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How to Thicken up Your Protein Shakes With Xanthan Gum?

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: December 25, 2021

I've heard a lot of colleagues and clients at the gym talk about Xanthan gum and adding it to protein shakes to make them thicker and more enjoyable.

I've often done this at home by blending protein powders with milk and a banana.

But using Xanthan gum was new to me, so I got our dietitian to help me out with some research and explain whether there are any downsides to this powder.

It turns out that it's more common than I thought, and there were a few surprises on that journey.

Quick Summary

  • Xanthan gum is a thickening agent commonly used in the food and supplement industry to stabilize different products, and  is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 
  • It’s also a helpful ingredient for managing blood sugar levels and weight.
  •  Mixing about half a teaspoon with whey protein powders can make the shake a lot thicker, but don’t use too much to avoid an upset stomach.

Can You Put Xanthan Gum In A Protein Shake?

golden spoon surrounded by white powder

Yes, you can add Xanthan gum to protein shakes. But I would generally recommend checking the label first to see whether this food additive is already included.

You can commonly find Xanthan gum in anything from baked goods, ice cream, and salad dressings in grocery stores to your favorite protein concentrate.

It's extremely commonly used, especially in supplements that add different flavors.

And because it's so common, you'd want to avoid adding too much to your protein powder as it could thicken up too much.

What Does Xanthan Gum Do To Protein Shakes?

man holding up a jug

Xanthan gum has three main effects on a whey protein shake that you can take advantage of.

It Thickens Protein Shakes

First of all, if you don't like those watery kinds of shakes you get when mixing certain types of protein powders with water, then Xanthan gum could be a great solution.

If you mix it up in a shaker or blender, you'll get a very thick shake that is smooth with an almost creamy texture. You'll find this works particularly well with an unflavored protein shake that probably doesn't have this food additive on the ingredients label.

It's a Gluten-Free Alternative To Corn Starch

Another common ingredient with a similar effect is corn syrup, but this is a really bad idea for athletes or anyone on a weight-loss mission. Not only will those simple carbs mess up your diet and weight loss, but corn syrup is also not gluten-free.

So if you need something to create thicker shakes in a gluten-free way to avoid stomach cramping, then stick with this alternative.

It Helps To Bind Different Ingredients

One of my favorite protein shakes is unflavored, and I like to add my own flavor recipes to get a 100% natural shake. But what can happen with a pure protein powder when you mix it with plant-based ingredients like chia seeds and peanut butter is that the ingredients quickly separate.

That results in a weird texture and taste. But just a small amount of Xantham gum, and I have a delicious peanut butter protein smoothie.

What Are the Benefits of Xanthan Gum?

healthy woman in gym clothes

The one area where Xanthan gum has proven to be helpful is in weight loss by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Some might argue that it belongs to the sugar family, but it has almost no calories, and there have been some interesting studies.

One, in particular, found that it has a link to managing diabetes [1].

But even if you don’t have diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels may play a key role in helping you maintain your ideal weight.

Another interesting study revealed that it might help consistently reduce cholesterol levels [2]. Being able to support your heart health rather than cause problems with other types of sugar and fat is always a positive thing.

And finally, there was an interesting study that revealed that it might improve digestive health by making your bowels work more efficiently [3]. It's a unique combination of benefits that could make your shakes more effective.

“Guar gum is made from a seed native to tropical Asia, while xanthan gum is made by a microorganism called Xanthomonas Camestris that is fed a diet of corn or soy.” - BobRedMill.com. 

Are There Downsides To Using Xanthan Gum?

Because Xanthan gum is a thickening agent, it may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort for people with digestive issues. Now, I would say that you'd probably have to take quite a lot of it to cause such issues.

Our dietitian said that generally speaking, you should be fine up to 15 grams of it per day and that the first sign of it not agreeing with you would be bloating and gas.

Yup, your post-workout protein shake could end up making you gassy more than your partner might want to put up with.

FAQs

Is Xanthan Gum Safe for Protein Smoothies?

Yes, Xanthan gum is safe for protein smoothies. It's suitable for combining protein powder and fruit with almond milk and avoiding any of the ingredients separating.

Should You MIX Xanthan Gum and Protein Powder in a Blender?

You can mix Xanthan gum and protein powder in a blender. If you plan on doing this, then I would say that you can use a little bit less than half a teaspoon as the blender will make the smoothie thicker anyway.

Have You Tried Mixing Xanthan Gum With Your Protein Shake?

If you're tired of the same bland texture that you get from many protein powder supplements, then I would recommend trying out some Xanthan gum.

I now regularly use it with an unflavored whey supplement to make it less liquid.

Just go easy on it the first couple of times to get the blend right. Even a quarter of a teaspoon can have quite an effect.

Try mixing it with a scoop of unflavored whey protein and a few ingredients like strawberries and blueberries for a natural flavor.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4050722/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3549377/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8329363/

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