Is Muscle Milk Good For You? Muscle Milk Vs. Whey Explored

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In this article I take a close look at the hugely popular protein supplement Muscle Milk© and compare it to the top whey protein products on the market.

I also researched its many ingredients and rounded up a few health experts with opinions on Muscle Milk as well.

For starters, I wanted to compare Muscle Milk in powder form to a 100% whey protein product that contained whey & nothing else.

So here’s a summary comparison of Muscle Milk’s Genuine Protein Powder and Naked Whey’s 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder (unflavored).

 

Muscle Milk vs. Whey

Per serving, Muscle Milk Protein Powder compared to pure whey has:

* more than 2x the calories (310 vs. 120)

* 6x the fat (12g vs. 2g)

* more carbs (20g vs. 3g)

* 8x the sugar (16g vs. 2g)

* over 3x the sodium (160g vs. 45g)

* 7g more protein (32g vs. 25g) but a much lower percentage of protein (46% vs. 83%)

 

Muscle Milk and whey Nutrition Facts comparison - heydayDo

 

What’s next

Later on we’ll look at Muscle Milk’s ingredients & nutritional profile.

I’ll also compare Muscle Milk’s ready-to-drink protein shake to the best-selling whey powder from Optimum Nutrition.

Next though, I want to discuss this Muscle Milk vs. whey protein comparison in more detail.

 

 

test tubes green - heydayDo icon

Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

More Muscle Milk protein powder vs. whey

By the way, all of the Nutrition Facts info I reference I got from their product pages on Amazon.

Here’s Muscle Milk’s page, it’s their 39.5 oz. tub of Genuine Protein Powder Vanilla.

And this is Naked Whey’s product page that I used for this article, which is their 1 lb. can of 100% Grass-Fed Unflavored Whey Protein Powder.

Here are a few of the things that stood out to me in this comparison.

 

Under half of Muscle Milk is actually protein

*Only 46%, or less than half of Muscle Milk’s protein powder consists of protein.

Compare this to the whey powder where 83% of the product is made up of protein.

 

Serving size vs. protein amounts

* The Muscle Milk protein powder serving size is 233% (a little less than 2 ½ times) larger than the pure whey product.

* And the amount of calories in a serving of Muscle Milk protein powder is 258% higher than the calories found in the whey protein powder.

* But the amount of protein in the Muscle Milk serving is only 28% more than what’s in the Naked Whey serving.

 

Bottom line: These points tell me there’s a lot of other stuff in Muscle Milk. More specifically, there’s a lot more fat, carbs, & sugar.

 

Muscle Milk vs Whey - heydayDo image

 

Muscle Milk has more fat than whey

Per serving, Muscle Milk protein powder has 12 grams of fat in it, which is 6x more than the 2 grams of fat found in pure whey.

It’s important to note that the type of fat in Muscle Milk isn’t bad for you, as the saying goes.

The fat in MM has almost zero cholesterol and is primarily made up of medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat with potential health benefits (1).

It also has canola oil.

I discuss all this further in the Ingredients & Nutrition section.

 

Muscle Milk has more sugar than whey

Per serving, Muscle Milk protein powder has 16 grams of sugar in it, which is 8x more sugar than the whey powder, which has 2 grams’ worth.

Since the whey powder product has no added ingredients at all, we know that its 2 grams of sugar is naturally occurring, since cow’s milk has a little sugar in it. (2)

 

If we acknowledge that the milk used in Muscle Milk contributes a few grams of naturally occurring sugar, then where is the rest of all that sugar coming from?

 

Taking a peek at the ingredients list, we see that the 3rd largest ingredient in Muscle Milk (after the milk protein) is…cane sugar.

Bingo.

 

Additional fat & carbs = more calories

The Muscle Milk serving has 310 calories in it, the pure whey product has 120.

That’s way more than twice the calories, even though the protein amount in Muscle Milk protein powder is only slightly higher than whey’s, as I mentioned earlier.

So where are these additional calories coming from?

It’s the extra fat & carbs found in Muscle Milk – vs. what’s in whey – that more than doubles the calorie count per serving.

Let me show you how you can figure this out.

calorie calculator red - heydayDo icon

 

 

The generally accepted (& rough) nutrition calculation of calories – as noted by Cleveland Clinic here – uses:

  • 4 calories per gram of carbs (protein’s also 4/gm.)
  • 9 calories per gram of fat

Comparing the Muscle Milk protein powder to the whey, we see that, per serving, Muscle Milk’s got 10 more grams of fat and has 17 more grams of carbs too.

(per serving)

MM’s extra fat: 10 grams x 9 calories each = 90 calories

MM’s extra carbs: 17g x 4 calories each = 68 calories

 

That adds up to about 160 additional calories, just for the additional fats & carbs. And remember, a serving of whey is only 120 calories total.

 


 

Muscle Milk Ingredients & Nutrition

The whey product used in this article’s comparison – Naked Whey’s 100% Grass Fed Unflavored Whey Protein Powder – has one ingredient: Whey Protein Concentrate.

Muscle Milk’s protein powder has over forty, and here’s its ingredients list:

Muscle Milk ingredients - heydayDo

We’ll be taking a look at a few of these ingredients in a bit to help us get an idea of what it is we’re putting in our bodies.

 

Muscle Milk’s macronutrient percentages

Here’s a look at Muscle Milk’s macronutrient profile.

Note that these will be rough, approximate numbers, since that’s the way it is with calorie & macronutrient counting. (4)

Our starting point is the Muscle Milk protein powder Nutrition Facts label:

 

Muscle Milk Nutrition Facts - heydayDo

The manufacturer tells us there’s 310 calories in a serving, and that 110 of those calories comes from fat.

Calories: 310

Calories from fat: 110

 

We also see that there are 32 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs per serving, and since we just did it a little earlier, we know how to figure out the calories now.

Protein grams: 32 x 4 calories/gram = 128 calories from protein

Carb grams: 20 x 4 calories/gram = 80 calories from protein

 

Plugging in all the macros’ numbers, we get our percentages:

 

Muscle Milk Macronutrients - heydayDo

 

Note: You may have noticed that the numbers don’t add up exactly**.

Like I said earlier, it’s an imperfect science. But it gets us close enough to make smart dietary choices, and that’s a good thing.

 

**The reason the numbers don’t add up is: Not all protein is exactly 4 calories per gram, not all carbs are exactly 4 calories per gram, and not all fat is exactly 9 calories per gram. (5)

 

Bottom line:

What we can learn from these macronutrient numbers is that Muscle Milk doesn’t resemble your typical protein powders. 

Those are usually almost all protein with very little fat or carbs. 

On the other hand, Muscle Milk Protein Powder is more like a meal that’s high in protein & fat and light on the carbs, like ham & eggs with a piece of toast. Look:

 

Muscle Milk vs Ham n Eggs - heydayDo

 

This nutritional data is from my own calorie & macronutrient database spreadsheet that I’ve been building for some time. Here are the online Nutrition Facts sourcesI used:

Vital Farms eggs 

Wellshire Farms Black Forest Ham

Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Bread

 

Does Muscle Milk have whey?

There’s not very much whey in Muscle Milk.

The milk protein that provides the majority of Muscle Milk’s protein is casein.

A quick look at the ingredients list (above) will confirm this.

The two most prominent ingredients by weight in Muscle Milk protein powder are Calcium Sodium Caseinate and Milk Protein Isolate.

As you could probably guess from its name, Calcium Sodium Caseinate is a milk protein derivative that’s all casein. (9)

Being listed first on the ingredients list means that it is the biggest ingredient by weight in Muscle Milk.

The second largest ingredient, Milk Protein Isolate, is derived from milk through filtration in order to concentrate its casein & whey proteins. (10)

And while Milk Protein Isolate has a little whey in it, the ratio of casein to whey in MPI is most often 80:20, the same as in regular milk. (11)

 

Muscle Milk protein powder is fortified

Muscle Milk protein powder has a lot of vitamins & minerals that have been added to it.

Look at the ingredients list. Once you get past the first dozen or so ingredients, you’ll see the phrase “Less than 1% of:”. Most of the ingredients from that point on are supplements in the form of vitamins & minerals.

You can see that they’ve around 20 of them; they’re listed in the lower half of the Nutrition Facts label like so:

Muscle Milk Vitamins and MInerals - heydayDo

 

Bottom line:

Whey protein powders, and especially the purer “clean” products out there, typically do not add any vitamin or mineral supplements. 

This sort of reinforces Muscle Milk’s “meal replacement” profile I mentioned earlier, since all of these vitamins & minerals could be consumed by someone eating a healthy, well-rounded diet.

 

Muscle Milk & medium-chain triglycerides

Earlier I zeroed in on the high fat content in Muscle Milk protein powder, but noted that it consisted of ingredients that have little cholesterol and pose no known health risks like many other types of fat do.

Here I’ll explain what are the fat supplements that have been added to Muscle Milk.

 

The majority of the high fat content in Muscle Milk protein powder comes in the form of MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides. It also has a little canola oil in it as well.

 

MCTs are types of fat extracted from coconut oil & palm kernel oil, and have been shown to provide potential health & sports performance benefits. (12)

The research study evidence on MCT is far from a slam dunk certification for its effectiveness, but some results indicate MCTs can help a little with weight loss. (13)

Another area MCT is getting hyped up is in the area of athletic performance, since many athletes have reportedly been taking it to help reduce lactic acid buildup in their muscles.

The thought there is that with reduced lactic acid, the athlete would be able to perform better, but scientific results in this area have not been impressive. (14)

 

protein powder jug red

 

 

 

Muscle Milk protein shake vs. whey

Muscle Milk Protein Shake vs Optimum NUtrition Whey - heydayDo image

For the next comparison we have Muscle Milk’s Genuine Non-Dairy Protein Shake (Chocolate) vs. Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey Protein Isolates Blend (Double Rich Chocolate) .

Per serving compared to Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey, Muscle Milk’s Protein Shake has:

  • 33 % more calories (160 vs. 120)
  • 3x the fat (4.5g vs. 1.5g)
  • more carbs (7g vs. 3g)
  • 8x the sugar (16g vs. 2g)
  • 5x the sodium (250g vs. 50g)
  • equal protein, but a lower percentage of protein (63% vs. 80%)

Muscle Milk vs Gold Standard Nutrition Facts - heydayDo

 

Here are a few things I think that are worth commenting on:

* The per serving cost for both of these is a lot cheaper than the previous pairing of Muscle Milk’s protein powder and Naked Whey’s Grass-Fed Unflavored whey.

* The Muscle Milk shake has 3x the fat of the Gold Standard whey, but it’s still about 60% less fat than in Muscle Milk’s protein powder.

* Over 90% less fat in the Muscle Milk shake compared to the Muscle Milk powder.

* Zero sugar in the MM shake vs. 16 grams of it in the MM protein powder.

* As a result of the two bullet points above, the Muscle Milk shake has ½ the calories of the Muscle Milk protein powder.

* Sodium is a little high for anyone who needs to restrict their daily intake. 250mg in one pop of a small 11 oz. beverage is a lot.

* The Optimum Nutrition whey is a lot cleaner obviously, because it’s a lot less processed and has far fewer additives.

* It also has 80% less sodium, and the Muscle Milk shake has 33% more calories then the O.N. whey powder.

* The Muscle Milk shake is 63% protein, a nice improvement over the MM protein powder, but still noticeably less than the 80% in the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey.

 

 

Q: Is Muscle Milk bad for you?

Muscle Milk is a heavily processed product with a few artificial ingredients, but is an unlikely health risk.

It’s a casein-based protein supplement fortified with vitamins & minerals.

Muscle Milk is an official supplier of their protein products to 25 collegiate Division I athletic departments.

 

Many people ask this question online, and I think the main reason for this is because Muscle Milk products have received some bad press over the years.

Much of it has come from nutrition & health experts, so I thought I’d round up some of those opinions and share them here in case anyone wanted to read them.

 

Old news?

One thing that stood out to me regarding the negative remarks from these nutrition authorities: most of the news was at least a few years old, written from 2010-2017.

In other words, nothing recent.

I have my own opinion of Muscle Milk, and it’s not influenced by any of these critical opinions I came across.

I’ll share what I think after this section.

 

Healthline

The online medical advice giant wrote a 3-part criticism of Muscle Milk in 2017, stating that:

  1. It’s not healthy
  2. It may trigger allergies
  3. It’s hard on your kidneys

Healthline article

 

Consumer Reports

They did a heavy metals test on protein drinks published in 2012 and Muscle Milk was named in their report as an offender:

Consumer Reports article

 

Labdoor (supplement testing expert)

1) This article by Labdoor from 2013 identifies a Muscle Milk protein shake as having a LOT more sodium in it than is listed on the packaging.

Labdoor article

 

2) This rating review gives Muscle Milk’s protein powder failing grades for product effectiveness & ingredient safety.

Labdoor Muscle Milk Protein Powder review

 

3) This product review gives a failing grade to 4 of the 5 possible categories for Muscle Milk’s ready-to-drink protein shake, and a failing grade overall:

  • Label Accuracy
  • Nutritional Value
  • Product effectiveness
  • Ingredient Safety

Labdoor Muscle Milk Shake review

 

WebMD

This article from 2010 discusses unhealthy levels of heavy metals found in Muscle Milk and other protein drinks.

WebMD article

 

Fooducate.com

The article from 2014 is titled “Muscle Milk – Five Reasons To Avoid”. Here are Fooducate.com’s criticisms:

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Heavily processed with artificial sweeteners
  • Fiber additive causes intestinal problems
  • Heavy metals problem, citing Consumer Reports test
  • Says it’s expensive

Fooducate.com article

 

Here’s my 2 cents of Muscle Milk opinion

Lil Boji, heydayDo's mascot, and a carton of Muscle Milk protein shake - heydayDo image

Lil Bojí, heydayDo’s Quality Control guy, weighs in on Muscle Milk too

 

I bought some Muscle Milk for the purpose of comparing it to protein powders that I use regularly, and that’s what inspired me to write about it.

But I don’t drink Muscle Milk primarily because it’s a heavily-processed supplement, and I pretty much avoid those types of products completely.

I’m just kinda (um…I mean real) picky about what I eat & drink.

 

My taste buds thought it was funky

I also didn’t like its taste, when I downed a Muscle Milk protein shake carton for this article.

I put it head-to-head with Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Double Rich Chocolate Whey Blend powder, which was my go-to protein supplement for years.

(I mainly drink the unflavored grass-fed whey isolate powder made by Muscle Feast now, tho’ I use a tablespoon or two of a flavored Gold Standard to help out any protein shake recipe I cook up with leafy greens in it.)

 

O.N.’s Gold Standard is not the purest by any means, but for me & my situation it was/is in the sweet spot where cheap and decent quality intersect.

Muscle Milk tastes processed to me, similar to the way that most protein bars taste processed to me.

“Artificial” is an appropriate word to use here I suppose.

My phrase for describing these kinds of flavors to people who ask me is “tastes like astronaut food”, if that explains anything.

 

But we all have different taste buds, that’s for sure. So my opinion doesn’t really matter much.

 

I didn’t buy a tub of the Muscle Milk protein powder that I used for this article’s comparison of whey vs. Muscle Milk.

I just didn’t want to

1) down that many doses of it, or

2) waste my money by taste-testing it once & then chucking it.

 

dumbbell green - heydayDo icon

 

Wrapping Up

Related protein powder articles here on heydayDo

Core Power vs. Muscle Milk: Nutrition, Cost, & Taste Compared

The Hunt For The Best Optimum Nutrition Flavor

MyProtein Impact Whey vs. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard

MusclePharm Combat Protein Review

 

I hope that my article comparing the products of Muscle Milk to whey protein is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.

Let’s go.

– greg

January 2021

 

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About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.