A few weeks back a friend of mine sent me this text:

“I got a life coach! And part of what I am going to do is drink a protein shake each morning. So I tried it this morning. Protein shakes taste like @$$. Please tell me you have any sort of tip to make protein taste even a little better.”

The good news for her, and you too is: I love protein shakes and smoothies! I rarely start a day without one, and over the years, I’ve perfected the art of making them at home.

Now, I’m not going to give you protein shake or smoothie recipes, because you can find tons of those all over the internet. Instead, I’m going to shortcut you past all the pitfalls that I’ve seen so many people fall into, myself included.

Pass on the Chocolate Powder

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, when buying your first tub or bag of protein powder, resist the temptation to buy chocolate.

Here are the two main reasons why:

  1. I’m not sure why, but the several brands I’ve tried DO NOT taste like real chocolate…like, at all.
  2. It limits the other ingredients that you can mix into your protein shake. Pineapple and chocolate, anyone?

So, apart from not tasting very good, you can’t mix the chocolate powder with many other ingredients outside of milk and maybe peanut butter (if you have a major sweet tooth and aren’t concerned with calories). I prefer to buy vanilla protein powder, and then I can add in chocolate if I want to using syrup, cocoa powder, or chocolate almond milk.

I said I wouldn’t share recipes, but I will share my favorite go-to. My favorite protein smoothie recipe is Vanilla Muscle Tech powder, frozen strawberries, half a banana, some pineapple, and unsweetened almond milk. You just can’t have that tropical blend using chocolate powder.

If you want to make your protein shakes taste better, go with vanilla.

Mix it with Something Tastier than Water

The next issue I see so many people make is that they throw a couple of scoops of powder in a blender bottle and mix it with water.


Now, there’s nothing wrong with using a blender bottle. In fact, using the right powder, it can be a lot faster than breaking out the blender every morning. Try a few different brands until you find one that mixes well. Some tend to clump up, even in the blender bottle. Plant Era protein actually blends perfectly in a blender bottle.

No, my problem with this method isn’t the blender bottle; it’s the water! It just doesn’t do a protein shake or smoothie (or your taste buds) any favors.

Instead, you can use a variety of liquids for your smoothie, but I prefer unsweetened almond milk. It has fewer calories than real milk but still makes your protein shakes taste much better than using water. If you’re going the blender bottle route, use chocolate almond milk and vanilla powder. It seems backward, but it tastes so much better. Trust me.

You can also use coconut milk, cashew milk, or whatever liquid floats your boat and if you’re using a blender, you could also try ice or yogurt.

Get Creative with Your Ingredients

Fruits are by far my favorite go-to ingredients to make my protein shakes taste better because I don’t eat very much fruit otherwise and there are so many to choose from.

I buy frozen strawberries at Sams’s Club because they’re my favorite and that’s the cheapest place I’ve found, but I also buy frozen mangos, canned pineapples, fresh bananas (that I let get overripe and then freeze), just to name a few.

If you go the fruit route, watch out for getting heavily seeded fruits such as blackberries or raspberries. The seeds tend to get stuck in your teeth and make for a gritty texture. Blueberries and grapes also have the same effect because the skin tends to leave black specks on your teeth.

It tastes great but can make for an awkward business meeting.

photo of austin bollinger's protein smoothie ingredients

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

This tip is simple yet so many people find one recipe they like, wear it out, and stop drinking smoothies altogether. Be sure to try different ingredients and different amounts of your ingredients. For example, flip your banana-to-strawberry or strawberry-to-pineapple ratios. A simple change like that can greatly change the flavor of your smoothie. You can also look up countless recipes online.

I once tried a coffee-based smoothie (#coffeeaddict), which didn’t go well, but I’ve also tried things like squeezing some lemon in my strawberry/banana smoothie. It added a whole new flavor without being overbearing. I also like flavored yogurt in my smoothie from time to time.

I also once used chocolate almond milk and peanut butter for a super sweet protein shake, but I’m confident that recipe was not healthy.

Check Out Some Pro Tips

Get an Awesome Blender

I’ve tried a number of cheap blenders from WalMart and Target. You know, the kind with the single tri-blade in the very bottom. I always found it so frustrating that the blades would be spinning 100 miles per hour, but the ingredients inside would never move!

Then, my wife bought me a Ninja for my birthday! Holy smokes it is fantastic, and it only cost about twice that of the cheap ones I had been buying!

I’ve been using my Ninja blender five mornings per week for several years, and it is still going strong. (2020 update: I’m still using this amazing blender today and it’s still crushing it. Five years and counting!) And, the triple blades make blending just about anything a piece of cake. A great blender, combined with your favorite ingredients, is a sure-fire way to make your protein shakes taste better.

Whey Protein vs. Calcium Caseinate

There are tons of different types of protein out there, and Healthline covers seven types of the best protein, along with what they’re optimal for, but I want to quickly mention the two most common types: Whey Protein and Casein Proteins.

Some studies show that Calcium Caseinate is digested more slowly, which promotes a steadier absorption rate, but I’ve found that this kind of protein gives me pretty bad stomach cramps. I’ve researched this, and it seems common for some people, so check your ingredients if you start experiencing stomach cramps. Calcium Caseinate is most likely the culprit.

Whey protein, on the other hand, seems to be much more comfortable on my stomach. It’s more quickly digested and promotes building and maintaining muscle. When in doubt, go with Whey.

Okay, so this isn’t as much about how to make your protein shakes taste better as much as it is about watching out for a potential tummy problem, but if you’re sensitive to Casein, you’ll thank me.

2020 Update! Looking for Vegan or Organic Options?

Hey, what’s up, everyone! When I had originally written this article back in 2017, I had never found a non-whey, organic, or vegan protein that I liked. Now, I’m not vegan, but if you’re focused on healthy options, why not go vegan, right?

So, this year I happened to run into Nicholas Orsini in the web-o-sphere and we started chatting. He’s the Founder of The Plant Era, a nutrition company on a mission to develop the world’s best sports nutrition and he was telling me about his organic, vegan, pea- and rice-based protein.

I was a little hesitant at first because of some soy and other non-whey options I had tried a few years back, but I grabbed a bag of his Strawberry-Basil protein powder and gave it a try. WOW! That’s all I can say.

Honestly, I love this protein!

It’s delicious and it mixes perfectly in a blender or a blender bottle. It’s incredible protein for anyone looking to tone, build, and recover lean muscle! It’s also fantastic for busy people who are on the go.

Now, I already spoke out against chocolate protein powder earlier in this article, but if you’re interested in trying it anyway, or you disagree with me completely (that’s okay, too), then they have a dark chocolate option too. I’ve ordered a bag and plan to try it as soon as my Strawberry-Basil runs out.

So that’s it! If you’re looking for an organic, vegan protein powder, go with The Plant Era. You’ll love it!

Last, but Not Least, Add Some Greens

If you’re anything like me, you don’t eat as many veggies as you probably should. Sorry, mom! That’s why I add Amazing Greens to my smoothies. It adds loads of vegetables with practically no taste, honest!

So, there you have it, my list of common protein pitfalls and how to make protein shakes taste better. Pretty simple, right?

What about you? Do you have any funny or awful protein experiment stories? Did this article help you? Drop me a comment below and thanks so much for reading!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

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