Fairlife is a milk brand that also sells bottled protein shakes called Core Power. The shakes come in four flavors and the brand claims that Fairlife protein shake "supports workout recovery" and "builds lean muscle."
But does Fairlife contain research-backed ingredients to support these claims, like an effective dose of protein? Does it contain any questionable additive ingredients? Is Fairlife Elite better for athletes than regular Fairlife protein shake? And how do real users rate and describe the effects of Fairlife protein shakes?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in Fairlife protein shake based on medical studies, to give our take on whether it's likely to help build muscle or if it's a waste of money.
We'll highlight a few questionable additive ingredients and feature real, unsponsored Fairlife user reviews (including our test of the product). We'll also explain why Fairlife was successfully sued for over $20 million.
The ingredients in Fairlife Protein Shake are shown above.
Protein is included at an effective dose of 26 grams (g). A medical review published in 2013 found that protein doses around 25 g maximize muscle protein synthesis after exercise.
Filtered lowfat grade A milk is the protein source, and there is no reference to whether the milk is sourced from grass-fed or conventional animals, so we will assume the milk is sourced from conventionally-raised animals.
An extensive scientific review published by the University of Minnesota concluded that grass-fed milk is healthier than conventional milk for two main reasons: it provides a more optimal ratio of fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids, and is also higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which may have cardiovascular benefits.
Fairlife protein shake also contains a number of additive ingredients we consider questionable, listed below.
Suraclose is an artificial sweetener that has been shown in a clinical trial to negatively affect insulin function in young and healthy volunteers. The trial participants only consumed 15% of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of sucralose and experienced a significant decrease in insulin sensitivity.
Acesulfame potassium is another artificial sweetener that was found to cause intestinal injury and negative changes to gut function in an animal study.
Natural flavors is a broad descriptor that can refer to a wide range of chemical compounds. As we detailed in our review of Orgain protein powder, there is medical evidence that some flavoring agents pose toxicity risks to humans.
Vitamin A palmitate and vitamin D3 are vitamin additives. As documented in an extensive meta-study published in 2017, excess intake of vitamins poses health concerns, and it may be illogical to consume foods and supplements with added vitamins and minerals without a documented deficiency in that vitamin or mineral.
Overall we do not recommend Fairlife protein shakes due to the inclusion of the additive ingredients. We do believe that this product is likely to be effective for post-workout muscle synthesis and recovery due to the effective protein dosage.
A Registered Dietitian (RD) named Nicole Hoskens has a popular YouTube review of Fairlife protein shakes that overviews the health benefits and has over 30,000 views:
We Tried Fairlife Protein Shake: Our Take
As the author of this article, I tried Fairlife protein shake myself.
I was not a fan of the taste. Though it doesn't taste awful, it tasted worse to me than regular milk and I would not purchase it again for this reason.
The high protein content is a plus, and I paired it with dark chocolate to neutralize some of the excessive sweetness of Fairlife.
I used this product post-workout and it did seem to help my muscles recover, but that was only after one workout session which is too small of a sample size and too subjective to definitively determine.
If Fairlife was free of artificial sweeteners I'd probably consider purchasing it a few times a week for a convenient, high-protein snack.
Were Fairlife Employees Abusing Animals?
Fairlife faced a number of controversies in 2020 over alleged animal welfare abuses on farms that the brand sourced from.
Undercover footage showed employees abusing and physically harming the cows, according to The National Trial Lawyers.
A class-action lawsuit was filed, and in 2022 Fairlife settled for $21 million.
It's unclear whether or not Fairlife had information about the alleged abuses occurring on this farm, but in our opinion it's the ethical obligation of food products businesses to routinely check up on the farms they source from to ensure humane treatment of animals.
There are video exposés searchable on YouTube highlighting the alleged abuses, but we choose not to feature them in this article because some individuals may understandably not want to watch animal cruelty.
Is Fairlife Elite Better?
Fairlife Elite has a very similar formulation to regular Fairlife protein shakes. The main difference is that the Elite version contains 42 g of protein.
We do not consider this increased protein dosage likely to confer any additional benefits, as we haven’t come across medical evidence that protein intake above 25 or 30 g in one sitting maximizes muscle synthesis further.
One benefit of this shake is it appears to be at least partially sweetened with strawberry puree, which is a nutritious whole food ingredient that’s rich in potassium according to the USDA.
All of the questionable additive ingredients we highlighted in the Fairlife ingredient review are also in Fairlife Elite: sucralose, acesulfame potassium, natural flavors, vitamin A palmitate and vitamin D3.
We do not recommend Fairlife Elite due to the additive ingredients, but we do believe it will be effective for muscle building and recovery post-workout due to the effective protein dosage.
Between the two products, Fairlife seems like the better purchase since it's cheaper.
A popular YouTube video published by a channel called “The Supplement Reviewers” compares Fairlife Elite (also called Core Power Elite) to Muscle Milk Pro Series and appears unsponsored:
Where to Buy Fairlife for the Best Price
Fairlife protein shakes are available at a variety of online retailers. Here's a price breakdown (in price-per-bottle) at the time of publishing this article:
Stop & Shop: $3.25
Amazon: $3.02 (link to official Amazon listing)
Amazon: $3.09 (link to official Amazon listing)
Prices for Fairlife protein shakes are at least 5% cheaper on Amazon than on the second-cheapest retailer.
Real Customers Review Fairlife
Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion. Fairlife's chocolate protein shake has been reviewed over 10,000 times on Amazon and has an impressive average review rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.
The top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Phyllcar" who likes the taste of the shakes:
"This shake is a great way to get a power boost when you’re running late and don’t have time for breakfast. It’ll hold you over until you have a better chance to eat a regular meal or use it for a quick snack in between meals. Best taste when cold"
The top negative review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named "Janelle" who dislikes the artificial sweeteners:
"Evidently the recipe for this product has changed since the review I read of it on the Web. I was looking for a drink without any artificial sweeteners and was shocked to get a product that contains sucralose which is undigestible for me and tastes awful. Complete waste of money. Amazon needs to highlight the ingredients list for this product."
Our Clean Protein Picks
Bulletproof Collagen Protein is our top protein powder.
The main reason is its formulation: Bulletproof's protein powder only contains one single ingredient: collagen protein sourced from grass-fed animals. No questionable additives at all.
As the core structural protein in skin, supplemental collagen is also clinically shown to reduce visible signs of skin aging like wrinkles, which is a secondary benefit not offered by other types of protein like milk protein.
Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Collagen Protein at this link to the product page on the brand's official website.
Complement Organic Protein is our top vegan protein powder.
The only ingredients in this protein powder are a blend of nutritious plant proteins and zero unhealthy additives: organic yellow pea protein, organic pumpkin seed protein, organic almond protein, organic sunflower seed protein and organic chia seed protein.
The brand also publishes third-party test results for label accuracy and contaminants which ensures product quality and is not common in the vegan protein market.
Interested consumers can check out Complement Organic Protein at this link to the product page on the brand's official website.
Fairlife Protein Shake Pros and Cons
Here’s our take on the pros and cons of Fairlife’s protein shakes:
- Effective protein dose
- Complete protein
- Should support muscle building
- Contains artificial sweeteners
- Contains added vitamins
- Contains flavoring agents
- Relatively expensive
- Dairy farm Fairlife sources from may have abused animals