People work out for many reasons — usually to hit on attractive women at the gym. Other motivating factors include improved physical and mental health.
Regardless, at the end of a good sweat sesh, nothing quite hits the spot like the birdseed-flavor of a blender bottle filled with water and whey protein powder.
But, believe it or not, some grunting manimals like yourself prefer to mask the flavor of their post-workout fuel until it resembles something akin to fine dining. I’ve sampled a few of these milkshakes masquerading as health-foods, and they are (unfortunately) delicious and nutrient-dense.
Furthermore, I’ve recently stolen my roommate’s single-serve blender, and I’ve been experimenting with recipes that will:
- Taste better than bad
- Maximize your workout gains
- Make happiness attainable
The key is to give your body what it needs, when it needs it, which just so happens to be right after you’ve intentionally destroyed it through vigorous exercise.
Why You Need Protein Shakes
You don’t really need protein shakes in your life, provided you’re able to take a sufficient amount of high-quality protein soon after you work out. What is a sufficient amount? That depends on who you are and what kind of workout you did. What does “high-quality” mean? Some would say it means a protein source that contains a full amino acid profile. Others would say I’m prone to advancing question-begging arguments. How soon is soon? I don’t know, probably before you’re hungry enough to accidentally eat a half-jar of peanut butter or rack-up a $150 grocery bill when you initially went to get bananas and coffee beans.
Also, smart people with degrees in nutrition science have recently questioned the daily protein requirements promoted by public health agencies. The universal antagonist, “They,” have said you need about 0.3–0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This might be okay if your idea of physical activity is vacuuming your living room or walking across the parking lot of BJs Wholesale Club, but not if you’re trying to become a physical monster that crushes all competition in every aspect of life.
Better science indicates people with exercise addictions — runners, lifters, cyclists, swimmers, etc. — need somewhere between 0.5–0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. (For the 4 people reading this post outside America, that’s roughly 1.0–1.3 grams per kg of body weight.)
Plus, regrettably, there are some additional “serious” points to consider. Unless you focus on getting calories specifically through protein sources (i.e. making your meals protein-focused), it’s quite hard to reach these numbers. And not all protein is absorbed by your body equally. Kale and other leafy greens have a measurable amount of protein, but for reasons I don’t need to mention, these foods tend to “go right through you.” So do beans and brown rice. They also make you fart in bed.
Anyway, easily-absorbed, readily available protein is good — looking unsexy is bad. We’d rather get our protein and look sexy for whoever that was we woke up next to today. Thus protein shakes.
Comparing Protein Powders
These are the main types of protein powders you will see in the wild.
A milk derivative, vegans won’t like this. It’s easily (and quickly) absorbed by your body, which makes it a post-workout favorite. Also, due to the industrial livestock industry, it’s cheap. This is a problem for society at large, but not for me as someone who’s broke, not a vegan, and has unrealistic competitive fitness goals.
It’s plant based and has a gritty texture, which I actually kind of dig. Flavor is nutty and combines well with other things. Soy has gotten a bad reputation recently, though. Something about estrogen, hormones, etc. Like most health scares, these are probably overblown, but it’s made soy protein powder more difficult to purchase. Soy absorbs slower than whey, which makes it a favorite nighttime snack for those concerned with losing gains while they sleep.
It’s the vegan rebuttal to whey in that it’s a complete protein, which is to say it has a full amino acid profile, which is to say nobody really knows what that means or why it’s important. The one problem with pea protein, in my experience, is it always tastes like peas. I should’ve seen this coming, but the fact that it doesn’t dissolve super well in liquid makes everything taste like cold split pea soup.
Brown rice protein
Is gross. 10/10 do not recommend.
Vanilla and chocolate protein
While not technically types of protein, flavor should be your second largest consideration when purchasing protein powder. Both chocolate and vanilla are good options— buy whichever is cheapest. Unflavored powder of any variety is a dice-roll, especially when you opt for pea. Some companies make a ton of flavors, including snickerdoodle cookie, root beer float, and orange creamsicle — make your life simpler and avoid these.
7 Protein Shakes Which Are Okay to Drink
This is the shortlist. I’m not providing detailed measurements or instructions, since this is not a cooking blog, and I’ve already delayed my workout by 2 hours writing this.
Surprisingly green delight
Combine spinach, protein powder, a banana, liquid of some variety, and peanut butter. Powder flavor doesn’t matter, so long as it’s vanilla or chocolate. Actually, go with chocolate. Spinach is healthy, the banana provides potassium (or something), and the peanut butter adds good fats. Even idiots can’t mess this up.
White, speckled, and satisfying
This one mixes vanilla protein powder, a dash of almond butter (or roasted almonds), liquid, and an optional banana. The result looks really fancy, like one of those speckled bars of soap at the fancy-soap-store. It tastes good too. The almond butter comes through in a delightfully distinct way.
Call it “Breakfast”
Okay, take your protein powder, liquid (preferably milk of some dairy or non-dairy variety), about ⅓ cup of whole or quick oats, a splash of honey, and any fresh or frozen fruit. Put it in a blender and press go. The color is different every time, but will usually be some kind of earth tone. It’s pretty good, and the oats add a nice chewy texture to it all.
Mix chocolate protein powder with what the directions consider to be the “correct” amount of water in a jar or blender bottle. It must be water, because you’re now going to leave this shake in your hot car while you park it someplace to complete your run, HIIT workout, or bike ride. By the time you’re done, you’ll be so nutrient deficient that the warm, kind-of-thick chocolate beverage will taste like milk from a divine cow’s teat.
Mix Complete pancake powder with water until it’s a very runny batter, add protein powder, maple syrup, and a handful of blueberries. Blend until smooth. Admittedly, I’ve never tried this, but it sounds like it could work. Also, if it’s too gross, you can pour the remaining slop into a hot frying pan and make normal protein pancakes.
Throw the cold, leftover coffee from your morning routine into a blender with a scoop of protein powder, milk (oat, soy, almond, or cow’s milk works fine), and a dash of honey. It tastes delicious, and it will help ease you into the second half of yet another endless day.
Orange you glad I didn’t say grape?
Okay, in your single serve blender, combine either orange juice or diet orange soda with a scoop of vanilla protein powder. If you go the soda route, watch out for the carbonation. The blender is necessary — unmixed protein powder will be gross. If done right, this will taste like an orange creamsicle, or orange soda mixed with Pinnacle whipped cream vodka. Whichever sounds better to you.
Get Creative, Be Original
I’ve intentionally left these instructions vague. It’s up to you to get creative and add your own flair to these recipes. Also, I can’t be bothered to dirty measuring cups and such after every single workout. In fact, I just rinse my blender implements under hot water when I’m done. It’s clean enough, and I’m still alive.
For more insightful cooking advice, consider looking into my list of quick, cheap, and easy meals that will keep you alive.