Protein shake: Water or milk or something else?
You have some protein powder, maybe a banana, ice and some other optional ingredients. Should you use water, milk or something else entirely as the liquid to blend up the shake?
The answer, as with most fitness oriented answers, is ‘it depends’. It depends on what your goals are. Are you looking to loose weight or gain weight? Are you on a bulk or a cut? What do your macro nutrients look like? What other foods are you eating?
If you are bulking, whole milk is a great addition to your protein shakes. It has a good amount of calories and protein and it is rich in flavor. At the same time, milk has a lot of sugar in it. This sugar is called lactose and it isn’t sweet like the cane sugar you probably think of when you think about sugars. However, the chemical makeup is still that of a sugar. So if your smoothies are already packed full of sweet fruits, or ice cream or other high-sugar ingredients, You may wish to think about finding an alternative to milk.
You may have heard of the GOMAD or Gallon Of Milk A Day diet. It is exactly what it sounds like. Proponents drink at least a gallon of whole milk a day in addition to their diet. Drinking a gallon of milk a day helps meet their high calorie and protein goals. They are trying to bulk up and gain weight and muscle. Milk is great for this, and even if you are not doing GOMAD, incorporating milk into your weight gain diet is a good idea. If your main goal in dieting is gaining muscle, you should be adding whole milk to your protein shakes.
Though a GOMAD diet is good for gains, it is not very healthy overall. While drinking some milk is great, don’t over do it. If you are already drinking a ton of milk, try a milk substitute in your smoothies. Following the recipes on this website you can still make plenty of high-calorie, high-protein smoothies without adding milk. Obviously for those who are lactose intolerant, adding cow milk to your smoothie is a bad idea.
On the other hand, if you are on a cut, or trying to lose weight in general, you may want to use water in your protein shakes. Our bodies love water, and we need a lot of it every day. The beauty of water is it has no calories.
The disadvantage of adding water to your shakes is the lack of flavor. Milk and other liquids add a bunch of flavor to the drink, while water just dilutes the flavor of the protein powder without adding anything of its own. If you want tastier shakes, think about using something other than water in your shakes.
The first alternative you should consider is ‘fake’ milk. Almond milk, soy milk, hazelnut milk can all add to the taste of a shake without adding the lactose found in cow milk.
If you are looking for something without a huge amount of calories, try almond milk. A cup has about half the calories of regular milk but is tons more flavorful than plain water. Unfortunately, almond milk does not have much else going for it. It has little protein or calcium. It’s fine for those on a cut, but those looking for a bit more nutrition should consider something else.
Most other ‘fake’ milks have added calcium at about the same level which is found in regular cow milk. Some have more some less, you have to read the labels to find out. For a ‘fake’ milk with a lot of protein, soy milk is definitely your best bet. As vegans around the world know, soy is a good source of protein. If you are looking to bulk soy milk may be a great addition to your protein shakes.
The ‘fake’ milk with the highest calorie content is usually oat or rice milk. Oat milk is the better of the two due to higher protein content.
If you are on a keto diet, try coconut milk or hemp milk. Both of these have a large amount of fat. Hemp milk tends to have more calories than coconut milk.
Another idea is adding fruit or vegetable juices to your shakes. Because juices can have strong flavors of their own, be thoughtful about what protein powder flavors you mix with
different juice flavors. Experiment, but realize that some combinations just arn’t going to taste good.
The bad thing about juices is that they tend to be high in sugar and low in protein. If you are already hitting your protein goals in your diet, fruit or vegetable juice can be a nice way to make your shakes more flavorful.
Finally, kefir or even coffee can be interesting ideas to add to your shake.