Protein shakes are a great way to add protein to diet. Made correctly, they also taste great and can add often-missed nutrients to a diet. In this article I’ll lay out some great tips for making a protein shake. You’ll learn how to make a shake that not only improves your results but that you’ll look forward to drinking.
- Invest in a better brand. I always look for GMP-certification when I buy supplements.
- Flash-frozen fruit is a great way to add flavor, variety, and critical post-workout carbohydrates.
- Benefit from healthy Omega-3 fatty acids by adding flax or chia seeds.
- Add 1-2 handfuls of greens (spinach, kale, etc.). Done correctly, it’s a taste-free way to sneak in veggies.
- Creatine Monohydrate is a safe, highly effective, and inexpensive addition to your protein shakes.
- Frozen ice makes all the difference in texture. More ice for a thicker shake and vice versa.
I’ll be blunt: most people make a lousy protein shake. They simply throw 2 scoops of whatever has the best packaging into a shaker bottle with some cold water and gag it down.
Fortunately, working in a health club for 1.5 years taught me a lot about making shakes. It takes a little more preparation but is a vastly better method.
The recipe itself is simple:
- 1 cup or 6-12oz of fluid
- ½ cup of flash-frozen fruit
- 1-2 (20-40g) scoops of protein
- 5g of Creatine Monohydrate (I use 1 teaspoon) or other supplements
- 1 veggie, 1-2 fists worth
- 1-2 thumbs of healthy fat
- Any extras (cocoa, spices, etc.)
Water is easiest. I like using almond milks as well, either unsweetened, chocolate, or vanilla. I’ve also had success with plain or vanilla yogurt. Be aware of added sugars with these.
Most people don’t eat fruit at all, let alone enough. Adding fruit in is a great way to improve flavor but also pack in extra antioxidants and micronutrients. Flash freezing is a great and inexpensive way to keep fruits like wild blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and pineapple in your shakes year round.
Tip: Adding ½ a banana (frozen or fresh) is a great thickener with minimal taste.
The type doesn’t really matter (whey, soy, hemp, pea, rice, etc.). There is an ongoing debate between whey concentrate and whey isolate but basically – it all works. Use what you like and fits your needs.
It is very important to use a high-quality brand for safety reasons, however. A Consumer Labs report found that many top brands contain significant amounts of Mercury, Lead, Arsenic, and Cadmium. Remember, supplements are not FDA-regulated. Choosing brands with GMP-certification is an easy way to guarantee that what is listed is what is actually in the bottle. I recommend Prograde to my clients for this very reason.
Other Supplements – Creatine Monohydrate & Greens
Powdered greens are a wonderful idea. They often leave my mouth feeling like I walked behind a lawn mower, however. I’ve found that adding pineapple juice to a shake with greens in it blunts the taste quite nicely.
Creatine monohydrate is a well-researched and proven supplement for improving lean muscle mass and athletic performance via increases in explosive strength and power. It’s cheap, it’s safe, and it works.
I love adding 1-2 fists of raw baby spinach. Blend it on high, for a long time. It is unpleasant to chew your shake.
Just like with frozen fruit, this method sneaks often-missed nutrients into your diet in an easy manner. Kale is another very common choice, but you can get creative.
1-2 thumbs or 1-2 servings of healthy fat. It’s important to eat a variety of fats (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated) throughout the day. I know that I tend to eat more saturated and Omega-6 fats. This is why I add flaxmeal to my shakes and always eat Omega-3 eggs. It helps to balance my fat profile for the day with my food choices.
You can also use a variety of nuts and nut butters. Be careful with this if you are limiting calories, nuts are very calorically dense.
One final tip with chia seeds – add them after you pour the shake. Do not blend them. Cleaning chia seeds from a blender is a long and annoying process.
Bonus Ingredients for Flavor or Extra Nutrients
- Chocolate! Specifically, just chocolate. No, you can’t break up a chocolate bar and throw it in your shake. At least I wouldn’t recommend it. Plain old cocoa works, as do cacao nibs.
- Ice is a great way to thicken a shake. 4-6 cubes does it. You’ll discover your preference quickly.
- If I’m trying to gain weight, I’ll often use oats or another carb-dense material. Waxy maize has long been a gold standard of the protein shake world, and it is an easy swap or addition for fruit. If you’re using waxy maize, just adjust the fruit content to meet your carb goal.
- If fat loss is your goal, don’t overdo it on the added fats and sugars. Remember, the primary goal is extra protein. The extras are just that – extras.
Bonus Trick – Replace Dessert
If I’m craving something cold & sweet, I’ll often blend up an extra-thick shake with chocolate-flavored protein or chocolate almond milk, blueberries, and natural peanut butter. It tastes like a chocolate blueberry peanut butter ice cream shake. Except it’s packed with protein, omega 3 fat, antioxidants, and fiber.
Assume spinach and flax for each as that’s my default addition. These won’t affect taste much.
- Wild blueberries (~½ cup), peanut butter (1-2tbsp), chocolate almond milk
- Strawberry (~½ cup) & banana (½ or 1)
- Pineapple (juice or fruit), mango, strawberry. Coconut water also works well.
- Frozen cherries (1-2 servings), chocolate almond milk or cocoa