Protein Lemonade Is Popular on TikTok—But Is It Healthy?

  • Creators online are sharing videos of a new spin on a protein shake, which features lemonade, ice, and protein powder.
  • The protein lemonade can be made with a number of different ingredients, but it’s meant to be a healthier alternative to frozen lemonade desserts that are popular in the summertime.
  • Protein lemonade shouldn’t be a person’s only source of protein and nutrients, dietitians explained, but it may be a healthy addition to someone’s diet if consumed in moderation.

frozen lemon drink

frozen lemon drink

Pixel Stories/Stocksy

A new TikTok trend has arrived just in time for summer: frosted protein lemonade. Online creators are putting a new spin on their protein shakes, subbing fresh fruit and yogurt for lemonade and ice. The result is a frosty, sweet smoothie that many claim is a healthier way to enjoy a summer frozen treat.

Protein lemonade first went viral when TikTokers started making copycat versions of Chick-fil-A’s Frosted Lemonade. The goal was to find ways to make this refreshing summery beverage lower in calories and sugar, and higher in protein.

The ingredients in the original from Chick-fil-A include a combination of whole milkfat and nonfat dry milk, sugar, water, lemon juice, and a variety of preservatives and stabilizers. Nutritionally, it clocks in at 65 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fat.

The resulting copycat TikTok recipes feature lemonade and ice blended together, plus protein powder, typically vanilla flavored. Some add vanilla extract, as well.

And though the protein lemonade trend has its fair share of naysayers, dietitians agree that the drink could be another way to enjoy a protein shake, so long as people are drinking it in moderation.

“It’s not much different than a standard protein shake that you’d mix up,” Jamie Nadeau, RD, founder of The Balanced Nutritionist, told Health. “But if you’re not a fan of protein powder, it can be a great protein shake alternative.”

Here’s what experts had to say about the health benefits of protein lemonade, and what to keep in mind before giving the trend a try.

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Is Protein Lemonade Really Healthy?

Scouring TikTok and bloggers’ protein lemonade recipes, the reimagined versions have quite the surprising variety of ingredients. Recipes include everything from sugar-free lemonade to lemon juice, cottage cheese to almond milk, and vanilla protein powder to powdered vanilla pudding mix.

Though people online play around with the ingredients in their homemade protein lemonade, many opt for certain kinds of lemonade to make the beverage as healthy as possible.

“The lemonade most often used in this TikTok trend is Light or Zero Sugar lemonade that has no added sugar, but is instead sweetened with artificial sugars like aspartame,” Blair Persyn, RD, LDN, CNSC, founder of Bites With Blair, told Health.

When it comes to buying lemonade at the grocery store, looking for “freshly squeezed” on the label can signify the top-tier brands. If someone does prefer lemonade with traditional sugars such as can sugar or high fructose corn syrup, it’s important to keep an eye on how much sugar they’re consuming. In general, lemonade has about six teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce serving, and adults should have no more than 12 teaspoons of added sugar daily.

If someone prefers a low or no-sugar variety, be aware that it may contain artificial sweeteners that can bother your stomach. Some recipes also call for fresh squeezed lemon juice with honey, agave, or maple syrup to make the drink sweeter.

“Both sugar and artificial sugar have their drawbacks,” said Persyn. “But I believe most things are fine in moderation.”

On the protein side of things, the TikTok version of Frosted Lemonade has 15 to 30 grams of protein per serving—much more than the Chick-fil-A original.

Based on current evidence, bodies can absorb about 20 to 25 grams of protein at each meal and protein should be distributed across meals and snacks throughout the day. When using protein powder, aim to use no more than 20 to 40 grams per day.

“Protein powders can help people fill in the gaps to meet their protein needs,” Persyn said. “Older adults, vegans, and athletes all have higher protein needs, so this frozen protein lemonade can be a fun way to get in extra protein.”

As far as protein powders go, there are hundreds on the market. Choosing one really comes down to personal preference. Some protein powders are made from whey protein while others are made from vegan sources of protein, such as soy or pea.

Most recipes call for a vanilla protein powder to give the frosted drink a creamy flavor to complement the tanginess of the lemonade.

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Keeping Safety and Overall Nutrition In Mind

Though this drink in moderation can be good additions to a person’s diet, there are some important tips to keep in mind before giving protein lemonade a try.

Consuming too much protein powder may displace protein from whole food sources, so it’s important to get protein in other ways beyond just powder. Other good sources of protein—such as chicken, beef, eggs, tofu, nuts, and beans—also provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that the body needs.

Also, “if the protein powder contains additional vitamins, minerals, or herbs, you definitely want to make sure you’re not over-supplementing,” Nadeau said.

Beyond daily quantity of protein powder, it’s also important to pay attention to the quality of the protein powder, as well as your goals for incorporating it into your diet. Selecting the right kind of protein powder also means choosing one that doesn’t trigger any intolerances or insensitivities.

Talking to a registered dietitian can help answer any protein powder questions.

Since protein powder is not regulated by the FDA in the same way that food and drugs drugs are, be sure to find one that is third-party tested to ensure your protein supplement label is accurate and meets safety standards. NSF International Certified for Sport does comprehensive third-party testing of nutritional supplements for sport.

But because because protein powders are not as heavily regulated and because they “can sometimes contain other ingredients like heavy metals and contaminants that are not listed on the label,” Persyn recommends kids avoid protein lemonade.

So protein shakes such as this one can certainly be part of a healthy diet, so long as a person is also eating enough other sources of whole food proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables, experts agreed.

Making protein lemonade could even be another opportunity for people to add other nutrients to their diets—protein lemonade variations with fresh or frozen fruit could be another healthy move, Nadeau added.

While protein lemonade may not be a necessary dietary addition if a person is already meeting their protein needs, these kinds of protein-rich drinks can certainly be a healthy part of someone’s diet—in moderation. Whether it be to add more protein to your diet or to find a healthier alternative to Frosted Lemonade or other treats, protein lemonade could be a good addition to your summer drink rotation.