If you’ve been around health and fitness supplement powders for as long as I have, then you probably remember how awful they were just 10 or 15 years ago.
Even the worst ones today have a better consistency and nicer flavors than what I used to slug down.
The problem I still have these days is that when protein shakes taste bad, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have poor ingredients.
They can be perfectly healthy and effective, but just something you don’t look forward to after a workout session.
Some of the worst culprits are whey protein shakes, but I have worked with some nutritionists to come up with some simple ideas to improve the taste without making them unhealthy.
Making Your Protein Shake Taste Better
So, as already promised, I have gathered some ideas over the years to come up with recipes to make protein shakes taste better.
1. Sweeten things up a bit.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; Jason just mentioned that protein powders often taste bad because they have too many sweeteners.
But I was specifically referring to artificial ones, and those tend to have a bad taste and can also pose some health risks.
One way you can sweeten things up a bit without creating some sugar-water mix is to add even half a spoon of natural and organic honey.
Just be careful not to add artificial sweeteners on your drink as it increases your risk to diabetis (1).
2. Make it a smoothie.
Part of my morning and breakfast routine is making a smoothie.
There is no shortage of healthy smoothie recipes, and I have often just mixed up random fruit I was trying to use up.
What you can do here is just make an extra cup or two, and once you have poured out part for your breakfast, blend the rest with your whey protein powder.
You’ll be surprised how little effort this takes, and I usually have this part of my day done before my French press coffee is ready.
And here’s a little bonus tip: try adding a few spoons of peanut butter into the mix.
By the way, check out how Joe Duff transforms his boring protein powder into a sumptuous shake by watching the video below.
3. Create a milkshake.
While most protein powders are designed to be mixed with water, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider turning it into a milkshake.
If you use dairy milk, then it’s a good way to get another bit of extra protein into the mix. In fact, some studies revealed that consumption of dairy products is associated with decreased prevalence of metabolic related disorders (2)
However, that can also increase your calorie and fat intake, which is why I personally use sugar-free almond milk.
One of the benefits of doing this is that almond milk just seems to have a nicer consistency than water, and if you get a protein powder that mixes easily, then it will be a lot more pleasant to drink.
One big reminder, though, creating protein milkshakes doesn’t mean you can add ice cream!
4. Blend it with fresh fruit.
This is an excellent way of adding fresh and healthy ingredients to your diet and improve the taste of your protein powder at the same time.
Here’s what I usually do. I take a load of berries, bananas, and watermelon and then add some ice cubes.
This is all mixed together in a food processor that is powerful enough to crush the ice cubes up as well.
I know some people that also add yogurt or milk, but the problem can be keeping it cool for long enough if you plan to drink it at the gym after training.
5. Avoid the fancy sounding flavors.
Personally, I have found that vanilla and chocolate are probably the safest bets. Even artificial vanilla flavor isn’t that bad at all.
What I mean by fancy-sounding is things like tropical passion fruit and mango.
Basically, if it sounds like something that belongs on a cocktail menu at a beach bar, then chances are that it’s just some dodgy artificial ingredients that make it incredibly sweet.
Alternatively, just stick with unflavored protein powder and use the above ideas to make it taste nice.
6. Mix unflavored protein with cocoa powder.
I have found that some of the chocolate protein shakes taste pretty good, but they then contain a fair bit of sugar as well. That can mess with your diet, and if you’re trying to get the reins on your body weight, then that just creates a hurdle.
One way around that is to use unflavored products and mix in some raw and unsweetened cocoa powder, which can reduce your chances of getting diabetis (3).
If you get a really good quality one, then the strong flavor means that you only need a very small amount to create really nice shakes.
7. Try adding more water or milk.
One problem I have often found is that the instructions say to mix a scoop of powder with 8 ounces of water.
That can make the supplement very thick and difficult to drink, especially when you’ve just finished a gym session and are thirsty.
In many cases where I found the consistency a bit sickly or sweet, mixing it with 12 or 16 ounces of water improved things a lot.
As your body will need the fluids anyway, it’s a good start to your recovery routine.
8. Invest in a good blender.
Whether you’re mixing fruit, vegetables, or other food sources, a blender is going to be one of your best assets.
No matter what diet you’re sticking with, you can provide yourself with the best possible start to the day along with healthy snacks in a matter of minutes.
As a fitness instructor, I always tell my clients that spending some money in this way is as important as having decent running shoes.
You’ll make it so much easier to create meal replacements, and protein shakes that you’ll actually be looking forward to drinking.
9. Avoid the cheapest proteins.
So many people that I work with go to a supermarket and simply pick the cheapest protein shake in the fitness and weight loss section.
Not only do these products most often taste the worst, but they also often contain proteins that were extracted using chemicals.
These types of protein are inferior from a nutrition perspective, and I would generally recommend to avoid adding them to a fitness and diet regime.
Why Do Some Protein Powders Taste Bad?
There are two main reasons I have found that are early indicators that you’re in for not such a pleasant experience.
First of all, if there are a lot of artificial sweeteners added, and the nutrition label has very difficult to pronounce chemicals on them, then 9 times out of 10 they will have that sickly sweet taste to them.
For the average consumer, these sweeteners are not easily identified on a food label. Most processed products will be labeled “sugar-free,” but will contain an artificial sweetener.
- Dr. Peter Osborne
The other thing a lot of brands do is save production costs by not using natural flavors. Even the common vanilla, chocolate, and coffee options are often full of artificial flavors that simply taste nothing like you would expect.
Can you make your own protein powder?
Yes, you can make your own protein powder at home. However, the processes of drying and pulverizing the source ingredients can be quite tedious and time-consuming.
Having tried it out before with limited success, I generally advise buying a good quality product instead.
How do you add flavor to unflavored protein?
You can add flavor to unflavored protein by adding it to a smoothie, mix it with some yogurt, or blending it with a cup of mixed fruit. You can also add it to your favorite food, and a lot of athletes would mix it with breakfast cereal.
Can you add sugar in a protein shake?
Yes, you can add sugar in a protein shake, however, this would not help with any weight loss goals you have. A better option to sweeten it up a bit is to add a small amount of organic honey.
Does protein powder taste better with milk?
Yes, most people think that protein powder tastes better with milk than with water. My personal favorite is almond milk and a little bit of fruit as it gives it a smooth texture that is easier to drink.
What is the best liquid to mix with protein powder?
Water is the best liquid to mix with protein powder from a nutrition perspective. Unlike milk, water won’t make the digestive absorption process of protein slow down, and after training, you want to get the amino acids to your muscles as fast as possible.
For more info, read our article on the best ways to mix your protein powder.
Drink a Better Tasting Protein Powder
Whether you have big goals for weight loss, or you’re in a bulking phase in your training regime, protein is going to be central to your success.
But, that doesn’t mean you have to go through the regular ordeal of having to pinch your nose, just to get the stuff down.
If you’ve had some ideas of your own, then reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter, and we can add some more information to this post.
- Retrieved Oct. 5, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951976/
- Retrieved Oct. 5, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703276/
- Retrieved Oct. 5, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/