'm a big chocolate guy, but they also have vanilla!
Some people find certain flavors to be overpowering and overly sweet compared to other brands. Lastly, it's worth noting that the product contains artificial sweeteners, which might be a concern for some.
It is well priced and if you can handle dairy, it is a great option.
5. Garden of Life - Tasty Organic Chocolate Meal Replacement Shake Vegan
If you're vegetarian and a diabetic, your search is over. The Garden of Life Shake is clearly your top pick, I will explain why.
Not only does it strike an impeccable balance nutritionally, especially for diabetics with its low sugar content (0 g sugar), but it also offers 20g of plant-based protein. This is sourced from diverse sources (pea, brown rice, quinoa, chia) to make sure you get a bull and balanced amino acid profile.
You'll appreciate this comprehensive nutrient profile with added superfoods, antioxidants and probiotics to heal your gut and keep your digestion on point.
I find that the extra nutrients delay digestion, which can reduce blood sugar spikes compared to other products. Plus, the flavor options – unflavored, vanilla, and chocolate – mean I never get bored.
But what really stands out to me is the 3rd party testing and verification with the NSF certification. This means that they test every batch to ensure the ingredients on the list are actually in the product in the correct ratios. Most people don't know how big of a deal this is. But trust me, it is huge.
Ingredients: Organic Sprouted Protein Blend: Organic Pea Protein, Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein, Organic Amaranth (sprout), Organic Buckwheat (sprout), Organic Millet (pearl & sprout), Organic Quinoa (sprout), Organic Chia Seed (sprout), Organic Adzuki Bean (sprout), Organic Flax Seed (sprout), Organic Garbanzo Bean (sprout), Organic Lentil (sprout), Organic Pumpkin Seed (sprout), Organic Sesame Seed (sprout), Organic Sunflower Seed (sprout), Organic Flavor Blend: Organic Chocolate Flavor with Other Organic Natural Flavors, Organic Cocoa, Organic Erythritol, Sea Salt, Organic Stevia Extract (leaf), Organic Fiber Blend: Organic Tapioca Fiber, Organic Flax Meal, Organic Guar Gum, Organic Fruit & Vegetable Blend: Organic Spinach (leaf), Organic Baobab (fruit), Organic Apple (fruit), Organic Beet (root), Organic Broccoli (stalk & flower), Organic Carrot (root), Organic Tomato (fruit), Organic Green Bell Pepper (fruit), Organic Brussels Sprout (leaf), Organic Ginger (root), Organic Garlic (bulb), Organic Onion (bulb), Organic Strawberry (fruit), Organic Cherry (fruit), Organic Parsley (leaf), Organic Cauliflower (flower & stem), Organic Blackberry (fruit), Organic Cabbage (leaf), Organic Blueberry (fruit), Organic Raspberry (fruit), Organic Kale (leaf), Organic Cucumber (gourd), Organic Celery (stalk), Organic Asparagus (flower & stem), Organic Greens Blend: Organic Alfalfa Grass Juice, Organic Spirulina, Organic Barley Grass Juice, Organic Oat Grass Juice, Organic Wheat Grass Juice, Whole Food Vitamin & Mineral Blend: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacin, Zinc, Pantothenic Acid, Folate, Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Biotin, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (as Methylcobalamin), Vitamin K, Chromium, Probiotic & Enzyme Blend: Lipase, Protease, Aspergillopepsin, beta-Glucanase, Cellulase, Bromelain, Phytase, Lactase, Papain, Peptidase, Pectinase, Hemicellulase, Xylanase, Bacillus subtilis DE111®
The nutrient-rich ingredients, including greens and veggies, provide a holistic nutritional profile, making it more than just a protein shake.
The choice of protein sources, being plant-based, might not be preferred by all, especially those used to whey or animal-based proteins. Some people get some bloating or have difficulty eating when they take plant based protein. I notice that myself sometimes as if it really slows my digestion.
Some people find it to taste a bit on the sweet side. But it goes great when blended in my morning smoothie (vanilla).
6. Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein Powder
One of my close friends, who often struggles with digesting most protein supplements, raves about the Quest Nutrition Vanilla. She told me it's become her go-to among protein shakes for diabetics and I can see why.
Its harmonious blend of protein with minimal sugar helps maintain steady blood glucose levels, a vital factor for anyone managing diabetes. With a hefty 24g of protein content in each scoop, it promises a substantial protein boost with every drink.
And for those keeping tabs on their sugar intake? You'll be pleased to know it contains a mere 1g per serving, showcasing Quest's commitment to diabetics' health.
What she particularly appreciated, and what caught my attention, was its unique blend of 60% whey isolate and 40% casein. This blend gives you the fast acting whey combined with the slow absorption of casein. This means you'll get protein when you need it throughout the day.
Knowing how much she struggles with protein digestion and seeing her thrive with this choice, it's definitely worth trying. Let's look at the ingredients.
Ingredients: PROTEIN BLEND (WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, MICELLAR CASEIN), NATURAL FLAVORS, SILICON DIOXIDE, LECITHIN (SUNFLOWER, CANOLA, AND/OR SOY LECITHIN), CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, SEA SALT, SUCRALOSE, STEVIA SWEETENER.
The first thing I noticed after trying it myself is that there is not an aftertaste and the shake is smooth and delicious when mixed with oatmilk. One tip is that you might need to add more water than usual.
Lastly, it's worth noting that the product contains soy, which might be a concern for those with allergies. It comes in a bit pricier than some other options, but you get what you pay for.
7. Muscle Milk Pro Advanced Nutrition Protein Shake
Three big things stick out when I look at Muscle Milk Pro Advanced Nutrition Protein Shake:
- There's a ton of protein with 32 grams per serving.
- People rave about the taste.
- Extra vitamins and minerals.
In terms of protein, Muscle Milk uses milk protein and casein, two high quality proteins that are great for building muscle but also preventing muscle loss as you age.
Additionally, it's enriched with 20 vitamins and minerals, providing a holistic nutritional profile.
Ingredients: Water, milk protein isolate, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, cocoa, soluble corn fiber, natural and artificial flavor, high oleic sunflower oil, cellulose gel, inulin, tripotassium phosphate, potassium chloride, potassium phosphate, sodium polyphosphates, cellulose gum, sucralose, carrageenan, acesulfame potassium, salt, ascorbic acid, sodium citrate, ferric pyrophosphate, calcium phosphate, vitamin E acetate, niacinamide, zinc oxide, copper gluconate, caldium pantothenate, vitamin A, vitamin B6, D3, vitamin B1, riboflavin, folic acid, potassium iodide, biotin, vitamin B12.
I should note that this is a ready-to-drink product and it has 9 gams of carbs per bottle. But 5 grams are fiber and only 1 gram of sugar.
Some people will need to try it to see if it spikes their blood sugar. It does not spike mine when I tested it. When it comes to pricing, the shake offers good value.
I found the taste to be fantastic, not chalky (no aftertaste either) like other brands. But they do add a few ingredients to make it taste so good. So if you are looking for a 100% natural product, this might not be the best fit.
Also, the flavor variety is somewhat limited (chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream), which might be a concern if you like to switch things up regularly.
The Benefits of Protein Drinks for Diabetics
The benefits of protein drinks for diabetics are blood glucose control, improves muscle strength, helps maintain bodyweight, can reduce hunger, vitamins and minerals and potential digestive health benefits.
I'll go through each of these in more detail below.
1. Can Help Control Blood Glucose Levels
Protein shakes can help regulate your blood glucose levels because protein delays the absorption of carbohydrates, which can reduce blood sugar spikes.
The interesting thing is that whey protein in particular is great for stimulating insulin secretion, making it an ally for those trying to manage their blood glucose (2).
So if you are looking to help your body release more insulin, a whey protein based drink might be a good choice (see above for some examples).
2. Improve Muscle Strength and Recovery
Managing diabetes goes beyond just controlling your sugar intake; maintaining muscle strength and recovery plays a big part too. If you have more lean muscle, your body will be naturally able to handle more glucose in the muscle. So your blood sugar does not necessarily spike as high (3).
And a good way to optimize muscle building by lifting weights combined with a post workout recovery shake that is high in protein. Aim for at least 20 grams within that crucial 1 hour post-workout window for best results.
Selecting a high-quality protein powder with a complete amino acid profile and BCAA's will give you the most bang for your nutrition buck from a muscle building perspective.
3. Help Maintain a Healthy Weight
Protein shakes aren’t just nutritious but also champions of satiety and promoting fullness. They skillfully ward off those pesky hunger pangs, making overeating a story of the past.
And if you’re someone always on the move, their convenience and portability ensure that you never have to compromise on balanced nutrition, even on your busiest days.
I find that protein shakes control my appetite like no other. So much so that I find that I can't quite eat as much as I need to throughout the rest of the day. I am a runner, so this gets me in trouble at times.
But if you are trying to stay fuller, longer, a high protein shake is a good option.
4. Can Reduce Cravings and Hunger
Dealing with diabetes often brings its own set of challenges, one of which is battling those relentless cravings. Here's the good news: protein shakes might just be the secret weapon you've been looking for.
It's not just about adding protein, but more about the hormonal response they can trigger. Higher protein intake has this uncanny ability to ramp up fullness hormones. This can keep the hunger hormones at bay longer (4).
5. Provide Important Nutrients and Minerals
Many protein shakes have added vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, vitamin C, A, E, etc) that complement a whole foods diet. These things can do wonders for your digestion and gut health. Some of them even have probiotics and digestive enzymes to help your digestion.
Just do me a favor and make sure to pick protein shakes packed with well-rounded nutrients and low on carbs and sugars. Read the labels, be a smart consumer!
6. Help Improve Digestion and Overall Health
Protein shakes that use specific types of protein like bone broth and collagen can ease digestion. That is because bone broth protein is rich in amino acids like glycine and glutamine.
- Glycine helps to build new connective tissue if your gut lining so that you can digest food properly without bloating or heartburn.
- Glutamine also helps to build proper gut health.
Contrary to popular belief, protein is really important for digestion and gut health. It fuels the microbiome with bacteria they need to thrive and help you digest food.
What to Look for in Protein Shakes for Diabetics
The main things to look for are protein content, taste, nutritional benefits, carb content, mixability, cost and reviews. Lets go through each of these individually.
1. Quality and Protein Content
If you are living with diabetes, picking a top-quality protein shake with the right protein content in incredibly important. Here are a few things to look for, because many brands try to deceive you.
- Protein Ratio: You really want a product that is over 85% protein. Anything less might be full of carbs or filler ingredients that send your blood sugar into oblivion. The find out the protein percentage, divide the grams of protein per serving by the total weight per serving. So if the total weight per serving is 25 grams, then look for a product with at least 21.5 grams (21.5/25=.86).
- Complete Protein: You want to make sure your shake has a complete protein source (meaning it ha all essential amino acids) if you are not getting lots of other protein throughout your meals. If you are already a good protein eater, then this is not as important. Examples of protein shakes that are not complete protein sources are collagen or bone broth based shakes. Most other sources from big brands will be complete.
- Protein Source: This is more about allergies and dietary preferences. I am allergic to dairy, so milk protein, whey and casein are usually not good options because they make me gassy. You might have to do some trial and error to see what works best for you.
2. Taste and Flavor
It goes without saying that taste is paramount. I've had too many chalky and gross protein shakes over the years. No more. Luckily, brands are getting much better at developing delicious flavor profiles.
The obvious cost of a good flavor is the ingredients they add to make it taste that way. Some add sugar while some use artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes like stevia, natural flavors, erythritol or monkfruit.
There are flavors for just about everything from cookies and cream to peanut butter and everything in between. Consider the tradeoff between taste and ingredient quality and make a decision that makes sense for you.
These artificial sweeteners are not a panacea. They have issues and are relatively new, meaning that we do not know the long-term effects. Even if it comes from a plant or herb.
3. Macronutrients: Protein and Carbs Nutrition and Benefits
As you're reading those nutrition labels, give a special focus to carbs and protein. Many brands like to focus on net carbs (total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols). But this sometimes gets you into the trouble and misses the point. Fiber sources (in protein shakes) and sugar alcohols are going to mess with your gut health and make you bloated.
From a practical perspective, you want to look for a product that meets the following criteria:
- Less than 5 grams of carbs per serving
- Less than 2 grams of sugar per serving
- At least 12 grams of protein per serving
It's essential to keep an eye on calories and carbs when choosing protein shakes if you're tackling diabetes. You see, excessive calories and carbs can play havoc with your blood sugar levels.
Now, beyond the granular details, think of the larger benefits. The beauty of protein shakes lies in their unmatched convenience, ready to be consumed on the go.
4. Mixability and Consistency
Mixability and consistency are vitally important. Quick and even mixing makes your shake routine hassle-free and a smooth texture improves the overall drinking experience.
Some protein powders don't mix well, leaving clumps that can be off-putting. The best protein powders blend effortlessly and provide a creamier texture. You should not have to blend or make a smoothie for a protein powder to mix properly.
That being said, it is always a good idea to check recent reviews. More on that below.
3rd party reviews from websites like Amazon or Walmart are the gold standard for seeing what real people think about a product. You cannot trust reviews solely from a brand's website, because those can be manipulated.
Heck, even Amazon reviews can be manipulated, but at least you can parse through the sketchy ones to get clear picture of what a product tastes like.
So, what do you look for?
- Filter reviews to the most recent because supplements vary from batch to batch and these brands change their ingredients and formula often. You want to see what others think of the latest batch.
- Look for detailed reviews that are more than one sentence.
- Avoid reviews that are 5 words or less. These are likely spam or paid reviews.
- Check the Q and A section on Amazon for specific questions or concerns you may have. I often check ingredients, sourcing or certifications in this section because other people have already asked for these things.
7. Budget and Cost
Budget and cost are key considerations in your pursuit for the perfect protein shake for diabetics. Striking the right balance between product price, taste / texture and nutritional value can be difficult.
As you sift through your options, start by diving into the nitty-gritty: price per serving. This is achieved by dividing the shake's price by the number of servings it promises.
Now you can check the package size and overall overall cost of the product. I typically buy the smallest container possible when trying a new brand incase I do not like it.
Do a quick assessment: when you scan the nutrition label, does the cost seem justified by the powerhouse of nutrients it offers?
Finally, check for taxes and shipping fees. Although, these should be free with Amazon prime.
What is the best protein shake drink for diabetics?
The best protein shake for diabetics is the Now Sports Whey Protein Powder. It is low in sugar with no carbs to keep your blood sugar stable and high protein at 25 grams per serving.
NOW prides themselves on an uncompromising stance towards quality, incorporating 3rd party tested ingredients into their formula. You can trust that there are no off-label additives that mess with your digestion. This also ensures that it remains gluten-free and doesn't contain any soy, catering to a wide range of dietary needs.
A delightful perk is the variety of delicious flavors (chocolate, vanilla, etc) on offer, ensuring that you find a match to your preference.
Are protein shakes OK for diabetics?
Yes, protein shakes are ok for diabetics provided that they are not full of carbs and added sugar. They act as an easy meal replacement, help regulate blood sugar levels and support muscle growth. However, be mindful to choose shakes that are low in sugar and carbohydrates. For instance, try options like NOW, Bluebird Provisions or Ancient Nutrition for best results.
What is the best protein for a Type 2 diabetic?
The best protein for Type 2 diabetics is whey isolate protein (provided that you are not allergic to dairy), here is why:
- Whey's composition is such that its not only easily absorbed by the body but are also rich in Branch-Chained Amino Acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.
- These amino acids plays a dual role, helping in muscle building and simultaneously slowing down digestion. This is great for managing your blood sugar.
- Whey isolate is naturally low in carbs and keto friendly. This ensures that the likelihood of experiencing blood sugar spikes is reduced, a significant relief for diabetics.
If you cannot tolerate dairy based proteins then I would recommend a beef based protein powder, egg based or else a plant based option that uses a blend of rice and pea proteins to ensure you get a complete amino acid profile.
Will a protein shake lower blood sugar?
Protein tends to stabilize blood sugar levels because slows the absorption of carbs and sugars in your gut. This can help regulate your blood sugar levels as protein gradually gets converted into energy over several hours. Just make sure you are using a shake that does not have added sugar or unnecessary carbohydrates.
How much protein powder should a diabetic consume?
From a practical perspective, you should aim for one protein shake per day. Do not consume more than two servings of protein powder per day. This works out to between 40-50 total grams of protein from protein shakes. I would recommend you get most of your protein from whole food sources (beef, fish, lamb, chicken, etc).
Protein shakes are meant to be a supplement, not a replacement for real protein from whole foods.
Read my list of the best collagen supplements for sagging skin.
How much protein is safe for diabetes?
The RDA for an average adult with diabetes is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds or 68 kg, then the RDA suggests you should aim for 54.4 grams of protein per day. This number is incredibly low and only meant to stave off deficiencies.
If you want to thrive and live a long, fruitful life, Dr Peter Attia recommends 2 g protein per kg of bodyweight per day (5). Attia and a doctor who focuses on longevity.
This means if you weight 150 lbs or 68 kg, you want to aim for 136 grams of protein per day.
Protein shakes are a great option if you are managing diabetes because they give you a convenient source of protein that will not spike your blood sugar. That being said, they are not the end all, be all.
I always recommend real food instead of protein shakes. That being said, if you are desperate and need a convenient source of protein, they are a good supplemental protein source.
Have you tried any of the brands on the list? Or do do you have a question about another product? Leave a comment and I will get back to you asap.
Bluebird Provisions is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not medical advise. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or healthcare issue. Please consult your primary care physician for advise on any of this.