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Difference Between Smoothies & Protein Shakes

    People often either confuse smoothies and protein shakes or use the terms interchangeably. While both are delicious and can be nutritious, there are several key elements of the drinks that differ. Knowing these distinctions helps you make diet better choices.

    What is a smoothie?

    Because these beverages have a reputation for being healthy, they’ve become a staple in many diets. Everyone from nutritionists to celebrities tout these popular drinks as part of their wellness routines.


    Smoothies get their name from their texture and contain a variety of components. In fact, you can put almost any food into a smoothie. At a minimum, this foundation for a healthy meal or snack includes a liquid which is usually either water or some type of dairy or nut milk and your choice of:

    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Nuts or nut butter

    For extra nutrition, plenty of smoothie recipes also recommend you add supplements like protein powder. Whether you choose to do so or not, a crunchy topping like granola or coconut completes the drink. 


    When making your smoothie, it’s important to balance your ingredients to keep it healthy. 


    Whether you make smoothies at home or purchase them at a store or restaurant, many are fruit-heavy.

    By themselves, fruits are healthy and offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. However, adding too many to your smoothie causes them to become oversaturated with fruit sugars and, therefore, not as healthy as you think because too many of any type of sugars cause your blood sugar, cravings, and hunger to spike.

    Dark, leafy greens

    To keep your smoothie healthy, and balance out the fruit and their sugars, add a dark leafy green, like

    • Spinach
    • Kale
    • Swiss chard 

    These vegetables increase the amount of fiber, calcium, and vitamins you get from your smoothie. Plus, you stay full longer.

    Protein and fat

    Protein helps to keep blood sugar in check, and fat fills you up. Some good sources of both protein and fat for your smoothie include adding:

    • Nut butter or milk
    • Hemp or flax seeds
    • Yogurt

    For balanced nutrient intake, change up the ingredients you use to make your smoothies and don’t always use the same ones. Use nut butter one day and yogurt the next. Diversifying what you use also makes it so the flavors don’t get boring.

    What is a protein shake?

    While most often associated with bodybuilding, protein shakes also helps:

    • Boost metabolism
    • Reduce appetite
    • Lose body fat without losing muscle

    Protein shakes are also an excellent alternative for vegans and others with dietary restrictions that may not get enough protein through a regular diet.


    The two basic ingredients in protein shakes are water and protein powder. The protein powder is derived from either whey or casein. Both are dairy-based and contain essential amino acids. For those avoiding dairy products, protein powders also get made with protein from :

    • Soy
    • Hemp
    • Rice
    • Peas 

    Fruits, sugars, and sugar substitutes often get added to improve the taste. It’s best to read the ingredients to ensure your protein shake is healthy.


    Most people get enough protein in the food they eat without using protein shakes. However, protein shakes offer effortless, safe, and delicious way to add protein for muscle:

    • Function
    • Growth
    • Repair

    The protein found both in your diet and in protein shakes helps your body:

    • Form enzymes and hormones
    • Transmit nerve impulses
    • Protect your immune system

    When you exercise, you place stress on your body. This stress breaks down protein. Replacing the protein your body uses during exercise allows your muscles to recover and rebuild.

    Which one is better?

    Choosing between a smoothie and a protein shake depends on the goals you want to accomplish. Smoothies offer a wide variety of choices to replace an occasional meal or as a nutritious treat. Due to the number of ingredients, smoothies also tend to be more filling than protein shakes.

    Protein shakes, like other supplements, should be used alongside a balanced diet and not replace real food unless directed by a healthcare provider.

    If you are looking for a way to supplement nutrition, check out alternative vitamins and supplements.