As nice as it would be, most of us don’t always have a blender handy to whip up a smooth, creamy protein shake, complete with fresh fruit and all the extras we like. Ready-to-drink (RTD) shakes and beverages can be a great alternative when you’re away from home—especially when a nutritious meal isn’t readily available.
RTDs are also helpful when you’re trying to eat five or six smaller meals a day, rather than the traditional three, for weight management and other health goals. When you’re eating that frequently, preparing and cooking meals can become overwhelming, making it less likely you’ll stick with your healthy-eating plan.
Besides convenience, RTDs offer good nutrition. Many of these enhanced beverages are designed to provide the nutritional equivalent of a complete meal, in terms of protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Of course, I don’t recommend them as regular meal replacements; but when your only choices are junk food from a vending machine or an empty stomach for the afternoon, I say go for the RTD shake.
The following RTD shakes are high-quality, great-tasting options that offer varying levels of protein and other nutrients to suit your specific needs:
Atkins Advantage RTD Shakes. If you’re following a low-carb diet or just prefer to keep carb intake low, Atkins RTD Shakes are perfect. They have only 2 net carbs, 1 gram of sugar, only 160 calories and 15 grams of protein. With irresistible flavors such as Milk Chocolate Delight, Café Caramel and Mocha Latte, your taste buds will never be bored.
CytoSport Muscle Milk RTD Nutritional Shakes. Need a big protein boost? Muscle Milk shakes supply 32 grams each, which makes them popular among those who want a lot of protein, fast. These shakes are also lactose free and milk free, so don’t let the name fool you if you’re lactose intolerant.
MET-Rx Protein Plus RTD 51. Another high-protein option, RTD 51 shakes supply a whopping 51 grams of protein each, with only 1 gram of fat and 5 grams of carbs. You’ll also get 100% of the Daily Value for calcium, plus natural amino acids and no trans fats.
Twinlab Energy Fuel. For a quick pick-me-up, try a Twinlab Energy Fuel drink—a fruity, carbonated beverage with zero calories and zero grams of fat, sugar and carbs. It also supplies B vitamins and herbs such as ginseng, green tea and Ginkgo biloba.
Southern States Championships top contender Melissa Transou, a figure competitor, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports nutrition needs of female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com.