Protein powder with milk or water - the ultimate dilemma for fitness enthusiasts, seasoned gym-goers, and even experienced bodybuilders!

If you're trying to build muscle, gain body weight, or lose fat, you're no stranger to this topic.

It's an age-old question that's been asked countless times, and the answer requires some research and knowledge.

I'm here to save you time and help you make the best possible decision.

Yes, you can mix protein powder with both water and milk. Unfortunately, we don't have an undisputed champion here. I know you hate inconclusive answers, but I promise you will find out everything you want by the end of the article.

And why can't I tell you who the winner is right away? Because both water and milk have numerous benefits for mixing with a protein shake, but they also have a couple of downsides.

Milk is a good option to add extra protein, carbs, and fats to your shake. On the other hand, water is a low-calorie, low-carb protein shake alternative.

Now I will analyze them separately, so let's start shaking and mixing whey protein!

Mixing A Scoop Of Gnarly Whey Protein Powder With Water

Why Should You Mix Protein Shake With Milk?

A whey protein shake with milk can be a valuable ally for those looking to put on some serious mass fast. Let's say you will use about 8 oz of milk for one shake.

This means you will make your protein shakes richer by about 10 grams of protein (casein protein), 10 grams of carbs, and almost 5 grams of fat (the amount of fat depends on whether you drink whole milk, semi-skimmed milk, or skimmed milk.)

Anyway, it's a significant boost for your daily macro intake and has more calories than when you mix with water.

Bodybuilders and serious gym-goers drink high-protein shakes more than once a day, so that amount is even more crucial to build muscle mass.

Amino acids in cow’s milk further stimulate protein synthesis and normal muscle function.

We should remember the taste too. It is way tastier and more creamy with milk. Milk also contains calcium, an essential mineral for strong bones and the prevention of blood clotting. However, milk slows absorption a bit, so keep that in mind.

Milk is a lactose (milk sugar) source, so those with lactose intolerance will experience bloating, stomach cramps, and flatulence upon consuming a protein shake with milk.[1]

Even many people who are not 100% lactose intolerant have difficulty digesting milk. Lactose-free milk might be a go-to option in that case, but I hear some people complain about the lactose-free version as well.

If you are one of them or are vegan but don't like the taste of a protein shake mixed with water, I choose the following different kinds of plant-based alternatives, which you may find preferable.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is an obvious choice because it gives a pleasant taste to a protein shake and provides vitamin E, calcium, iron, copper, and magnesium. If it is unsweetened, it is so low in carbs and calories, so you can fit it into any diet.

It does not cause insulin spikes because it has a low glycemic index. The protein content is also close to zero.[2]

When buying the sweetened version, choose a product with natural sweeteners to avoid additional calories. The same goes for chocolate/vanilla almond milk.

Soy Milk

Soy milk and soy, in general, have been demonized for many years because it was believed that soy could lower a man's testosterone levels. Studies have proven otherwise.[3]

You can include it in your diet carefree.

Unlike almond milk, soy milk is richer in carbs, fats, proteins, and, therefore, extra calories. Soy milk is a source of numerous vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.

It can improve brain and heart health, although the amino acid chain is not complete as when taking whey isolate.

In my opinion, it is less tasty than almond and coconut milk, but that is a matter of personal preference.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is my personal plant-based milk favorite. I find it so tasty, especially in combination with almond milk. You can use that combo not only for shakes but also for overnight oats.

It is high-calorie, high-fat milk. Coconut milk is full of vitamins and minerals. Many believe that it is the healthiest non-dairy milk.

It is made of coconut flesh and water, in approximately 50:50 ratio. Remember that high-fat content will slow down absorption and also make you full longer.

Rice Milk

Usually made from brown rice, rice milk is mostly water with about 10% carbs and an insignificant amount of fats and proteins. It is a good source of vitamins A, B12, and D and the mineral calcium.

You can find other plant milks made from oats, peas, peanuts, etc. In all these variations, the fat content varies the most. Pea and oat milk are rather tasty, reminiscent of regular milk.

Adding Milk To Optimum Nutrition Gold Whey Protein

Why Should You Mix Protein Shake With Water?

Her Majesty - water. I don't need to tell you how important it is to drink it regularly, but I'll tell you why to choose water instead of milk.

If losing weight is your goal, either for overall weight loss or just targeted fat loss, building lean muscle mass (cutting), then water's zero calories will suit your calorie-controlled diet.

Also, if you want enough protein to be absorbed by the body as quickly as possible post-workout, water is a better option for two reasons.

The first reason is better bioavailability; the second is that it does not contain fat that slows down absorption.

That is a noticeable difference, particularly with whey protein isolate. You will also feel that your digestive system has less work to break down this kind of shake than the one with milk.

Drinking protein supplements with water will help you meet an adequate intake of daily fluids too.

Some people find that a whey protein powder shake with water can taste a little bland or chalky, but you will get used to it eventually, especially if the protein shake is tasty and you keep your focus on getting lean muscle mass.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is not exactly water but a clear liquid inside coconuts, so it is actually a type of juice. Since coconut water is around 95% water, the nutritional value is similar while having a potentially higher hydration index.

The reason to use coconut water is electrolytes which help the body retain fluid and maintain other bodily functions.[4]

It is excellent for restoring hydration after prolonged and strenuous workouts. Mixing coconut water with protein shakes can give your body a perfect recovery combination.

Check electrolyte content because amounts vary by brand, and you don't have a coconut tree in your yard to cut one coconut and pour it into a shaker.

What About Other Liquids?

Milk and water are by far the most popular, but you can experiment with other drinkable liquids as well. They will influence the taste and provide other useful workout ingredients, such as caffeine.

Fruit Juices

You can mix almost any fruit juice with protein to get a protein shake. Orange juice is the most common choice of most exercisers, but you can choose whatever you want.

It is more important to use juice that is 100% natural; otherwise, you will ingest a considerable amount of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

Be aware that mixability is not the best, but the taste could be really enjoyable.

Coffee

Adding protein to coffee has become a viral trend, and even Starbucks has joined. Is protein coffee or "proffee" really worth it?

I would say yes. It's not a magical combination, but you can simply up your caffeine and protein game.

If you want to improve the taste further, add whatever you want to this shake, but don't make it a meal replacement; instead, make it a snack.

Tea

Tea can be a tastier alternative to water. Plain teas are virtually calorie-free, just like water, and you'll get the herbal taste you love. You will also get a caffeine boost, depending on your choice.

Kefir

Kefir is similar to yogurt but has a sourer flavor and more probiotics, so it is considered healthier.

Because of its thick texture, I don't think it's a convenient option for mixing protein powder because you'll have a hard time getting a consistent texture.

Yet, if you have problems with your stomach and want to improve gut health plus looking for additional protein and energy intake, it's worth a try.

Man Holding A Tumbler With MyProtein Impact Whey Protein Powder

Mixing Protein Powder With Milk Or Water Questions

How much water should you mix with protein powder?

Generally, you should mix one scoop of protein with water (8-12 ounces.) However, if you prefer a thicker, creamier shake, a better idea is to reduce the amount of water or add more protein powder. On the other hand, if you prefer a thinner shake, you can increase the amount of water accordingly.

Should you drink protein shakes with milk or water for weight loss?

If you want to lose weight, a whey protein shake with water or plant-based milk is a better choice than dairy milk. Water is calorie-free, while the amount of calories in plant-based milk is negligible. This way, you will reduce your overall calorie intake compared to whole milk (and even skimmed milk) and still ingest the desired dose of protein.

Should you drink a protein shake with water or milk for weight gain?

For those who want to bulk up, you will find better results with regular milk over water. Mixing milk with a whey protein shake will increase not only your protein but also your fat and calorie intake. All that will affect gaining weight positively.

Can you take whey protein with milk at night?

Yes, you can take whey proteins with semi or skim milk at night to improve muscle growth. Warm milk can be an excellent part of the bedtime routine, eventually improving your night's sleep.[5] Milk and whey protein are not a good combination, only if you are lactose intolerant.

Final Verdict: Is It Better To Mix Your Protein With Milk Or Water?

The debate over whether to mix whey protein powder (or any other) with either milk or water has been raging for years. As we've discussed, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

Ultimately, it mostly comes down to your personal preferences and fitness goals. Try different types of liquids and mix-ins until you find the perfect protein shake.

Whether you mix your protein shakes with milk, water, or something else entirely, the most important thing is to fuel your body with the extra nutrients it needs to perform at its best.

References: 

  1. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/9/5380
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-017-2915-y
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623820302926?via%3Dihub
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/
  5. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/does-warm-milk-help-you-sleep
Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.