36 Tips to Make Protein Shakes Taste Good
Protein shakes are a great way to maximize your workout. However, protein powder often tastes bland or has unhealthy artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame. Luckily, it's very easy to make unflavored whey protein, pea protein, casein protein, or vanilla protein powder taste better.
Adjust the ratio of water to protein powder.
The simplest way to make a protein shake taste better is to mix it with more or less water/liquid. There are two schools of thought on this:
- Use the least amount of water needed to dissolve the protein powder. This is our personal preference. We prefer to simply get the shake done with as fast as possible. This is particularly true with pea protein powder, which is tough to improve the taste of.
- Add more water to dilute the protein powder. This makes the shake taste less pungent but also makes it take longer to finish.
Add protein powder to soup or other types of food.
You're definitely going to "notice" the taste of pea protein powder if you simply mix it with water. However, you can mask its taste by mixing it with strong tasting soups like lentil soup or french onion soup.
Whey/casein protein powder goes better with soups that are traditionally paired with milk or cream. We like mixing protein powder (and Ezekiel 4:9 Bread) with Pacific Foods Creamy Tomato Soup, which is currently available as part of Amazon Prime Samples.
About Prime Samples: Amazon Prime Samples let's you try products for a very low price with free shipping. In addition, you get a coupon with a discount for the same amount you paid. That means the sample is essentially free if you use the coupon.
Recover faster from your workout by adding a sweetener.
Most fitness gurus agree that an ideal post-workout meal contains a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. It's part of the reason why some people swear by chocolate milk as a recovery drink.
Most protein powder isn't close to this ratio. Pure protein powder is naturally low in carbs and typical mixes are usually flavored with artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. An artificial sweetener is a replacement for sugar or other sweets that attempts to provide the same sweet taste with fewer calories. However, artificial sweeteners might actually make us hungrier and make us crave sweets. This debate is still ongoing. These provide no nutritional value and potentially have a variety of negative side effects.
Natural sweeteners with fast-acting carbohydrates help your body recover glycogen levels faster. Fast-acting carbohydrates (like fruits and pasta) are carbohydrates that are quick to digest and provide you energy faster than other carbs, fat, or protein. It's generally good to prefer slow-acting carbohydrates (like oats) except after a workout. Fast-acting carbohydrates help refuel glycogen fast, which helps you recover faster. As long as you consume them in moderation, natural sweeteners can be a productive part of your pre or post-workout routine. Here's a few ideas:
Make your protein shake even healthier with some fruit.
Like sweeteners, most fruits contain fast-acting carbohydrates that help you recover faster after a workout. As an added benefit, they also have have a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants that pure sweeteners don't. Include a variety of fruits to get the most benefits.
- Berries: Blackberries, Blueberries, Pomegranates, Raspberries, Strawberries
- Tropical: Bananas, Coconut Juice, Mangoes, Oranges, Passion Fruits, Pineapples
- More: Cherries, Peaches, Watermelons
Rehydrate with some electrolytes.
Not those types of electrolytes. :)
Nuun Hydration Electrolyte Drink Tablets helps you replenish lost electrolytes, tastes decent, and avoids unnatural additives like artificial sweeteners.
If you're simply looking to get optimal hydration after a workout, LyteShow Electrolyte Concentrate might be for you. It has no additives or sugars. It also has no taste but that might be preferable depending on the context.
Add real vanilla beans, chocolate, or cacao nibs.
A list of the best-selling protein powders at Amazon consists almost entirely of chocolate or vanilla flavored protein powders. They taste pretty good but they also contain questionable ingredients like acesulfame potassium and artificial flavors. Acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetener that makes food taste sweeter with fewer calories than a natural sweetener. However, whether it's good for you or not is still up for debate. The USFDA says it is. Other studies claim it may be carcinogenic. Why go with an artificial flavor when you can have the real thing?
There's a ton of ways to avoid artificial vanilla flavoring. You can use raw vanilla beans, alcohol-free vanilla extract, or vanilla powder to name a few. Real vanilla is definitely a more subtle flavor than what you're used to but it's also a lot better for you.
Chocolate is another way to make protein shakes taste good. It also helps aid recovery and re-energizes you thanks to small amounts of caffeine. However, chocolate can also be high in calories. If you're looking for a lower calorie option, cacao nibs are a solid alternative. They're less processed than chocolate, much lower in sugar, and closer to real cacao.
Thicken it with healthy fats or double-down on dairy. In the past, eating foods with a large percentage of fat was frowned upon. The debate has changed recently. It's now believed that many high-fat foods are good for you. In particular, certain foods like olive oil, avocados, and walnuts are considered to be healthy fats.
Whey protein powder and casein protein powder are derived from dairy so it's probably better to diversify using non-dairy sources. With that said, using milk instead of water will definitely make any type of protein powder taste better.
As far as non-dairy options, nut butters or actual nuts/seeds are a few examples of healthy fats you can add.
Invest in a better blender.
With some ingredients you don't even need a blender. All you need is some protein powder, some liquid, and your favorite tumbler (we recommend anything stainless steel). But if you want to make protein shakes with fruit or nuts, you'll get much better results with a high-end blender.
About 10 years ago we purchased a 64-ounce Vitamix Blender to make vegetable juice purees and we think it's an investment that's been well-worth the price tag. It's powerful, has a huge capacity, and the model we purchased has been extremely durable. It's so powerful you can use it to make almond butter, non-dairy milk, soups, and homemade flour in addition to standard blended drinks.
We've also heard good things about Ninja Blenders, which are available at a much lower price point. But check out the video below to get a feel for a few of the things that a Vitamix can do.