Stop thinking about protein shakes as nothing but protein powder and water, and start looking at them as high-protein smoothies. Then, it’s just a matter of mastering a simple formula, and customizing it however you want.
The simplest formula? 1 serving Greek yogurt or protein powder + 1 cup frozen fruit + enough milk or dairy-free milk to get your blender going. (This packs 20-40 grams of protein.)
“To make the perfect protein smoothie, be sure to include a carbohydrate source (think fruit or oats) and a protein (think protein powder or greek yogurt),” says Elizabeth Hurley, R.D. She adds you should aim for around 20 grams of protein for a pre- or post-workout smoothie, or even for a small meal.
For reference, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese pack around 20 grams of protein per serving, while protein powder has anywhere from 20 to 40 grams of protein in a scoop.
A cup of fruit will add filling fiber and energizing carbohydrates, while boosting the flavor. Blending with dairy milk will add another eight grams of protein per cup; non-dairy milk will only add about one gram of protein-which one you choose depends on your goals and preferences.
The amount of liquid you need depends on your other ingredients, so start by adding about a half cup to your blender, then slowly pour in additional liquid until you get the consistency you want.
Be mindful about adding fat.
If you’re drinking your shake pre-workout, Hurley suggests keeping it simple and skipping a fat source. “Our bodies digest fat a little slower, which can leave you feeling too full or uncomfortable during your workout,” she says. If you’re whipping up your shake post-workout or any other time of day, a tablespoon of nut butter or ¼ avocado will add healthy fats to keep you full for longer.
Steer clear of hidden added sugars, too.
Pre-made protein shakes often come packed with added sugars, so making your own is a great way to avoid the sugar trap. “Be mindful of sources of added sugars,” says Hurley. “Choose plain Greek yogurt over flavored, and read the label on your frozen fruit to make sure it doesn’t contain any added sugars. If you’re using a dairy alternative like almond milk, choose the unsweetened kind!” If you opt for protein powder over Greek yogurt, try and find a brand without added sugar.
Need a little help learning the ropes before building your own protein shakes? These seven recipes are easy, tasty, and packed with protein.
1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Chocolate protein powder and powdered peanut butter give this smoothie a whopping 39 grams of protein.
Per serving: 347 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated), 30 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 147 mg sodium, 39 g protein
2. Strawberry Chia Seed Protein Shake
Another powder-based smoothie, this one has a dose of healthy fats and fiber from chia seeds.
Per serving: 195 calories, 3.5 g fat (1 g saturated), 19 g carbs, 9.5 g sugar, 179 mg sodium, 7 g fiber, 22.5 g protein
3. Protein-Packed Blackberry Smoothie
This smoothie gets its protein power from a container of plain Greek yogurt. If you don’t have blackberries, substitute whatever kind of frozen berry you’d prefer.
Per serving: 178 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 22 g carbs, 16 g sugar, 196 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 18 g protein
4. Banana Protein Shake
With a combination of Greek yogurt and protein powder, this simple smoothie packs a serious punch.
per serving: 362 calories, 10.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 32.5 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 209 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 38 g protein
5. Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie
If you want peanut butter flavor without the fat, you can blend powdered PB or plain peanut flour into smoothies. This one is nostalgia in a jar, and gets protein from Greek yogurt.
Per serving: 260 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 29 g carbs, 22 g sugar, 85 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 29 g protein