What Makes a Good Protein Shake?

Tips and recommendations for making healthy protein shakes
June 21, 2016


Photo by: PeopleImages.com ©Yuri_Arcurs

PeopleImages.com, Yuri_Arcurs

Confused about protein shakes? You certainly aren’t alone. It’s tricky to tell what’s healthy to sip and what will lead to a calorie overload. Here’s how to build a healthier shake with all the nutrients your body needs (and nothing it doesn’t) after exercise.

Sports Nutrition

The best time to have a protein shake is after a workout, since in the hour immediately following exercise, your body is craving nutrients and fluids to help replenish energy stores and allow worn-out muscles to recover. A beverage can be a perfect delivery system, but that doesn’t mean you can just toss anything into a blender. Your muscles require a balance of carbohydrate and protein, ideally in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. In order to achieve this nutrient goal, choose from some of these star ingredients.

Fruit : Fresh and frozen fruit add natural sweetness as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to help fight inflammation after a hard workout.

Dairy: Yogurt adds tummy-pleasing probiotics and a creamy texture. Greek yogurt is also high in protein and adds bone-building calcium.

Nondairy milks: Experiment with milk alternatives like almond, soy, coconut and rice milk. They feature different flavor profiles, and most are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, another important nutrient for bone and muscle health.

Liquid: Every smoothie needs some liquid, and 100% fruit juice can be a good choice, but too much can make a shake overly sugary. Good old water will do the trick, but you can also try plain coconut water for a boost of flavor and a dose of potassium, an important electrolyte.

Protein boosts: If you want to boost the protein content, nut butters, silken tofu and protein powder are good choices. But be sure to combine them with an adequate amount of carbs. When choosing a protein powder, simple is best. Opt for a clean and uncomplicated ingredient list such as that found in EAS 100% Whey Protein or biPro Whey Protein Isolate. If you’re looking for a plant-based option, try powders by Bob’s Red Mill made from soy, hemp or peas.

Recipes to Try

All these tasty smoothies feature the proper balance of carbs and protein for optimal recovery.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of  Dana White Nutrition, Inc. , which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

Next Up

How to Actually Make Quinoa Taste Good

Yes, we promise it’s possible.

How to Add Protein to Smoothies Without Protein Powder

You can use whole foods to get the same filling result.

What Are Sweet Proteins? And Are They a Good Substitute for Sugar?

I tried Oobli, the first company in the U.S. to use sweet proteins in its products.

5 Protein Myths, Debunked

No, you shouldn’t be eating one gram of protein per pound of body weight.

7 Best Protein Bars

These are the best protein bars you can buy, according to a registered dietitian.

Does Protein Impact Heart Health?

Get to the heart of eating high-protein foods.

4 Best Protein Shakers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

We shook and sipped our way through several to bring you the best ones.

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

More isn't always better. Find out how much protein you really need to consume each day.

What Is a High-Protein Diet?

Is there such a thing as too much protein?