Below we take an in-depth look into one of the most famous products in the US marketplace, Muscle Milk, to see whether these interesting protein powders and shakes have the taste and power needed to rise above the pack.
Muscle Milk is a line of protein shakes and powders that are manufactured by a company called Cytosport. The Muscle Milk brand has attracted a lot of interest and revenue in the last few years due to the company’s shrewd advertising and partnerships with famous athletes. Muscle Milk seems to prioritise taste and image over everything else, an approach that has gifted them a huge share of the market and a lot of customer affection.
For the purposes of this review, we will be looking at the whole product range as a whole, as many Muscle Milk products are functionally very similar (with small and obvious differences). The “Genuine” Muscle Milk protein shakes and powders are the company’s flagship product, with the standard mix of calories and protein doses. There are then versions that are lower in calories (the “100 Calories” and “Light” products), versions that are higher in calories (“Gainer”), more expensive mixes that have higher doses of proteins, vitamins and minerals (“Pro Series”), and other mixes to suit specific tastes (“Organic”, “Smoothie Yogurt”, “Coffee House” and the various Whey Protein specialist mixes).
Muscle Milk is manufactured and sold by Cytosport, a company that has attracted a lot of negative attention over the last few years. The company has been repeatedly (and often successfully) sued and given official warnings for false advertising, mainly on the basis that Muscle Milk contains no actual milk and cannot be regarded as “healthy”. The company was also landed in hot water in 2010, when it emerged that Muscle Milk contained unacceptably high levels of arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals (a situation that has thankfully been sorted out).
Like most protein shakes, Muscle Milk shouldn’t lead to many serious side effects for most people. Whey or milk protein can occasionally lead to nausea, bloating, increased bowel movements, thirst, cramps, reduced appetite, tiredness and headaches, especially when overused.
Prices vary hugely depending on the individual product and the retailer you choose to buy from (and there are many – Muscle Milk is available from several supermarkets, corner shops and online retailers throughout the US). The cheapest Muscle Milk product per serving is probably the “Genuine” Muscle Milk Protein Powder, which costs $25 for a 2.5-pound tub on Amazon. In general, expect to pay more for premade Muscle Milk drinks than tubs of protein powder, as packs of 12 drinks tend to go for upwards of $35. Similarly, specialist low-calorie, organic or “Pro Series” Muscle Milk packs tend to cost significantly more. As always, discounts may well be available from some outlets so be sure to shop around!
Muscle Milk may taste good and is easy to find and buy, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good product. One of the many lawsuits levelled at the manufacturer, Cytosport, can show us why in the simplest way possible.
In 2013, Cytosport agreed to pay $5.3 million in a class action lawsuit. The company had (once again) been sued for false advertising, this time for claiming that their products were “healthy”. After viewing evidence that Muscle Milk products typically contain as much total and saturated fat as a Krispy Kreme donut, the judge ruled that the products cannot be reasonably described as “healthy”, forcing the company to withdraw the word from all of their advertising materials and pay a hefty fine.
This is Muscle Milk’s greatest and most serious flaw in a nutshell. Most customers looking to try a Muscle Milk product will probably want to use it whilst working out in the gym or as part of a normal exercise routine, and will find themselves consuming unnecessarily high quantities of unhealthy fats as a result. Although the low-calorie Muscle Milk products contain less fat, they also contain significantly less protein. Whichever product you’re looking at, a far plainer, simpler pack of 100% whey protein would be far more useful for a customer looking to build lean muscle.
We do not recommend Muscle Milk to our readers!
Muscle Milk is a line of protein shakes and powders that promise to help customers become “stronger every day”. The products are fairly run-of-the-mill in terms of the ingredients list and effectiveness, although they remain notable for the slick and professional advertising campaign that has backed their release, including an expensive-looking (though sometimes hard to navigate) website, celebrity endorsements and a strong presence on social media. For this article, we will be covering all the products sold under the Muscle Milk label, as all are functionally very similar in terms of how they work.
Muscle Milk products are produced and marketed by Cytosport, a US-based manufacturer of protein shakes and supplements which is now owned by Hormel Foods. Despite Muscle Milk’s significant success, Cytosport has been submerged under legal challenges for years, with charges ranging from false advertising to threatening the safety of consumers. In 2010, a group called Consumer Reports tested Muscle Milk and found that the mix contained quantities of heavy metals (including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) that were above or near to the levels deemed safe in the USA. Cytosport were successfully sued in California for this, and had to legally pay settlements to anyone who purchased certain Muscle Milk products before 2012. As of 2017, the dangerous quantities of heavy metals cited in the class action lawsuit seem to have been reduced.
Muscle Milk products can be used before workouts, after workouts or prior to bedtime to help build lean muscle. To further maximise recovery from exercise, you can take advantage of the time period 30–60 minutes after exercise, when the body is optimally primed for replenishing fuel stores, and building and repairing muscles.
For protein powder: To provide the levels of protein stated on the front of the tub, mix 2 scoops (70g) of Muscle Milk Protein Powder into 10–16 fl. Oz. water. For individuals that want fewer calories and half of the protein level stated on the front of the tub, mix 1 scoop (35g) of Muscle Milk Protein Powder into 5–8 fl. Oz. water.
Cytosport has also faced near-annual legal challenges from rival companies and consumer groups (including the FTC), all of whom accuse the Muscle Milk brand of false advertising. These challenges all have the same premise; as Muscle Milk contains no milk, the company should not be allowed to name it this way and make the claims that it does. As of 2017, Cytosport have successfully fended off many of these challenges and have actually launched some lawsuits of their own against key rivals.
The purpose of all Muscle Milk products is to give customers a dose of protein, which is described as a “fundamental to help you live and perform better”. On the official Muscle Milk website, all Muscle Milk products are said to help promote exercise recovery, provide a sustained release of energy and contribute to building lean muscle. The products also seem to be aimed at those who are not interested in working out, as Cytosport are also keen to remind customers that protein helps with weight loss, hormone function, bone health and nutrient transport.
Individual Muscle Milk products are sometimes designed for specific purposes. Although most Muscle Milk products aim simply to give customers a protein boost, the 100 calories and light versions aim to give a smaller protein boost with fewer calories. The Pro Series version aims to give a bigger protein boost with more vitamins and minerals packed in, and the “Gainer” version aims to pack on more calories to help customers to gain weight faster.
All Muscle Milk products give customers a protein boost, which should aid muscle recovery after exercise. Customers should be warned that the claim that this product will help build “lean muscle” could be undermined by the slightly high calorie and fat content of most Muscle Milk products (with the exception of the 100 calories and “Light” versions). Customers who rely too heavily on Muscle Milk products may find themselves gaining weight slightly faster than if they used a purer form of whey protein.
The ingredients contained within Muscle Milk products are listed below. Readers should note that individual ingredient quantities are somewhat hard to estimate based on the information given on the official website, although the exact quantity of protein is always clearly listed. Note that for different products, the balance of ingredients, flavours and calories may differ.
Muscle Milk Genuine, 100 Calories, Light & Coffee House Protein Shakes
Muscle Milk Organic Protein Shakes
Muscle Milk Pro-Series Protein Shakes
Muscle Milk Smoothie Yogurt Protein Shakes
Muscle Milk Genuine, Light, Naturals & Pro Series Protein Powders
Muscle Milk 100 Calories Protein Powder
Muscle Milk Organic Protein Powder
Muscle Milk Gainer Protein Powder
Muscle Milk 100% Whey & Performance Whey Protein Powders
Protein shakes in general shouldn’t come with too many side effects. Overuse of whey protein or milk protein shakes can sometimes cause increased bowel movements, thirst, bloating, nausea, cramps, reduced appetite, fatigue and headaches. Those suffering with kidney issues or require prescription medication should check with their doctor before trying out protein shakes, as the increased protein intake could cause issues.
Not suitable for individuals under 18 years of age. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding consult a doctor before using this product. If you are taking any medication, or have any type of medical issue, consult with a doctor before using this product.
Muscle Milk is a very popular and well-known brand, and thousands upon thousands of customer reviews can be found online. Most reviews are very positive, as customers seem to enjoy the range of flavours available and the high quality of the taste in general.
I’ve used Muscle Milk for many years. There are cheaper protein brands, and ‘cleaner’ protein varieties out there. But the combination of protein complexes, lipids (especially triglycerides), and electrolytes make this my favourite for pre-workout, and endurance cardio fuel applications. It’s not just amino acids – it’s an energy source. Add the fact that it’s about the best-tasting protein out there, and IMO it’s a fantastic option.
This protein powder tastes AMAZING. The banana creme is phenomenal! I mixed it with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and the flavour/texture blew me away. When I first opened it the banana scent was extremely pleasant. No bad after taste and no grit or chunks using a blender bottle. I had this with a protein-packed pancake loaded with a sliced banana and strawberries. I will be buying this again.
Upon receiving this product and trying it for the first 2–3 times, it caused me severe GI discomfort, and I was only doing the lighter recommended serving size of 2 scoops 1–2 times daily. Temporary digestive discomfort is, of course, typical of adding a new protein product to your diet, and I expected the discomfort to go away after the first few days of use. However, after about 10 uses, my discomfort did not subside… Everyone’s body is different and I wouldn’t say that I have a weak or sensitive stomach, but this product is definitely not for me.
This stuff does the job if you’re looking for whey protein, but the taste is absolutely terrible. Unfortunately, I bought the big bags so I’m going to suffer through it for as long as I can. I’ve tried mixing it with fruit and that doesn’t help at all. Skip it… Find a better flavour.
After searching through the official Muscle Milk website, we could find no mention of any kind of money back guarantee or even a return policy. In fairness, this may have something to do with the fact that Muscle Milk products are not actually sold on the official website, and are instead available in stores and from online retailers. We advise all potential customers to pick a preferred retailer that offers a comprehensive money back guarantee on all products, which involves a full refund on any opened or unopened product that is not satisfactory.
American customers shouldn’t struggle to find Muscle Milk products, as they continue to be available at most major supermarkets (including Wal-Mart and Costco), corner stores, health stores and a number of online retailers (most prominently Amazon).
Prices vary hugely depending on the product and retailer. Generally, Muscle Milk powders are much cheaper than the pre-made drinks, with a 2.5-pound tub of “Genuine” Muscle Milk powder costing $25 on Amazon (compared to $35 for 12 bottles of “Genuine Protein Shakes). The more specialist Muscle Milk products (like the lower calorie versions or the organic variety) tend to cost more, although we spotted a good deal for the “Gainer” protein powder ($40.51 for a massive 10-pound tub). As always, discounts may well be available from some outlets so be sure to shop around.
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Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.