Protein Shakes 101
January 30, 2011 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Protein Shakes 101: Give me your protein shake/smoothie tips, tricks, advice and recommendations, especially the best, most delicious recipes you have.

I got a Magic Bullet for Christmas, and have recently started using it to make protein shakes for breakfast. So far, I've just used some chocolate powder from my supermarket with some 1% milk and banana. It's tasty, but I wouldn't mind changing it up each day. Also, I've ordered a bunch of samples so I can try different protein powders, but would love to hear your favorites, and ones you thought sucked. Finally, anything else I should know as I embark on my protein shake journey, like:
  • Soy vs. whey vs. other - what's the difference and why do I care?
  • Blending with milk vs. water - is there a big flavor difference, and is it worth the nutrition/calorie difference?
  • What fruits work best in a shake? What veggies can I blend in for better nutritional value without affecting taste? What else can I add that may be "outside the box" or not that well known? (PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter would be a good example of the last)
  • Best way to add fiber to my shake? The Psyllium Husk canister warnings were a little scary...
  • Best websites (or other sources) for shake recipes, ordering powders, reviews of powders and stuff? I know of or for powders; are there other good ones?
Thanks all!
posted by booksherpa to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
My fave:

Two scoops of vanilla whey
A few oz of milk (with some fat preferably)
A banana ripe
Handful of blueberries
Small amount of ice to boot

Milk really helps the protein integrate better than water. Blueberries add antioxidants and mix very well with banana. You can substitute strawberry but be very careful with them as they have a good dose of acidity and if you use more than say two, the acidity can be piercing. Banana is the best base fruit imo because of its texture and ability to mix very well
posted by Hurst at 2:23 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got some protein powder from the local health foods store and didn't like the texture it gave my smoothies until I figured out that it would be a lot smoother if I added the powder to the blender first, then added my liquid and blended for a minute to dissolve it. Then I'd add the frozen and solid ingredients. It didn't completely get rid of the grit but it helped.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:24 PM on January 30, 2011

I do bananas, blueberries, whey protein powder, and water a few times a week. Sometimes I also add a bit of ground flax seed.

I don't enjoy milk in smoothies, that vs. water is just personal preference.

Whey vs. soy - I don't think there is a huge difference there either. Some people worry about estrogen and soy and think whey is better for muscle building. Google around and you'll find endless religious wars on the topic. Or don't, actually. Lately I've been getting the vanilla flavored whey powder from Trader Joe's.
posted by MillMan at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2011

Is there a good argument for using protein powder as opposed to getting your protein in a less processed and cheaper way? I don't know the answer but it might be worth looking into. If you generally eat balanced meals, don't assume you need supplements of any kind.

The protein in my daily breakfast smoothie comes from soy milk, a bit of yogurt, and occasionally, peanut butter. Here's the general recipe:

Frozen fruit (whatever's on the cheaper side at my grocery store)
a banana
plain yogurt
plain soy milk
a dash of lemon juice
peanut butter, sometimes
posted by paindemie at 2:40 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It depends on what you're using the protein shake for. Weight loss? Muscle gains? Meal replacement?

I can't tolerate artificial sweeteners and I'm actively trying to gain weight, so I make my own protein shakes with unflavored whey powder and milk. (Interesting fact: Even gainers have artificial sweeteners in them.)

Sometimes it's frozen banana and vanilla. Sometimes it's Ovaltine. Sometimes it's Quik. But all of those have ridiculous amounts of carbs and sugar.

I buy a bunch of bananas, chop them up, spread on a cookie sheet and freeze. I then keep the chunks in a ziplock bag. I've found it's easiest to dissolve the protein powder if you make a paste of it first, then add all your liquid and extras and blend in the Magic Bullet.

When I was actively trying to LOSE weight I found that people who've had gastric bypass surgery are pros at doctoring up protein shakes. Have a search around WLS boards and you'll find reviews for the best tasting ones, the best way to make them interesting with sugar free flavored syrups, etc.

I think Syntrax Matrix is the best tasting AFFORDABLE protein powder on the market. Isopure is good, but it costs too much.

The flavor difference between milk and water is negligible and not worth the calorie difference if you're trying to lose.

I choose whey because I try to avoid consuming soy products.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:57 PM on January 30, 2011

One frozen banana (chop up before freezing)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 scoop whey protein powder

posted by deanc at 3:03 PM on January 30, 2011

I also bypass the protein powder in lieu of high protein/low fat greek yogurt. Along with that I use almond milk, frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries), ground flax seed, and a little bit of agave syrup. The choices of almond milk and agave syrup are more for practical reasons than health ones -- my husband will leave the almond milk alone and it doesn't seem to go bad as quickly, and the agave syrup is thinner and seems to mix better in smoothies.
posted by bizzyb at 3:04 PM on January 30, 2011

I just started doing Magic Bullet smoothies a few weeks ago, and they've changed my life. No, for real. I feel like a million bucks in the morning now. My recipe:

- A few spoonfuls of plain yogurt
- A dash of milk
- A couple spoons of whey protein powder. I use chocolate, but only because it's all I have. I find the flavour of the protein gets drowned out anyways
- One whole banana
- Fill the rest with frozen blueberries/strawberries/rasberries

I actually like the frozen fruit a bit more than fresh fruit, gives it more of a smoothie feel. The banana is super important, it gives a lot of texture and it's too runny without it. Enjoy!
posted by auto-correct at 3:33 PM on January 30, 2011

Best answer: Three smoothie tips for you:
1) You can put spinach in your shake without noticing the taste AS LONG AS you also put in at least half of a banana. There could be some other fruits that work too, but if so, I haven't found them.
2) A few options for some fiber to your shake are oats, chia seed, or flax meal. Berries are a great source of fiber, and so is pumpkin, so you might not want to bother with anything else.
3) Use "the gums" to thicken your shakes. This is just a pinch of xanthan and guar gum (I usually just use xanthan because I am lazy). It will make your smoothie more ice-cream like in texture.
posted by smalls at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have the best results with unflavored whey protein when I'm mixing it with fruit and such. This is the cheapest unflavored whey isolate I've found.

I like to add oats to my morning shake too.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:59 PM on January 30, 2011

2 cups frozen blueberries--small/"wild"
1 scoop mega green powder from Trader Joe's
1 tbs flax seed oil
1 scoop chocolate whey powder
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:59 PM on January 30, 2011

I put spinach in (frozen spinach, thawed), but no banana and it's fine, although I sometimes add almond butter and a tablespoon of cocoa powder and this is enough to cover the taste. I use a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk with water instead of milk. Vanilla or other extracts are good.
posted by sockraticpielogue at 5:00 PM on January 30, 2011

Here's a standard for our household:
1 scoop whey protein, usually vanilla
1 banana
~1/2 c. frozen fruit
~1/2 c. yogurt
water (me) or rice milk (husband)

I find banana is essential for creating a smooth, thick texture. Although I recently tried avocado instead and it was fantastic!
posted by feidr2 at 6:41 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding the suggestion to use ground flax seed. I always add about a tablespoon per serving. It adds fiber, and a small amount of a healthy oil, which slows down the absorption of the shake. Be sure to get the refrigerated kind, or just grind a batch yourself, as the oils in flaxseed oxidize fairly quickly.
posted by annsunny at 7:50 PM on January 30, 2011

The Magic Bullet is great, isn't it? I like a kick of caffeine with my morning protein, so I mix vanilla whey protein with skim milk, ice cubes, instant coffee and some Splenda. Love it! And I highly recommend Eggface who has come up with tons of protein drink recipes.
posted by BeBoth at 7:59 PM on January 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone who's contributed so far; I can see my next shopping trip will include frozen fruit, Greek yogurt and pumpkin. Keep the ideas coming!

Is there a chocolate peanut butter powder with a good peanut butter flavor? I know I could add the real thing, and I'll try that as well as adding the powdered peanut butter I mentioned in my question, but I like a strong peanut butter flavor. Chocolate peanut butter protein things can often taste artificial; I want it to taste like I'm drinking a peanut butter cup. :)
posted by booksherpa at 9:48 PM on January 30, 2011

Throw in some cocoa powder. My favorite smoothie is soy milk, protein powder, frozen cherries, some cocoa powder and a tiny pinch of salt.

I often add a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter to my smoothies too.
posted by kitcat at 10:28 PM on January 30, 2011

Best answer: Soy vs. whey vs. other - what's the difference and why do I care?

You would care if you have a thyroid problem. I can't have any soy for 4 hours after taking my synthroid pill and since it has to be taken on an empty stomach, that means I take my pill first thing in the morning-- so no morning soy shake for me.

As for flavoring, I love maple. Maple extract added to a dairy-based shake doesn't taste like maple syrup but more like caramel (my favorite flavor!) Also Torani makes a pretty good sugar-free line of sweetened flavorings and you can get them at World Market. The Irish Cream is great and so is the Hazelnut.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:13 AM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like the Spirutein Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl protein powder -- I usually mix it into oatmeal, where it does need a little agave for extra sweetening, but in a smoothie with a banana it's really, really good.

As for smoothies, my go-to is vanilla protein powder, almond milk, spinach, a banana, xanthan gum, cinnamon & nutmeg. If you switch out the spinach for sweet potato or pumpkin, it's like drinking a glass of pie.
posted by ThatSomething at 7:17 AM on January 31, 2011

Frozen strawberries. Milk. Vanilla protein powder. PEANUT BUTTER. Also, throw in some kale for more vitamins and some Udo's oil blend for some more good fats. Tastes like a goddamn milkshake.
posted by AceRock at 10:18 AM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: You would care if you have a thyroid problem.

I do, so this was important information for me. I hadn't realized that soy could affect my thyroid meds. A quick Google search seems to indicate that not everyone agrees on this, but I'll definitely bring it up to my doctor on the next visit.

Bought frozen blueberries, Greek yogurt and pumpkin last night. I am ridiculously giddy about experimenting with my shakes. :)
posted by booksherpa at 8:22 AM on February 1, 2011

My favorite of late:

1 cup of yogurt
4 blackberries
2 strawberries
1 spoonful of peanut butter
1 scoop of chocolate whey protein
3 ice cubes
1/2 banana

You wont regret it.
posted by Blandanomics at 6:41 AM on February 3, 2011

Oh yeah. And a bit of milk.
posted by Blandanomics at 6:44 AM on February 3, 2011

Organic Whey is worth considering. It has no trace of growth hormones (rBST), comes from grass fed cows or goats, typically is higher in nutrition, has no additives, tastes better and naturally assists towards a more holistic approach to your health. For these reasons, the extra cost can be worth it.
posted by boogiefunk at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2011

I simply take 20-25g of whey protein in water. Carbs or fat in the stomach can blunt the 30-min growth hormone pulse after a workout. Then I eat low-carb for the rest of the day to preserve insulin sensitivity in the muscle; carbs collapse it within 3 hours, but low-carb preserves it for over 48 hours.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:03 AM on February 4, 2011

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