This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my affiliate disclaimer for more information.
Whey protein has been a part of my diet for over a decade. Having ready access to high quality, lean protein makes hitting my macros far easier – BUT it can still be a struggle when cutting! One of my diet ‘hacks’ was substituting MILK for WATER in my protein shakes – every calorie helps! But does it taste nice, or is it rubbish? Here’s what I can tell you after a near-4 stone (56 lbs) cut!
At a glance…
- Whey protein can taste good with water if you pick a palatable flavour, mix it properly and CHILL the water first
- Order smaller bags of protein to make sure you like the taste before committing to a huge 5kg bag – trust me!
- Water in your protein shake is better for weight loss as it saves around 120 calories per shake compared to semi skimmed milk
- When bulking milk is a way to sneak extra calories in to your diet if you struggle with solid foods
- Plant based milks are excellent in protein shakes – almond and oat milk in particular are really delicious!
Does protein powder taste better with water or milk?
Whey protein shakes taste better when made with milk rather than water. Milk brings a thickness as well as a chilled finish to your protein shake compared with water alone – BUT it comes at a cost, around 100 calories per small (around 200-250ml) shake.
Despite the benefits, I almost ALWAYS have my protein shakes with WATER instead of milk. So I can confirm – protein powder CAN taste good when mixed with water alone.
Does whey protein taste good with water?
Yes – flavoured whey protein can taste great with water. Using around 250ml of water per 25g scoop of regular whey powder will reduce clumping. Being water based the flavour is predicated by the powder you choose – so if you don’t like one shake then try a different flavour next time 🙂
Regular whey tends to taste better with water than isolate as there is more flavouring in the recipes.
How to make a protein shake taste GOOD with water
The secret to great tasting water-based shake is two fold:
- Ratio of water to whey – aim for around 250ml of water per 25g of whey to get a well mixed drink without clumping. Using less water is feasible but it will require a more vigorous shake! Using more will make mixing easier.
- Buy the right flavour – if you don’t like banana, then don’t buy banana flavoured protein! Unflavoured protein is cheap and purer than the flavoured varieties, but the taste is not for everyone. If you are worried about how your shake tastes I would start with flavoured powder first!
- Chill the water – one of the best aspects of a milk-based shake is the super-chilled sensation. Replicate it by using chilled water or blending with ice.
- Change your protein brand – I regularly use MyProtein and Bulk Powders which suits my taste and budget. Some brands taste better than others and I have had some HOWLERS over the years. If you don’t like what you have don’t be afraid of trying a different manufacturer – maybe try a small bag first though 🙂
Protein powder with milk or water for weight loss?
While milk can make a protein shake really pop flavour and texture wise, it brings with it additional calories. If you mixed 250ml of semi-skimmed milk in with your whey you would be adding a further 120 calories (in the form of 12g carbs, 9g protein and 4g fat) on top of the 100 calories or so in the whey itself.
This means a protein shake that was intended to be a hit of mid-day protein to support our macros can end up replacing a small meal as it uses up so many of our daily calories!
This is EVEN WORSE for those of us trying to lose weight as liquid calories make us feel less satiated than solid food (external link) does so we end up hungry… Again!
So there is no doubt – protein powder mixed with water is better for weight loss, all else being equal.
Of course a caveat must be applied – a milk-based protein shake can still fit in to a weight loss focused diet depending on your own macros and goals, BUT by virtue of being derived from less satiating liquid calories and using up vital fat and carbohydrate macros that people typically prefer to get from solid foods it is NOT what I would recommend for someone pursuing weight loss.
Is it better to have water or milk with your protein shake?
Bulking vs cutting
Part of this will depend on your goals – either milk or water is a great base for a protein shake, BUT water is DEFINITELY lower in calories.
So if you are cutting you are better to mix with water where you can, and if you are bulking you may be able to fit milk-based shakes in to your macros. Milk also brings some protein of its own so if using milk you might save a few quid on protein powder.
If you don’t like watery shakes or want to save your macros for other things then a top tip is to use skimmed or 1% milk as a base. Yes – skimmed milk has more calories than water, BUT it brings that lovely silky texture to your shake for a REASONABLE amount of calories.
Speed of digestion
Milk based protein shakes are absorbed slightly slower than water based so bro-science fans will recommend water-based shakes post-workout to zap your muscles in their recovery window. The basis for this is that, as milk thickens when being digested, it can take around 3 hours to be fully absorbed. When whey is mixed in that too also takes a few hours to be fully digested.
In truth I am not personally convinced that this is a big deal. Most studies and material from sources I trust does not stipulate protein source or delivery mechanism as long as sufficient grams are consumed per day (around 1.6g/kg – 3.2g/kg) therefore I don’t subscribe to this being a material factor in our protein consumption decisions.
Plant-based milks with protein powder
If you are vegan, concerned about your carbon footprint or simply prefer it you can have a FANTASTIC shake with plant based milks. Almond and oat milk for example are both an excellent base for a taste shake. Oatly in particular can make for a deliciously creamy drink!
Protein powder tastes great with water when mixed properly. Putting my money where my mouth is, I almost exclusively use water as the base for my protein shakes! I admit that I’m trying to trim a bit of weight but I also ENJOY the shake with water (life is too short to hate what you eat and drink). If I think a protein shake with water is delicious, why should I consume the extra calories to add milk as well? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!