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Muscle Milk vs Core Power: Protein Shake Showdown 

It’s time to settle this once and for all, read on to figure out which is the better ready-to-drink protein shake comparing Muscle Milk vs Core Power.

Comparing protein shakes in the grocery store aisle can be a daunting task! So we did the work for you.

Read on for an in-depth, side-by-side comparison of the nutrition facts, ingredients, and things you should know about each protein shake. 

Lastly, we will share a detailed price and taste evaluation to help you pick the best protein shake for you when selecting between muscle milk vs core power. Plus, we answer common questions such as “Is Muscle Milk lactose-free?” and “Which protein shake is the best?”

Keep reading to learn more!

Why drink protein shakes?

While protein shakes are not necessary for building muscle mass or for muscle recovery, they can help! 

We recommend protein shakes for athletes who:

  • Struggle to eat enough protein (use our protein calculator for athletes to see if you are eating enough)
  • Need a quick grab-and-go protein source 
  • Have the extra funds, protein shakes are more expensive than whole-food protein sources such as milk, eggs, yogurt, etc. 

Aim to limit your protein supplements to 1 per day and focus on getting a majority of your protein from whole foods when possible. 

Protein shakes should not be used as a meal replacement because they lack adequate amounts of carbohydrates and fat. But, protein drinks can be an easy way to boost your protein intake after a workout or as a mid-morning snack. 

Keep reading to find out which protein shake is a better choice.

Which protein shake is better? 

The best protein shake for you between Muscle Milk vs Core Power protein shakes will depend on your protein needs, taste preference, and which protein shake settles in your stomach best. 

Both are popular choices but we will do a deep dive into the nutrition facts and flavor to help you decide which protein shake is a better option for you. Then, we will share our pick for the best high-protein drink.

PepsiCo’s Muscle Milk protein shakes

Gatorade aka PepsiCo took over Muscle Milk production in 2019. However, Muscle Milk has been around since 2000, much longer than Fairlife’s Core Power protein shakes (1).

As of today, Muscle Milk offers 3 types of ready-to-drink protein shakes:

  • Muscle Milk Zero Protein Shake (11 oz)
  • Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Shake (14 oz)
  • Muscle Milk PRO Advanced Nutrition Protein Shake (14 oz)

All of Muscle Milk’s premade protein shakes can be found in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors

The Muscle Milk Pro series comes from the makers of the well-known sports drink Gatorade

Fairlife’s Core Power protein shakes 

Fairlife, the creators of Core Power protein shakes, began in 2012. 

However, in 2019, the company came under scrutiny when videos from a supply dairy farm exposed animal abuse. Since then, Farilife reports taking steps to improve animal welfare and up standards to support their zero tolerance for animal abuse (2). 

Today Fairlife produces 3 pre-made high-protein shakes: 

  • CorePower (14 oz) 
  • CorePower Elite (14 oz)
  • Fairlife nutrition plan (11 oz)

Core power shakes come in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry banana flavors. The Elite Core Power protein shakes come in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors. 

Aside from protein shakes, Fairlife sells lactose-free, ultra-filtered milk. Learn more about chocolate vs strawberry milk on the blog. 

Nutrition comparisons of Muscle Milk vs Core Power 

For this protein shake showdown, we will compare the nutrition facts of the lower protein shakes: Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Shake vs Core Power. 

We will also compare the protein shakes with >/= 40 grams of protein: Muscle Milk Pro Advanced Nutrition vs Core Power Elite pre-made protein shakes. Both protein shakes contain all 9 essential amino acids to help muscle recover and grow

In the chart below we compare the nutrition composition of all of the pre-made protein shakes that are in 14 fluid oz bottles in chocolate flavor

Muscle Milk Genuine vs Core Power: shakes with <30 grams of protein

Protein Shake Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Shake Core Power 
Protein 25 g26 g
Fat 5 g4.5 g
Carbohydrates 11 g8 g
Total Sugars 0 g5 g
Added sugar 0 g0 g
Fiber 6 g2 g
Vitamin D 8 mcg (40% of DV)5 mcg (25% of DV)
Vitamin C 18 mcg (20% of DV)0 mcg
Vitamin A 320 mcg (35% of DV)240 mcg (25% of DV)
Calcium 330 mg (25% of DV)670 mg (50% of DV)
Potassium 780 mg (15% of DV) 860 mg (20% of DV)
*DV= Daily Value 

Muscle Milk Pro vs Core Power Elite: shakes with >/= 40 grams of protein

Protein Shake Muscle Milk Pro Advanced Nutrition Core Power Elite
Protein 40 g42 g
Fat 2.5 g3.5 g
Carbohydrates 12 g9 g
Total Sugars 1 g7 g
Added sugar 0 g0 g
Fiber 6 g2 g
Vitamin D 9 mcg (45% of DV)10 mcg (50% of DV)
Vitamin C 0 mg0 mg
Vitamin A 230 mcg (25% of DV)240 mcg (25% of DV)
Calcium 650 mg (50% of DV)900 mg (70% of DV)
Potassium 800 mg (15% of DV)700 mg (15% of DV)
*DV= Daily Value 

Are these protein shakes lactose-free?

Both core power and muscle milk protein shakes are lactose-free but neither are dairy-free because they use milk proteins. Both are suitable for athletes with lactose intolerance

Those with a dairy allergy should avoid all dairy products including milk-based protein drinks like Muscle Milk and Core Power.

Muscle milk’s protein comes from calcium caseinate and milk protein isolate, both are proteins from cow’s milk.

Core Power protein shakes protein come from filtered low-fat grade A milk, they add a lactase enzyme to make it lactose-free. 

Which protein shake is gluten-free?

Core Power protein shakes have a gluten-free claim on their ready-to-drink protein shakes. Muscle Milk protein shakes contain no gluten-free claim but do not have any gluten-containing ingredients. 

However, we recommend athletes with celiac disease stick with core power protein shakes or reach out to Muscle Milk to verify there is no cross-contamination with gluten or wheat-containing products during production to verify the shakes are gluten-free.

Understanding the ingredients: 

Aside from artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners, vitamins, macronutrients, and minerals, there are other ingredients that the ready-to-consume protein shakes contain.

Unlike Core Power protein shakes, Muscle Milk shakes contain artificial flavors which some athletes may prefer to avoid.

Both Core Power and Muscle Milk Protein shakes contain carrageenan which is used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods. Carrageenan may have negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract for some athletes.

All of the protein drinks contain cellulose gum and cellulose gel which is a thickener and stabilizer that comes from plant cell walls like wood pulp and cotton seeds. It adds fiber and creaminess but too much can cause digestive issues

Muscle Milk vs Core Power sweeteners

Muscle Milk protein shakes are sweetened with artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)

Core Power protein shakes are sweetened with Ace-K, sucralose, monk fruit juice concentrate, and stevia leaf extract. 

Both monk fruit and stevia are no-calorie sweeteners that are plant-derived and FDA-approved.

Understanding artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are often used in products because, unlike table sugar, they add no calories. You also need much less of them to sweeten a product compared to table sugar (sucrose). 

However, If you dislike the taste of nonnutritive or “fake sweeteners” you may not enjoy the taste of these pre-made protein shakes. Learn more about the artificial sweeteners in Core Power and Muscle Milk below. 

Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)

  • 200x sweeter than sugar 
  • Also known as Sunett and Sweet One
  • More bitter taste on its own 


  • 600x sweeter than sugar 
  • Also known as Splenda
  • Some notice a strange aftertaste 

Are artificial sweeteners safe?

The FDA currently deems artificial sweeteners generally recognized as safe (GRAS). However, this remains a controversial topic among health professionals. 

While they may help those looking to cut down on calories, some research has hypothesized that artificial sweeteners may disrupt appetite by tricking the mind into thinking it is getting something sweet but not delivering calories (3).

Other studies hypothesize that artificial sweeteners may increase cardiovascular risk and glucose tolerance (4).  A 2017 research study found that 4 weeks of Ace-K use led to weight gain and gut microbiome disruption in rats (5).

We believe continued research is needed regarding artificial sweeteners’ potential risks with long-term and frequent use in humans. At this time, we recommend consuming fewer artificial sweeteners when possible.

Taste test and cost comparison 

*Note, this section includes affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let’s see how the protein shakes land on the taste buds!

Protein ShakeMuscle Milk Genuine Muscle Milk Pro Advanced NutritionCore PowerCore Power Elite 
FlavorChocolateKnockout ChocolateChocolateChocolate 
TasteMost chocolatey, strong protein taste  We did not like the taste, very strong artificial sweetener and protein taste Tastes most like chocolate milk Light chocolate taste, more sweet tasting than core power original 
MouthfeelSecond thickest Thickest, most protein-heavy mouthfeel Similar consistency to chocolate milkThinnest, closet to water
AftertasteStrong, undesired aftertaste Moderate Least amount of aftertaste Slight 
Pro’sMost amount of fiber, most chocolatey if you can overcome the taste of the protein Second highest in proteinCheapest, tastes most like chocolate milk Most amount of calcium, vitamin D, protein

Our pick for the best protein shake 

Our #1 pick for the best ready-to-consume protein shake between Muscle Milk and Core Power shakes is Core Power Elite. Our #2 pick is the regular version of the core power protein drink.

#1 Pick Core Power Elite because:

  • Great taste
  • Labeled gluten-free
  • Fewer ingredients 
  • No artificial flavors
  • Highest in vitamin D, calcium, and protein 

#2 The regular version of the Core Power protein drink because:

  • Great taste
  • Less expensive
  • Tastes least like a protein shake and most like chocolate milk
  • Available in a unique strawberry-banana flavor 

Overall, we preferred the taste and mouthfeel of the Fairlife Core Power shakes. 

Can the body absorb more than 20 grams of protein?

A common myth is that consuming more than 20-25g of protein at a meal or snack is a “waste.” 

This is false! And, the most current sports nutrition research supports that larger athletes will need >20g of protein at 4+ meals spread throughout the day.

All 25-42 g of protein from Muscle Milk or Core Power may not be used for repairing and building muscle. Some of the protein from protein shakes may be used to help fulfill other functions such as creating enzymes and hormones or supporting a strong and healthy immune system

The bottom line 

All of these protein shakes are excellent options and can contribute to muscle growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass. However, both the Core Power and Muscle Milk protein shakes contain artificial sweeteners that you may not enjoy or want in your diet.

For both fitness enthusiasts and athletes, protein shakes should not be used as meal replacements but rather as an easy way to help meet and increase your protein intake as a snack or after a workout. 

All of these protein drinks should be paired with a carbohydrate food such as a banana to be an optimal post-workout nutrition snack. 

The best protein shake between Muscle Milk vs Core Power is ultimately the protein shake that meets your personal preference.
 If neither of these protein shakes appeals to you, check out our recommendations for the best protein powders!

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