While protein powders are great for improving muscle growth, increasing energy and helping with post-workout recovery, they often have a horrible taste and after-taste. Usually, the decent-tasting mixes are the most counterintuitive as they are loaded with sugars and thus carbs, defeating the purpose of a protein shake. The most effective mixes are usually the most bitter and chalky tasting. Many times I have struggled to drink protein shakes — not to mention keep them down. Desperation has forced me to find a way to make protein mixes taste great without adding ridiculous amounts of added sugars. Below are five different hacks you can try to make your protein shake taste great too.
First, if you are trying to improve the taste of the shake, water is not always your friend. I have found that certain juices or milk substitutes (such as soy, almond, rice, and coconut milk) can make a big difference. Depending on your fitness goals, different bases may make more sense. For example, if you are looking to lose weight, go for a low-fat and low-calorie option such as unsweetened enriched almond milk. If you are trying to pack on some muscle, try unsweetened low-calorie enriched soy milk as it adds additional and natural protein to your mix. I try to avoid dairy milk as it has a higher concentration of cholesterol compared to plant-based milk substitutes. Remember to always buy enriched milk or milk substitutes as your body needs the added nutrients and vitamins. If you are looking for a lighter base for your post-workout protein fix, coconut water can also be a great addition as it has natural electrolytes and nutrients you need to replenish and hydrate after a workout.
Once you have chosen a base for your shake, you can start adding punches of flavor. It all depends on your protein powder flavor, but usually, one of these flavor boosters brings out the best of the powder and hides the worst of it.
My go-to’s are:
- My favorite berries to use in protein shakes are blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and huckleberries. Fresh berries always taste better than frozen as they have a tartness to them that tends to get lost in the frozen variety. Each of these berries contains a powerful punch of antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients in addition to intense flavor. My favorite berry shake is a strawberry cheesecake shake. It is a mix of vanilla protein powder, frozen strawberries, cheesecake-flavored fat-free instant pudding mix, water, and ice.
- For almonds, I have found that buying whole raw almonds is cheaper than buying slivered almonds. You will want to blitz the almonds in your blender first, before adding any other ingredients to your shake. My favorite almond shake is a nectarine-almond shake. I grind up the almonds in the blender, add fresh slices of nectarines, add almond milk, protein powder, and then a little ice.
- Fresh-Squeezed Fruit Juice
- I like to add fresh squeezed orange juice to my shakes, but I have even tried fresh pineapple, watermelon, and peaches. Citrus fruits have more flavor to them, but some of the sweeter fruits add a nice touch too. One of my favorite citrus shakes is my take on a pineapple whip shake. I do a little ice, fresh or frozen pineapple, a little lime juice, vanilla protein, and a little coconut milk or water.
- Coffee Powder
- Instant coffee comes in a ton of different flavors. Some even have a powdered creamer as one of the main ingredients which will help with the texture of your drink. For me, I found that the vanilla roast flavor to be one of the most versatile flavors you can keep in your cupboard.It seemed to pair well with lots of different flavors as compared to a traditional mocha flavor. My favorite coffee shake to make is a vanilla peppermint latte. I start with ice, vanilla protein powder, vanilla latte instant coffee, a little peppermint coffee creamer, and water. It is one of my favorites in the winter.
- Strong spices can go a long way. I like using cinnamon, nutmeg, and sometimes ginger depending on the shake and the season. You don’t need to add a lot to make a difference here. I like to do an apple-cinnamon shake every now and then by combining ice, applesauce, protein powder, a little apple juice, a little soy milk, and then some cinnamon. For more of a dessert spin on this shake, I add sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix to thicken it up and have more of a apples a la mode taste.
- Extracts Such As Almond, Vanilla, or Peppermint
- These are much like spices in that a little goes a long way. I once added a little too much vanilla extract to my shake so I had to make another shake to add to it, just to dilute the vanilla flavor more. An easy shake to add vanilla to is an orange creamy shake. I start with ice, a mix of orange and vanilla protein powder, a little orange juice, almond milk, and a dash of vanilla extract.
- If you aren’t counting calories as much as you are looking to put on muscle weight, you could try additional flavor boosters such as maple syrup or honey.
Texture and temperature play a big role when it comes to taste. A watery, room-temperature beverage is not going to go down easy. But if you have a thick, cold drink that is packed with flavor, you won’t have any issues. To thicken up a shake and make it creamy, I use one or two of the following:
- fresh or frozen banana
- fat-free greek yogurt
- peanut butter
- sugar-free instant pudding mix
- fat-free sour cream
- fat-free or sugar-free coffee creamer
- nonfat cottage cheese
Depending on how cold you want your drink and the consistency you are going for, you can add frozen ingredients, ice, or both. If you want a thicker consistency, add ice as well as a creamy ingredient or two listed above. If you like a thinner consistency then only do a small amount of ice with frozen fruits.
All of these suggestions work great for protein mixes, but they could even be used for vitamin mixes or energy powders you are trying to take. For me, it works wonderfully with Kyani Sunrise. Give these a shot and let me know how they turn out!