These new ready-to-drink options make it easier, cheaper, and tastier than ever to find the protein you need.
By Team Iron Man
We live in a golden age of protein. Almost anywhere you go—airports, convenience stores, supermarkets—you now have a myriad of ways to refuel your muscles. No aspect of protein supplementation has improved more in the last few years than the ready-to-drink category (RTDs). Who hasn’t been caught without their protein shaker bottle in dire need of a fast 30 grams of protein but with only 10 minutes to spare? When you’re late for a flight and stuck between a Starbucks and a Cinnabon, finding an RTD can feel like winning the lottery.
High Protein = HP | Gluten-Free = GF | Lactose-Free = LF | Dairy-Free = DF | Low Carb = LC
Sugar-Free = SF | Whey Protein Isolate = WPI | Milk Protein = MP | Multivitamin Matrix = MVM
Electrolytes = EL | Caffeine = CA
Whey Isolate by CytoSport
If you have OCD about the ingredients in your RTD, then check out Whey Isolate by CytoSport. Made with 100 percent whey protein isolate, this bottle contains very little besides water, protein, and a dash of coloring. After all, whey protein isolate is one of the purest forms of whey you can find, with almost all extraneous elements removed during the processing.
When it comes to protein, whey isolate also contains more of the amino acid leucine, which is the main trigger for initiating protein synthesis. Whey protein isolate and its streamlined nutrition profile make this a very “fast” protein, which is what you’re looking for after a workout. But at only 130 calories and one gram of carbs, CytoSport’s Whey Isolate is always a good choice no matter when you drink it.
Macros (per 16-ounce bottle): 130 calories, 32 g protein, 1 g carbs, zero fat
Flavors: Tangerine, tropical, and watermelon
HP | GF | LF | LC | SF | WPI | EL
Monster Milk by CytoSport
CytoSport’s Monster Milk recently pulled off some manufacturing magic that makes us want to stand up and applaud. Their newly revamped formula has less fat, fewer calories, and a smaller package, but the protein content increased! Forget clapping, we might cry.
Monster Milk has consistently been one of the best-tasting RTDs on the market, and more importantly, one of the easiest to find. Not that long ago, the most convenient source of protein at a mini-market was a carton of cottage cheese (try eating that while driving). Thanks to CytoSport you can get nearly 50 grams of tasty, high-quality protein at almost any corner store.
Each bottle is jammed with BCAAs and includes six grams of fiber (with only six grams of impact carbs), and a slew of nutrients that many hard-training guys are missing, such as magnesium and zinc.
Macros (per 17-ounce bottle): 260 calories, 48 g protein, 12 g carbs, 3.5 g fat
Flavors: Banana, chocolate, vanilla, and cookies ‘n créme.
HP | GF | LC | MP | MVM | EL
Carnivor RTD by MuscleMeds
Carnivor sets itself apart for the rest of the pack in a few different ways. For one, it uses beef protein isolate as its protein source. If you adhere to a strict dairy-free diet, such as paleo, this is the drink for you. MuscleMeds’ six-stage advanced hydrolysis process creates a protein that is highly bioavailable, easy to digest, and remarkably pure.
Carnivor contains zero fat, sugar, cholesterol, or lactose. This purity, along with the properties of the beef protein isolate, is the reason why it is absorbed quickly by muscles, making this an excellent choice post-workout. Carnivor is also one of the few RTDs to feature a Tetra Pak, a packaging system that utilizes a completely closed line when filling containers, reducing the likelihood of air or any sort of contaminant from entering the container.
MuscleMeds uses an easy and nuanced hand with their flavorings, so the final product is light and easy to drink rather than thick and chalky.
Macros (per 17-ounce bottle): 170 calories, 30 g protein, 2 g carbs, zero fat
Flavors: Chocolate and vanilla caramel
HP | GF | LF | DF | LC | SF
The FitPro Go! milk-based protein beverage is as close as you can get to a whole food in a commercial protein drink. The whopping 35 grams of protein comes from ultra-filtered milk that is never powdered. In fact, this product goes from cow to carton in just seven days.
The protein backbone of FitPro Go! is identical to cow’s milk, consisting of 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey. This mix is ideal for those times when you need your muscles fed over a sustained period, such as a long drive or right before bed. And because it’s a form of lightly processed milk, each bottle delivers 90 percent of your recommended daily value for calcium.
FitPro Go! is sweetened with organic cane juice (but with only eight grams of sugar per bottle) and does not use artificial colors or sweeteners.
Macros (per 14-ounce bottle): 200 calories, 35 g protein, 10 g carbs, 2.5 g fat
Flavors: Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate chip cookies
HP | GF | LF | MP
Muscle Recovery by Rockin’ Refuel
A few years back, a study came out showing that chocolate milk was a more effective recovery beverage for cyclists than a traditional sports drink. Rockin’ Refuel’s Muscle Recovery took this science and ran with it, boosting the protein content until it hit an approximate 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein and adding assorted vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes that are depleted through sweat.
When trying to add size, or after a long hike or sustained bout of cardio, Rockin’ Refuel Muscle Recovery delivers ample carbs to restock glycogen stores as well as broad-spectrum milk protein. Rockin’ Refuel also produces Muscle Builder (30 grams of protein and 11 grams of carbs,) and Lean Builder (20 grams of protein and 11 grams of carbs.)
Our favorite thing about the Rockin’ Refuel’s Muscle Recovery is that it’s available in a half-gallon size. It’s about time.
Macros (per 12-oz bottle): 300 calories, 20 g protein, 48 g carbs, 4.5 g fat
Flavors: Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla
HP | GF | MP | MVM | EL
Macros (per 20-ounce bottle): 200 calories, 25 g protein, 20 g carbs, 4 g fat
Flavors: Chocolate, banana, strawberry, and vanilla
HP | MP | CA