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protein smoothie made with pineapple, strawberries and bananas

How to take protein powder

Are you new to the world of protein powder? Or are you a signed-up member of the shake tribe looking to up your game with new dishes and flavor combinations? Keep reading to discover the best ways to incorporate protein powder into your diet.

Which protein powder is right for you?

The first step is to choose a powder that suits you. Not all protein powders are created equal, so it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying.

Whey protein is a popular choice. It’s a by-product of the dairy industry and comes from the liquid that separates from the curds during the cheesemaking process. Whey supplements are high in protein, but they also contain a small amount of lactose, which is a milk sugar that can cause digestive problems in some people. Then there's casein powder. Like whey, casein protein is a byproduct of cheesemaking but unlike whey, the body absorbs this protein slowly.

If you want to steer clear of dairy or other animal-based proteins, you can go for 100 percent plant-based products instead. Featuring proteins from ingredients such as pumpkin, pea, flax and chia, they are easier to digest. Research also suggests that plant-based proteins don’t cause inflammation or spike insulin levels like animal-based products can. They’re better for the environment too.

Whichever type of protein you choose, you should pay attention to the exact ingredients and nutritional information. For example, some protein powders contain allergens, such as nuts, soy, milk, shellfish, fish, egg and wheat. If you have allergies, make sure you select a product that’s free of these ingredients. Check the sugar content and use of any artificial sweeteners too. Powders that are packed with unhealthy additives might end up doing you more harm than good.

Then of course there’s taste. If you plan to take the powder regularly, it’s important that you enjoy it.

What do you mix protein powder with?

One of the best things about protein powder is its versatility. Sure, you can stick to the classic shake. Mixing your favorite powder with water, milk, a non-dairy milk substitute or fruit juice is a quick, easy and undeniably popular way to get extra protein into your diet. But you can also mix this product with a whole host of other ingredients to create everything from nutritionally supercharged fruit smoothies to protein packed bakes.

There are no set rules when it comes to combining protein powders with other ingredients. It’s all about finding combinations that you like the taste of and that help you reach your health goals.

Can you put protein powder in coffee?

Yes. Coffee lovers can rejoice as protein powder can be a perfect addition to your morning cup of Joe or your mid-afternoon caramel macchiato.

As well as offering the benefits of the protein powder itself, these drinks could have a range of other positive effects on your health. For example, coffee contains important nutrients including magnesium, potassium and some B vitamins. It also has antioxidants, which help to prevent your cells from being oxidized by toxins and inflammation.

Another benefit stems from its caffeine content, which acts as a stimulant and can give you an energy boost and even improve your mood and cognitive function. Research also suggests that caffeine can increase your metabolic rate, which could help you to burn fat more effectively. It might improve your workouts too. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, caffeine can improve exercise performance by over 12 percent.

If you’re sold on the coffee-protein powder combo, there are lots of ways to introduce protein to your favorite caffeinated drinks. For something refreshing, you could mix a vanilla protein powder with a chilled coffee to create a vanilla latte. If you want to have your drink hot, you’ll need to be a bit careful when you’re adding in your protein. If you tip the powder straight into hot liquid, it’s likely to clump together. Instead, try sprinkling it in slowly while stirring. Or, if you’re adding milk or a milk substitute, simply combine it with the protein powder first. You could even blend this up to give your coffee a foamy top.

You can also buy readymade protein coffee drinks that save you the job of preparing your own.

Can you bake with protein powder?

Protein powder can be used in lots of different bakes, from cookies and brownies to cakes. For mouthwatering results, there are some basic points to bear in mind when you’re cooking with these supplements. For example, don’t go over the top with the powder itself. If you use too much when making cakes and muffins, the end result could be dry and rubbery. As a general guide, protein powder shouldn’t make up more than half of your batter.

Another top tip is to use moistening ingredients. These are things that will help to prevent the bake from being too dry. Examples can include anything from bananas and applesauce to cooked beets.

What are the best alternatives to a classic shake?

If you’re looking for a drink that’s a bit different to your standard shake, try blending fruits with your base liquid to create a smoothie. Bananas are especially good for giving you a satisfying, filling drink, but anything from strawberries and blueberries to pineapples and kiwis work really well. You could also add nuts for added texture and flavor, not to mention protein.

Want to indulge your sweet tooth? Try out combinations such as banana and nut butter, or coconut yogurt and cacao nibs.

Whichever set of ingredients you use, all you have to do is blend them together until smooth and then enjoy. On hot days, why not add some ice cubes to the mix before blending to get a chilled smoothie? You could use frozen fruit and yogurt too.

Whether it’s putting a little extra power in your coffee, adding substance to a delicious shake or perfecting a cake or brownie batter, there are so many ways to enjoy protein powder. This means that getting enough protein never has to be a chore.