Smoothie vs Milkshake: Which is the Better Choice For Weight Loss?

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Graphic comparing smoothies and milkshakes, with three jars of pink, yellow, and green smoothies on the left, and three glasses of chocolate, berry, and vanilla milkshakes on the right, divided by a "VS" symbol.

Are you a smoothie fan or are you more for milkshakes?

In the past 3 years, I have been asked this question many times, so I finally decided to dedicate a whole blog post on this topic.

I will do a complete breakdown of the benefits and downsides of both these drinks while being neutral and guided by what the evidence says. So let’s begin.

Smoothie and Milkshake: Ingredient Comparison

Let’s start by going over what exactly are these two drinks commonly made of, Here is a table for you to get the idea:

Base LiquidWater, juice, milk (dairy or plant-based), or coconut waterMilk (usually dairy, but can be plant-based)
Main IngredientIt can range from light and refreshing to thick and creamy, depending on the ingredientsFruits (fresh or frozen), Vegetables
SweetenersOptional (honey, agave, sugar, dates)Often included (sugar, flavored syrups)
Thickening AgentsYogurt, banana, oats, seeds (chia, flax), protein powderIce cream, sometimes thickening agents like malt powder
Flavor EnhancersSpices (cinnamon, nutmeg), extracts (vanilla, almond), greens (spinach, kale)Flavored syrups (chocolate, strawberry), whipped cream, toppings (sprinkles, cookies)
TextureIt can range from light and refreshing to thick and creamy, depending on the ingredientsCan range from light and refreshing to thick and creamy, depending on the ingredients
Dietary OptionsEasily adaptable to dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten-free)Can be adapted but traditionally includes dairy

Nutritional Comparison: Smoothie vs Milkshake

NutrientSmoothie [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]Vanilla Milkshake [8] [9]
Carbohydrates28 g45.5 g
Sugar3 g39.2 g
Fiber3.5 g2 g
Protein10.5 g7.2 g
Fat12.5 g11 g

Ingredient Used In This Smoothie:

  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of unsweetened almond butter
  • 1/4 cup (62.5 grams) of low or nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon (3 grams) of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 2–3 ounces (60–90 mL) of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/8 of a small avocado
  • 1 cup (28 grams) of fresh baby spinach

Ingredients Used In This Milkshake:

  • 1/2 cup (75 g) vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) vanilla extract

Potential Benefits of Smoothie For Weight Loss

Let me show you how drinking smoothies is beneficial from a neutral standpoint.

They Have Lower Calories in Comparison to Milkshakes

A comparison of a smoothie and a milkshake, showing the calorie difference and healthier choice.

Smoothies generally have a lower calorie count compared to milkshakes, which is a significant advantage when it comes to weight loss.

This difference in caloric content is primarily due to the typical ingredients used in each.

Smoothies are often made with fresh fruits, vegetables, and lighter liquids like water or plant-based milk.

While milkshakes usually contain ice cream and whole dairy milk, which are higher in fat and calories.

For effective weight loss, it’s crucial to maintain a caloric deficit, where you consume fewer calories than your body burns.

Since smoothies are lower in calories, they can potentially fit into a calorie-controlled diet without significantly impacting your daily calorie limit.

This allows you to enjoy a satisfying, nutrient-rich beverage that contributes to your feeling of fullness and nutritional needs, without overloading on calories.

They Can Make You Feel Fuller Because of their Protein and Fiber

A woman sitting with a smoothie, looking full and content.

Protein and fiber play a significant role in satiety, the feeling of fullness after eating.

When you include high-fiber ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and oats, and protein sources like Greek yogurt, protein powder, or nut butter in your smoothie, these components work together to slow down digestion.

Studies show that this slower digestion process means you feel full for a longer period, reducing the likelihood of snacking or overeating later.

Fiber adds bulk to your digestive system, making you feel satiated, while protein increases the level of satiety hormones such as GLP-1, CCK, and PPY helping to curb appetite.

If you’re using a smoothie as a meal replacement, aim for at least 30 grams of protein to ensure prolonged fullness and satisfaction.

Smoothies as a Meal Replacement

A woman drinking a green smoothie while checking the time, signifying a busy morning.

On days when you’re not in the mood to prepare breakfast or lunch, a protein-rich smoothie can be a convenient and nutritious alternative.

It’s not recommended to do this every day, but on those particularly hectic or unmotivated days, a well-balanced smoothie can effectively replace a meal.

This approach helps control your calorie intake while still providing the essential nutrients your body needs.

By blending a combination of fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, you create a meal that is balanced in macronutrients and micronutrients, supporting your body’s needs while supporting your weight loss efforts.

Smoothies as a Convenient Alternative to Fast Food

A healthy green smoothie is favored over fast food, indicating a better dietary choice.

If you find yourself frequently turning to fast food or high-calorie snacks due to a lack of time or convenience, smoothies can be a healthier alternative.

They are quick to prepare, easy to carry, and can be tailored to your taste and nutritional needs.

By choosing smoothies over fast food or processed snacks, you’re likely to consume fewer calories and more beneficial nutrients.

This swap can significantly impact your overall calorie intake and nutritional quality, aiding in weight loss and overall health.

Downsides of Smoothies For Weight Loss

Now that we are done with the good parts, let’s flip on to the not-so-good parts about smoothies for weight loss.

You Risk Becoming Reliant On Them

Since smoothies are convenient and easy to make, you may start replacing more of your meals with smoothies, thinking that it is a healthy alternative and should be continued every day.

But if you do this, you might miss out on the variety of nutrients that come from a more diverse diet.

Whole foods in their solid form offer dietary fiber, essential fats, and other nutrients in a way that’s different from blended foods.

Moreover, the psychological satisfaction of chewing and enjoying a variety of textures and flavors is important for a sustainable and enjoyable eating pattern.

Potential for High Sugar Intake

Smoothies, especially those made with a lot of fruits, can contain high amounts of natural sugars.

While fruit is healthy, too much can contribute to a high sugar intake, which isn’t ideal for weight loss or overall health.

This is particularly true if you’re adding additional sweeteners like honey or agave.

High sugar intake can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, which might increase cravings and lead to overeating later.

You May Overestimate Its Health Benefits

There’s a risk of overestimating the health benefits of smoothies, leading to what’s known as the “health halo” effect.

You might believe that because a drink is a smoothie, it’s inherently healthy and can be consumed in large quantities without any negative consequences.

This misconception can lead to consuming more calories than you realize, undermining your weight loss efforts.

It’s important to remember that while smoothies can be nutritious, they should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Potential Benefits Of Milkshake For Weight Loss

Disclaimer: drinking milkshakes does not directly have any benefits for weight loss. Their benefits are more indirect and come with modifications.

Portion-Controlled Treat

Using milkshakes as an occasional, portion-controlled treat can be a strategic move in a weight loss journey.

Let’s say you’re craving a chocolate milkshake. Instead of opting for a high-calorie version from a restaurant or a food delivery service, you can make one at home using low-calorie ingredients.

This approach allows you to satisfy your craving without derailing your weight loss efforts. The key here is moderation and portion control.

By preparing the milkshake yourself, you can ensure it’s made with healthier ingredients and in a quantity that won’t significantly impact your calorie intake for the day.

This strategy doesn’t directly contribute to weight loss but plays a crucial role in psychological satisfaction.

Feeling satisfied and not overly restricted can make your weight loss journey more sustainable and enjoyable.

Also Read: Is Eggnog Good For Weight Loss?

High-Protein Post-Workout Option

After an intense workout, especially resistance training, your body needs a combination of carbohydrates and protein for recovery.

A high-protein milkshake can be an excellent way to meet these nutritional needs.

By adding ingredients like whey protein, you can create a milkshake that supports muscle repair and growth without hindering your weight loss goals.

The protein helps in muscle recovery and rebuilding, while the carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores.

This kind of milkshake can be used by your body the right way if consumed shortly after your workout, as it aids in the recovery process and prepares your body for the next training session.

Also Read: Are Protein Pancakes Good For Weight Loss?

Psychological Satisfaction

A person closing their eyes in delight while sipping a milkshake.

The psychological aspect of enjoying a favorite treat, even in a modified form, can be significant in a weight loss plan.

Allowing yourself to indulge in a milkshake occasionally, especially one that’s been adjusted to be more weight-loss-friendly, can help prevent feelings of deprivation.

When you don’t feel completely deprived of the foods you love, you’re more likely to stick to your overall diet plan.

This balance can lead to a healthier relationship with food and make it easier to maintain a consistent approach to eating well.

It’s about finding a balance that allows occasional indulgences while staying on track with your weight loss goals.

Also Read: Is Chocolate Milk Good For Weight Loss

Potential Drawbacks of Milkshakes for Weight Loss

Milkshakes have some major drawbacks such as the following.

They are High in Calories

An infographic showing a milkshake with a high-calorie count due to ice cream, milk, and sugar.

Weight loss depends on creating a caloric deficit, where you burn more calories than you consume.

Traditional milkshakes are high in calories because they are made with milk, sugar, and ice cream.

This can make it challenging to maintain a caloric deficit.

When you consume more calories than your body needs for energy, the excess calories are stored as fat.

Liquid calories, particularly from drinks like milkshakes, can be consumed quickly and in large quantities without providing a feeling of fullness.

This means you’re likely to consume more calories without feeling satiated, making it harder to control overall calorie intake and, consequently, manage weight.

Read why it is better to chew your calories than drink them.

They Have High Sugar

Milkshake illustrated with a sugar meter indicating high sugar content.

When you consume sugar, it’s broken down into glucose and fructose. Glucose is used by your body’s cells for energy.

If there’s an excess, it can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen or converted into fat. Fructose, on the other hand, is processed primarily by the liver.

When you consume high amounts of fructose, like that found in sugary milkshakes, the liver can become overloaded and start turning the fructose into fat.

This process is known as de novo lipogenesis. The fat can then be stored in the liver or transported and stored in other areas of the body.

This not only contributes to weight gain but can also lead to metabolic issues like insulin resistance and increased triglyceride levels, which are risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

You Risk Craving Milkshakes Regularly

A woman gazing longingly at a milkshake photo, embodying a craving.

The goal of weight loss is not just to lose weight, it’s about building habits that can sustain your weight loss for life.

But high-sugar foods and drinks like milkshakes can make it harder for you to develop healthy habits.

This is because they are high in sugar and the way sugar affects the brain’s reward system.

When you consume sugar, it triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, and reward.

This response is similar to that triggered by certain drugs such as cocaine, leading to feelings of pleasure and a desire to repeat the experience.

Over time, your brain may start to crave this dopamine release, leading to cravings for sugary foods and drinks.

If milkshake intake isn’t portion-controlled and its ingredients aren’t moderated, you risk developing a habit of craving and consuming them frequently.

This habitual consumption can make it difficult to reduce sugar intake, as the body and brain become accustomed to the frequent sugar-induced dopamine releases.

This cycle can be challenging to break and can significantly hinder weight loss efforts, as you might find yourself compelled to consume high-calorie, high-sugar milkshakes more often than is conducive to weight loss.

Tips for Adding Smoothies to a Weight Loss Diet

Have it In the Morning

When you wake up in the morning after a night’s sleep, your body is typically in what’s known as a catabolic state.

This means that your body has been fasting overnight and is now in a mode where it’s breaking down body tissues, like muscle, for energy.

During this state, your body’s glycogen stores (the storage form of carbohydrates) are depleted, and it’s important to replenish these stores to provide energy for the day ahead.

Carbohydrates are crucial at this time because they are the primary source of energy for your body. Eating carbs in the morning helps to refill your glycogen stores, giving you the energy you need for physical and mental activities throughout the day.

Protein is also important in the morning. When you consume protein, it aids in muscle protein synthesis, which is the process your body uses to repair and build muscle tissues.

Overnight and during periods of fasting, muscle protein breakdown can occur, so providing your body with protein in the morning helps to counteract this and supports muscle maintenance and growth.

A great way to meet these nutritional needs is by having a smoothie with a scoop of whey protein or other protein sources of your choice, such as Greek yogurt, tofu, or nuts. These ingredients can provide the necessary protein for muscle repair and growth.

Also Read: Best Time To Drink Green Tea For Weight Loss

Use it as Post-Workout Drink

Following an intense workout, such as a combination of treadmill running, cycling, and cross-training, your body’s glycogen (carbohydrate) stores are likely depleted.

A smoothie at this time can be beneficial for muscle recovery and replenishing energy stores.

Including a balance of carbohydrates (from fruits or oats) and protein can aid in this recovery process.

Using Low-Calorie Ingredients for Caloric Deficit

When you use low-calorie ingredients to make your smoothie, you’re essentially creating a meal that provides essential nutrients while keeping the overall calorie count low.

This approach is crucial for weight loss because it helps you maintain a caloric deficit.

A caloric deficit occurs when you consume fewer calories than your body expends for energy.

By incorporating ingredients like leafy greens, low-calorie fruits (like berries), and water or plant-based milk, you can create a filling, nutritious smoothie without overloading on calories.

This strategy supports your weight loss journey by ensuring you don’t consume more calories than necessary.

Avoid Adding Extra Sugar

The natural sugars found in fruits are usually sufficient to sweeten a smoothie.

Adding extra sugar not only increases the calorie content but can also lead to an excess sugar intake.

When the body receives more sugar than it can utilize for energy, the surplus is converted into fat and stored.

This can counteract weight loss efforts. Stick to the natural sweetness of fruits and avoid adding sweeteners like honey, syrup, or sugar.

Use it as an Occasional Meal Replacement

Using a smoothie as a meal replacement can be a convenient option on busy days, but it shouldn’t become a daily habit.

Eating whole foods is important for a balanced diet, as it provides a variety of nutrients and the benefits of fiber, which can be lost in blending.

Many commercial meal replacement shakes, like those from Herbalife, can lead to rapid weight loss, but this is often not sustainable and can be nutritionally unbalanced.

Whole foods provide essential nutrients in their natural form, which is generally healthier and more sustainable for long-term weight management.

Retain the Fiber in Your Smoothie

When you include fiber in your smoothie, it helps to slow down the digestion and absorption of sugar in your gut.

This slower process means that your blood sugar levels rise more gradually, avoiding sharp spikes.

As a result, there’s a more controlled release of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar.

This is important for weight loss because high levels of insulin can hinder fat burning. When insulin is present, your body tends to store fat rather than burn it, especially if there’s excess glucose (from sugars) in your bloodstream.

By ensuring your smoothie is rich in fiber, you help moderate insulin response and support your body’s ability to burn fat more effectively.

Use whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices, as the fiber is often in the pulp and skin.

Adding ingredients like chia seeds and flax seeds is also a great way to boost the fiber content.

Tips For Adding Milkshakes to a Weight Loss Diet

Make Your Own Milkshake

When you make your own milkshake, you have complete control over what goes into it.

This is important for weight loss, as commercial milkshakes from restaurants are often loaded with sugar and high-calorie ingredients.

By preparing milkshakes at home, you can choose healthier, lower-calorie options that align with your weight loss goals.

Use Artificial Sweeteners

If you’re looking to sweeten your milkshake, consider using artificial sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol instead of sugar.

These sweeteners have little to no calories and do not impact blood sugar levels in the same way as sugar.

Unlike sugar, which is absorbed and metabolized by the body, contributing to calorie intake and potential fat storage, many artificial sweeteners are not absorbed directly into the bloodstream and have a negligible effect on blood sugar levels.

This makes them a preferable choice for those on a weight-loss diet.

Here is a table for your reference

Artificial SweetenerSugar ContentCalorie Content (per 1 g)Metabolism in the Body
Stevia0 g0 caloriesStevia is not digested or absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. It’s broken down by bacteria in the colon and then excreted. It doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.
Aspartame0 g4 caloriesAspartame is broken down into its amino acid components and methanol in the small intestine. These components are then absorbed and metabolized in the same way as naturally occurring amino acids and methanol.
Sucralose (Splenda)0 g0 caloriesSucralose is not metabolized for energy. Most of it is not absorbed and is excreted unchanged in the feces. The small amount that is absorbed is excreted in the urine.
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)0 g0 caloriesSaccharin is not metabolized by the body and is excreted unchanged in the urine.
Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)0 g0 caloriesAce-K is absorbed by the body but not metabolized. It is excretied unchanged in the urine.
Erythritol0 g0 caloriesAce-K is absorbed by the body but not metabolized. It is excreted unchanged in the urine.
Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo)0 g0 caloriesMonk fruit sweeteners are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and do not contribute calories or raise blood sugar levels. They are metabolized by bacteria in the colon and then excreted.

Choose Low-Calorie Ingredients

Opt for low-calorie fruits like berries, peaches, or melons, and use low-calorie milk options such as almond milk, skim milk, or soy milk.

Traditional milkshake ingredients are high in calories, so choosing these lower-calorie alternatives can significantly reduce the overall calorie content of your milkshake, making it more suitable for a weight-loss diet.

Time It Right

Similar to smoothies, timing your milkshake consumption can be beneficial.

Consuming a milkshake when your body needs nourishment, such as after a workout, can be more effective than having it at a time when your body doesn’t require the extra energy, like after dinner.

After a workout, your body needs nutrients for recovery.

A milkshake with protein (like protein powder or Greek yogurt) can help replenish energy stores and aid in muscle recovery, without significantly impacting your weight loss efforts.

While it’s not always possible to control the timing of your meals and snacks, aiming to consume milkshakes at times when they can be most beneficial to your body can help minimize their impact on your weight loss journey.

Also Read: Best Time To Drink Kombucha For Weight Loss


Both smoothies and milkshakes can have a place in a healthy diet, but they’re not created equal when it comes to weight loss.

Smoothies, with their fruit and vegetable content, tend to be lower in calories and higher in nutrients, making them a better choice for weight loss.

However, with careful ingredient selection and portion control, even a milkshake can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

Ultimately, the best choice is the one that fits your personal preferences, nutritional needs, and weight loss goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is healthier smoothie or milkshake?

Both milkshakes and smoothies can have a large number of calories and sugar, so neither is inherently healthier than the other. It depends on the ingredients used in each.

Are smoothies better for losing weight?

it depends on the ingredients you use to make your smoothie. Smoothies can be a healthy part of your weight loss plan, as long as you consume them in moderation, use low-calorie and nutrient-dense ingredients, and follow a balanced and healthy lifestyle

What kind of shakes are best for weight loss?

The best kinds of shakes for weight loss are:

  • Low in calories, fat, and sugar, and high in protein, fiber, and nutrients
  • Made with natural and wholesome ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or yogurt
  • Used as meal replacements or snacks, not as additions to your regular diet
  • Balanced with other whole foods and physical activity

These are the general criteria for choosing the best shakes for weight loss.

What are the typical ingredients in a smoothie?

Typical smoothie ingredients include fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and yogurt.

What are some common misconceptions about smoothies and milkshakes?

some of the common misconceptions about smoothies and milkshakes are:

  • Smoothies always have dairy. This is not true, as smoothies can use any sort of liquid to reach a nice consistency, such as water, juice, nut milk, or coconut water.
  • You need ice to make a smoothie. This is not true, as you can use frozen fruit instead of ice to get a cold, smooth, and flavorful smoothie.
  • Smoothies are just fruit. This is not true, as you can add vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, or herbs to your smoothies to increase their nutrition and variety.
  • Milkshakes are the same as smoothies. This is not true, as milkshakes are much higher in calories, fat, and sugar than smoothies, and much lower in fiber.
  • Milkshakes can’t be healthy. This is not true, as you can make healthier versions of milkshakes by using low-fat or non-dairy milk, frozen yogurt, or natural sweeteners

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Rahul is a professional nutritionist certified by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and a personal trainer certified through the American Council of Exercise (ACE). He has a special interest in the science of nutrition and how it can impact the body.

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