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Getting enough protein can be difficult when you’re eating a high-protein diet.
This is why many people rely on supplements such as protein powder, bars, drinks, and other high-protein products to reach their desired protein intake.
Despite protein shakes being the most popular protein supplement, sometimes they can be finicky to prepare, and we can get tired of having the same thing every day.
So, grab your shaker bottle and favorite protein powder! We’re about to make protein shakes exciting again with this collection of tips and tricks for mixing up your protein powder routine.
Best Liquid for Protein Shakes
Love them or hate them, protein shakes are one of the easiest and most convenient ways to supplement your daily protein intake when consuming a high-protein diet to help build muscle or lose weight.
However, if you’re new to using protein powder, you might have many questions about the best liquid to mix it with and tricks to making a great-tasting shake.
Name a more iconic duo than water and protein powder. We’ll wait.
In all seriousness, water is probably the best liquid for protein shakes 99% of the time since water is easily accessible, the taste is neutral, and it is unlikely to upset your stomach.
We recommend adding a scoop of protein powder to 15 to 20 ounces of room-temperature or cold water.
Shake this up, let it sit for 30 to 60 seconds to allow any clumps to dissolve, shake it again, and enjoy slowly.
Dairy or Non-Dairy Milk
Some people find the water and protein powder combo unpalatable, either due to the taste of the powder itself or the texture.
If you’re not enjoying your shakes, try mixing them with dairy milk.
Fat-free is good if you’re looking to save on calories, while whole milk will be a good option for those on a bulk (trying to gain weight).
Skim, 2%, or reduced-fat milk is also a perfectly acceptable middle-ground option.
If you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or just don’t like dairy milk, non-dairy options will also improve the flavor and texture.
Here are some of the most popular options to mix with your protein powder:
- Soy milk
- Almond milk
- Oat milk
- Coconut milk
We recommend using unsweetened, non-dairy options since protein powders will already have sweeteners included.
While most people mix their protein powder with milk or water, coffee can also enhance your morning protein shake.
Here’s how: try a 50:50 combination of water with homemade or store-bought cold brew (we like Stok or Califia). We suggest sticking to classic protein flavors like vanilla (for a vanilla latte flavor) or chocolate (for a cafe mocha flavor), but you can add any flavor of protein that you like. Just shake it up and enjoy!
Some people also like to add their protein to hot coffee. This may require more trial and error as some flavors taste great with warm coffee, and others don’t.
If you try this, we recommend using a milk frother like this one to get your drink to mix smoothly.
Tricks to Prevent Protein Powder From Clumping
Few things can kill your desire to finish a protein shake more quickly than getting a mouthful of slimy, powdery clumps. Yummy, right?
Here are some tried and tested ways to reduce or totally prevent that nasty clumping:
- Use a shaker cup and blender ball: The best way to mix your protein shake is in a shaker cup. Some shaker cups also come with a blender ball that can help break up the clumps.
- Liquid first, then protein: Add your liquid to your cup and then add protein powder. This will help avoid clumping along the bottom edge of your shaker cup.
- Properly store your protein: Clumps can happen with every protein powder and aren’t necessarily a sign the product has gone bad. However, if your protein isn’t stored properly, humidity can get into the powder and cause excessive clumping. Make sure you screw the lid back on tight every time and store it in a cool, dry place.
Types of Protein Powders
Now for the fun part––deciding which protein powder to try!
Though whey protein powder dominates the market, it’s definitely not the only option available nowadays.
Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, or have food sensitivities or allergies, there is a protein for you that fits your diet needs and goals.
To make things easier on you, here are a few of the most common protein powders you can choose from:
- Whey protein (concentrate and isolate): this is the most popular type of protein on the market thanks to its high protein content and easy digestibility. It is a complete protein well-utilized by the body for muscle protein synthesis.
- Casein protein: another popular form of protein that is sometimes mixed with whey. Studies show that casein is more effectively utilized by the body for muscle growth since it is absorbed more slowly than whey.
- Egg white protein: made from the whites of chicken eggs with the yolks removed. This is a good alternative to whey and casein protein powders if lactose intolerant.
- Soy protein: the most widely used plant-based protein powder and one of the few plant-based options that is a complete protein, as soybeans have all nine essential amino acids.
- Brown rice protein: derived from brown rice, this is an incomplete protein, so it should be combined with other foods to get all nine essential amino acids. It is a good option for those with allergies.
- Pea protein: a high-quality plant-based complete protein made from peas and naturally rich in many beneficial nutrients.
- Hemp protein: a complete plant-based protein rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Unflavored protein: unflavored protein can typically be made from almost any of the above types of protein. This is popular to use in baked goods or even savory recipes to boost the protein content.
Using Protein Powder in Recipes
As we’ve said, protein powder is the easiest way to supplement your protein intake. However, in addition to its ease of use, it’s also extremely versatile!
You can add protein powder to smoothies, baked goods, and even savory meals to boost your protein intake, making it easier than ever to stick to a high-protein diet.
Try using unflavored, chocolate, or vanilla protein powder to add protein to your sweet treats. This is an excellent way to satisfy your sweet tooth and increase protein intake.
Here are a few of our very own recipes that you can easily add protein to for a little protein boost:
- Overnight Oats: Add a half or a full scoop of your favorite protein powder to our overnight oats recipe. You can use whey or plant-based protein, but we recommend vanilla-flavored protein for the vanilla and banana bread versions and chocolate for the chocolate overnight oats.
- Protein Pancakes: Add a scoop of vanilla protein powder to this blueberry pancake recipe. Sub the blueberries for dark chocolate chips and the vanilla powder for chocolate for a decadent but protein-packed breakfast.
- Protein Balls: This peanut butter oatmeal ball recipe has all the good stuff: complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a bit of protein.
Smoothies are one of the best ways to drink protein powder, especially if you aren’t a fan of chugging shakes.
You can make smoothies exactly to your liking with tons of yummy ingredients that will break you out of a protein powder slump.
No more boring vanilla and chocolate shakes! Try some of these delicious smoothie combinations the next time you need a protein boost (adjust ingredients to your liking):
Peanut Butter Cup Protein Smoothie: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, 1 frozen ripe banana, 1tbsp cocoa powder, 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk
Breakfast Smoothie: 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 frozen banana, ½ cup frozen strawberries, 1 tbsp oats, ½ tbsp natural peanut butter, 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk
Berry Smoothie: 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 frozen banana, ½ cup of milk or non-dairy milk, 1 tbsp honey (optional), ¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
To make your own unique protein smoothie, try combining any of the following ingredients:
- Frozen fruit: mango, cherry, blackberries, peaches
- Nut butter: almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower seed
- Veggies: avocado, spinach, carrots, kale, beets, pumpkin
- Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin
- Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
- Dairy milk: whole, 2%, fat-free
- Non-dairy milk: almond, oat, soy, rice, cashew
- Plain Greek yogurt: whole, 2%, fat-free
- Protein powder: whey, casein, soy, pea, hemp
While it might initially feel strange, adding unflavored protein powder to savory meals is an excellent way to boost the protein content if you feel you’ve been lacking it lately.
Use your best judgment and don’t overdo it with the protein powder by adding it to everything, but for the occasional meal or side dish, this is perfectly fine to do!
Try adding unflavored protein powder to:
Why Is It Important to Drink Protein Shakes?
Protein plays a vital role in muscle protein synthesis to increase lean muscle mass when combined with resistance training.
A high-protein diet can also help you lose weight by increasing your satiety hormones (GIP and GLP-1) and reducing the hunger hormone (ghrelin) for a longer period of time than a diet high in carbohydrates and fats.
In effect, protein can make you feel full quicker and longer with fewer calories.
However, for the same reasons that protein is helpful for losing weight, it can also be hard to eat a lot of it, especially if you’re mainly getting it from dietary protein (animals and plants).
That’s why adding protein powder to your diet is essential to give you that protein boost you need to reach your daily goals.
Protein powder also contains no saturated fats, making it a great way to reduce the intake of animal sources of protein, which are naturally high in saturated fats.
This is one reason researchers warn that high-protein diets primarily consisting of animal sources may not be healthy in the long term.
So, the best way to eat a high-protein diet is to consume a healthy mix of protein from powders, plants, and low-fat animal proteins such as skinless chicken breast, lean beef, greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.
Protein Shake FAQs
What is best to mix with protein powder?
The best liquids to mix with protein powder are water, dairy milk, and non-dairy milk. You could also use a combination of water and coffee for an added caffeine boost in the morning. Protein powder can also be used in baked goods, protein smoothies, and even savory foods with unflavored powders.
What not to mix with protein?
There’s nothing you can’t mix with protein powder. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to stick to water or non-dairy milk for your protein shakes instead of milk since the excess dairy can cause an upset stomach.
What foods can you add protein powder to?
You can add protein powder to baked goods like pancakes, overnight oats, energy balls, and smoothies. You can also add unflavored protein powder to savory dishes like soups, stews, pasta sauces, dips like hummus and guacamole, and even breading for chicken and fish.
Why are protein shakes good for you?
Protein is essential for improving muscle gain, increasing strength, and promoting weight loss. However, some may find it challenging to eat a high-protein diet consisting of only dietary protein from whole, unprocessed foods like plants and animals. Drinking protein shakes or adding protein powder to your favorite recipes can make reaching your optimal protein intake easier.