Protein Shakes vs Smoothies

Karl asks Tony from One Stop Nutrition in Phoenix

I was recently asked during a training session what the difference is between a protein shake and a smoothie. (thanks, Ashley!) And although this might seem very simple I think a lot of people confuse the two. Possibly just to tell themselves that they’re doing something really good for themselves when after all, what they are consuming is a lot of unnecessary sugar and other ingredients that are countering the protein effects they think they’re achieving.

There was a time (many years ago) when I would blend together some milk, a raw egg, and protein powder. I dare you today to walk into your favorite shake shop and find that on the menu board behind the counter. I’m sure that they will make it for you but you might get a weird look in return. What?!?! You don’t want to add some kale or peanut butter, chocolate, spinach, carrots or whatever other food group that can be blended into a pulp so you can drink it instead of eat it?

The answer to Ashley’s question is simple.

It’s in the ingredients. As usual for these posts, I went right to the internet to find reliable scientific research that would define the difference. Not a chance. So, after being frustrated with Google for not giving me the info I needed. I decided to go right to the source and visit my favorite shake shop – One Stop Nutrition at 4115 North 44th St in Phoenix and talk it out with the man in charge Tony.

Tony says that “Protein shakes are made up of a high-grade protein whether that be of whey or vegan or paleo. A good protein shake will have 20 – 25 grams of protein and upward of 50 grams of protein.” And this is important. If they don’t have this amount of protein then they are not to be considered a true protein shake. “Protein shakes should be consumed for health purposes. Whether that be for weight management, weight loss or weight gain. If you are using it as a weight gainer then you would want to have some carbohydrates in it as well so that you have some more calories in it. It’s at this point that the protein shake actually becomes a meal replacement shake.” Now, the difference between these shakes and a smoothie is this. Smoothies are typically made of fruits and vegetables. The confusion comes in at this point. A lot of protein shakes start out as a smoothie but then a high-grade protein is added to it. Making it an actual meal replacement.

Let’s break that down.

Protein shake equals a drink that has at least 20-25 grams of protein in it.

A Protein shake can also be a meal replacement when you add in carbohydrates.

A Smoothie is made up of fruits and/or vegetables and has less than 20 grams of protein in it.

Tony thinks that there is a confusion in, that people will come into his store and ask for a smoothie. When he suggests that they add in protein they almost back off and are afraid to add it because of their misconception that protein is going to be a weight gainer. Not knowing that the protein is a good thing to add in. Tony goes on to say that he wants to educate the public so that they know that there are health benefits to having protein in their shake. Protein will help build lean muscle which in turn will help you burn more fat and give you energy.

Optimal times for consuming these drinks depends on your goals. Tony says “if it’s for weight management then immediately after a workout and/or in between meals. In between meals is a good time to be consuming a protein shake so that you don’t become overly full like you would from a smoothie and then you’re able to eat your regular meals and still can get your protein in.” As for a meal replacement drink, you would drink that for your breakfast or lunch. The carbohydrates in these drinks will enable you to go through your day without starving yourself.

Tony wants the consumer to know that consuming protein throughout the day is not going to result in a weight gain. That getting 70- 80% of your body weight in protein per day is necessary for weight management.

And if you’re in Phoenix don’t forget to stop by One-Stop Nutrition at 4115 N 44th St for all your supplement needs. And the best nutritional drinks in town! Tell Tony I sent you!!!


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2 Responses

  1. Marianne Burton

    Karl, great article. I’ve had this same question for a long time. Great shout out to One Stop as well!

  2. Chris Fotinos

    Thanks Karl. That is good info. I have been confused by those terms and I am sure I have used them interchangeably.