Do protein shakes have carbs?

Quick Answer

Protein shakes can have carbs, but many brands and recipes are designed to be low-carb or carb-free. Whey and casein protein powders contain little to no carbs. Adding ingredients like milk, fruit, oats, or nut butters will increase the carb content. Keto-friendly protein shakes using water, zero-carb protein powder, and minimal ingredients will be the lowest in carbs.

Do Protein Shakes Naturally Contain Carbs?

Protein powders by themselves contain very minimal carbohydrates:

  • Whey protein isolate – 0-3g carbs per serving
  • Whey protein concentrate – 3-8g carbs per serving
  • Casein protein – 0-1g carbs per serving
  • Pea protein – 2-5g carbs per serving
  • Soy protein – 1-3g carbs per serving

Whey and casein, the most popular protein supplements, contain little to no carbs naturally. Plant-based proteins like pea and soy have slightly higher carb contents.

However, other ingredients added to protein shakes can dramatically increase the carbohydrate content:

  • Milk – 12g carbs per cup
  • Yogurt – 15-20g carbs per cup
  • Fruit – 15-30g carbs per cup
  • Oats – 55g carbs per cup
  • Nut butter – 6-10g carbs per tablespoon
  • Honey – 17g carbs per tablespoon
  • Granola – 30g carbs per ounce

Mixing protein powder with milk, fruit, yogurt, oats, or other high-carb ingredients can easily turn a low-carb shake into one containing 30g+ carbs or more per serving.

How to Make a Low Carb Protein Shake

Here are some tips for keeping protein shakes low in carbs:

  • Use water instead of milk – water has 0g carbs
  • Choose a low-carb protein powder like whey or casein
  • Avoid adding high-carb mix-ins like fruit, honey, or oats
  • Use keto-friendly ingredients like nut butter, coconut, flaxseed
  • Add just a small amount of berries for flavor
  • Use plain Greek yogurt instead of flavored yogurt
  • Avoid pre-made shakes with added sugars

Making shakes with water, zero-carb protein powder, a dash of nut butter, and minimal mix-ins will keep the carb count under 5g per serving.

Low Carb Protein Powder Brands

Here are some popular protein powder brands that offer low-carb options:

Whey Protein

  • Isopure Zero Carb – 0g carbs
  • NOW Sports Whey Isolate – 0-1g carbs
  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey – 1-3g carbs

Casein Protein

  • MP Combat 100% Casein – 1g carbs
  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein – 1-2g carbs
  • Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Casein – 1g carbs

Vegan Protein

  • Orgain Organic Plant Based – 2g carbs
  • Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein – 4g carbs
  • Vega Sport Premium – 3g carbs

Keto Protein

  • Perfect Keto Whey Protein Isolate – 1g carbs
  • ANSI Xtreme Whey Keto – 3g carbs
  • Kiss My Keto Protein – 2g carbs

Look for 100% whey or casein isolate, or vegan blends labeled low-carb, keto, or zero-carb. Avoid concentrates or blends with added carbohydrates.

Do Pre-Made Protein Shakes Have Carbs?

Pre-made liquid protein shakes typically have higher carb contents than plain protein powder. Brands like Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and Atkins all contain 10-25g net carbs per serving.

Some exceptions with lower carbs include:

  • Premier Protein – 1-5g carbs
  • Fairlife Nutrition Plan – 2-4g carbs
  • ICONIC Low Carb – 1g carbs

Read nutrition labels closely on pre-made shakes. Most contain added sugars and carbohydrate fillers. Stick to shakes made with just protein, minimal ingredients, and low sugar.

Keto Protein Shake Recipes

Here are some tasty keto protein shake recipes under 5g net carbs:

Chocolate Peanut Butter

  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • Water and ice

Vanilla Latte

  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 shot espresso
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Stevia to taste (optional)
  • Ice

Mixed Berry

  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Water and ice

Meal Replacement Shakes

Meal replacement shakes are a convenient way to get protein while keeping carbs low. Here are some keto-friendly options under 5g net carbs per serving:

  • Keto Chow – 4g carbs
  • SlimFast Keto – 4g carbs
  • Labrada Lean Body Keto Meal – 3g carbs
  • Ancient Nutrition Keto Protein – 2g carbs
  • Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Keto – 2g carbs

Look for shakes with 15-25g protein, MCT oil or coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides, and probiotics or digestive enzymes. This will help keep you full while getting adequate nutrients on keto.

Protein Shake Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutrition facts for some typical protein shake recipes (1 serving):

Whey + Water

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 25g
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Fat: 0g

Whey + Almond Milk + Berries

  • Calories: 250
  • Protein: 25g
  • Carbs: 10g
  • Fat: 8g

Vegan Protein + Coconut Milk

  • Calories: 220
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbs: 6g
  • Fat: 12g

Meal Replacement Shake

  • Calories: 160
  • Protein: 15g
  • Carbs: 4g
  • Fat: 8g

Protein shakes made with just protein powder and water are lowest in calories, carbs, and fat. Adding nuts, milk, coconut, berries increases nutrition but also adds carbs and fat.

Benefits of Low Carb Protein Shakes

Some benefits of having a low carb protein shake include:

  • Increased protein intake for building muscle
  • Lower calorie option compared to meals
  • Can aid in weight loss by reducing carbs
  • Help retain muscle mass when dieting
  • Curb hunger and cravings between meals
  • Provide energy pre and post workout
  • Can supplement protein for those who don’t eat meat

Protein shakes support building and maintaining muscle mass. Choosing low carb options enhances the benefits for those limiting carbs or following keto.

Risks of Too Much Protein

While protein is important, consuming high amounts can potentially lead to:

  • Weight gain if exceeding calorie needs
  • Dehydration
  • GI issues like constipation
  • Increased risk of kidney problems in those with existing issues
  • Calcium loss from bones if calcium intake is low

Most experts recommend 0.36g – 0.45g of protein per pound of body weight for active individuals. Going above 2g per kg (0.9g/lb) has limited benefit and may cause issues long-term. Those with kidney disease should consult a doctor about protein intake.


Protein shakes can range widely in carb content depending on ingredients. Choosing a pure whey, casein, or plant-based protein powder and mixing with water will result in a zero or very low carb shake. Adding high-carb ingredients like fruit, milk, and nuts will increase carbohydrates significantly. Limiting pre-made shakes to low sugar, high protein options can also help minimize carbs. Protein shakes can aid muscle growth and fat loss when prepared properly, but should not exceed dietary protein needs.

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