When you purchase a protein bar, you have a choice: Baby Protein bars that taste great but only net you 15-20g of protein per bar or Full-Sized bars that usually taste, hmmmm…well, let’s just say less than great. By the same token, RTD (Ready to Drink) Protein Shakes also come in varying degrees of Ooomph, from the supercharged 40 gram Labrada Lean Body Shake to the original Muscle Milk, weighing in with just 22 grams of protein per box. However, in contrast to the protein bar issue, advancements in taste quality at the ever-burgeoning RTD platform have nearly leveled the playing field.
Take for example my recent purchase of a four-pack of Muscle Milk at Tarjay (Target for you non-Francophiles) last week. At a suggested retail price of about $2/unit (when purchased in a four-pack), your 11 ounce carton is delivering 240 calories, with the aforementioned 22 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs (5g sugar), and 11 grams of fat (4.5g saturated), along with 20% of the RDA of most vitamins and minerals.
Muscle Milk created a massive following by honing its products taste to its customer’s preferences: Smooth, water-based milk protein with more fructose than artificial sweeteners. The result is a great-tasting product adored by millions of lifters worldwide.
We know Muscle Milk has always had the best-tasting RTD on the market, but is it worth the money? Let’s compare Muscle Milk with Labrada Nutrition’s 17 oz. RTD Lean Body Shake. At $3.99 MSRP, Lean Body costs about twice the Muscle Milk price, but also delivers nearly double the protein in just six additional ounces. Despite having almost twice as much protein, Lean Body only has 260 calories – just 20 more than Muscle Milk, and actually has less fat (9g) and carbs (9g) with zero sugar. Muscle Milk does come in a 17 oz. variety as well, and it boasts 32g of protein and 16g of fat for about $0.50 less per carton than Lean Body. Of course, the ultimate test comes down to the tastebuds, and therein lies the rub: Nearly ten years after bursting onto the scene, the others have finally caught up. Labrada Nutrition’s Lean Body Vanilla Ice Cream flavor is absolutely on par with Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème in terms of taste.
So where does that leave Muscle Milk? In this humble reviewer’s opinion, Muscle Milk remains a great entry-level choice for athletes and gym-goers looking to substitute a tasty, easily-digestible protein shake to their daily routines. For more serious athletes and hardcore lifters who crave their protein, it might be time to look elsewhere.
Rating: **** (Four) Stars out of ***** (Five)