Are you struggling to gulp down that protein shake because it tastes downright terrible?

I know the feeling! So many times, I have wondered why does protein powder taste so bad? However, not every protein powder is created equally. It would be unfair to say that each and every one is gross.

It's time for you to learn more about why your protein may taste awful and how you can fix it.

Suppose you compare most flavored protein powders available today with supplements from 15 or 20 years ago.

I believe everyone would agree that today's products taste like a sugar-free Starbucks Frappuccino compared to ones from the past.

Yet, I discovered during my protein shake exploration that a surprising number of protein powders still taste pretty bad.

The following few factors have a significant impact on why protein powders taste bad:

1. Artificial Ingredients

Check what the protein powder contains; if the artificial sweeteners are near the top of the list, that's the possible culprit for chemical aftertaste. The more natural ingredients the protein shake has, the better the taste.

Artificial sweeteners are man-made chemicals that are supposed to simulate sugar, but I think they taste terrible.[1]

I would rather consume unflavored protein powder than let artificial sweetener (sugar substitute) dictate the taste. 

This is the opinion of almost all my clients, too, since their taste buds also hate those common nasty-tasting ingredients.

When they were invented, artificial sweeteners seemed like the perfect thing for the human diet; sweet and with low-calorie content or even zero-calorie sweeteners.

However, it turns out that artificial sweetener cannot be compared to sugar, honey, and other things obtained from nature.

Aspartame and sucralose are the most common artificial sweeteners found in supplements. In addition to the fact that they do not give a good taste, they are potentially harmful, as well as other artificial sweeteners.[2]

Other ingredients made in the lab can also spoil the taste, although the number of calories will be lower.

2. Inadequate Mixing Equipment

Years ago, when I first bought protein powder, I also bought the cheapest shaker. I thought it didn't matter. I soon realized my mistake.

And that wasn't my only mistake - I put in too many scoops, and then I'd end up with muddy porridge with a chalky aftertaste instead of a tasty protein shake.

Inadequate mixing equipment will give you headaches. That's why you should use a blender with a high-speed option and sharp blades to achieve uniform texture.

If you want to avoid washing the blender every day, you can stick to the shaker, but don't save on it. It will certainly last you for years, and there is a big difference between budget and premium models.

Of course, don't overpay brands.

Woman Adding A Scoop Of Optimum Nutrition Protein Powder To Tumbler

3. Not Following the Directions Correctly

Mixing and drinking protein shakes is not rocket science. Nevertheless, not all protein powders are the same, so take a few minutes to read the label.

Maybe the recommended ratio of liquid and powder is different, you have to add more water, or the manufacturer has some other tip for you that will make consuming the powder tastier and more pleasant. 

Try always to use an original scoop to be sure about the amount.

4. Past The Expiration Date

Protein has a long shelf life. And even when it expires, it is mostly safe to use it for a few more months because the "Best if Used-By Date" is indicated rather than the "expiration date."[3]

If you notice that the once fine taste has become ugly or the smell has changed, throw it away immediately. In addition to risking health problems, you consume a less effective supplement.

Remember to check if it looks and smells fine even though the date is OK. Protein, like any food, is susceptible to fungi and bacteria if it is not stored properly, regardless of the expiration date.

Are Protein Shakes Supposed To Taste Weird?

No, protein shakes are not supposed to taste weird per se. Protein shake taste can be both great and bad, depending on the ingredients and how you prepare it.

In general, plant-based protein shakes taste worse than whey protein.

The situation is changing significantly in that field as well; I tried several delicious vegan proteins (pea protein was my focus) in the last couple of months.

Manufacturers have obviously found a way to overcome the strange taste of plant protein concentrate.

I once used hydrolyzed beef protein from a well-known UK producer, and the taste was very unusual even though I was expecting regular chocolate. So you can only be sure once you try.

Best Ways To Improve the Taste of Your Protein Shake

Some proteins are beyond repairable. You can sacrifice and consume them for the sake of your fitness goals if they have great nutritional value.

Or you can just buy a product from a different manufacturer and save yourself future agony.

If you buy a protein with an average taste but not awful, you can easily and dramatically improve it.

Here are some proven ways to make it enjoyable or even delicious:

Selecting a Protein Powder That Suits Your Tastebuds

Today, the selection of flavors is so large that you can find whatever you want. Chocolate, vanilla, coconut, fruit, or a combination of several flavors.

You can even buy protein shakes that taste like your favorite cocktail (although I don't recommend it, I could smell a Mojito artificial flavor a mile off.)

After several months of daily consumption, I recommend changing the flavor to avoid getting sick of it and preventing yourself from using that specific powder ever again.

Even if you adore vanilla protein taste, for example, just change it once in a while. Don't ask me how I know this.

Use Natural Sweeteners and Flavor Enhancers

Take advantage of natural sweeteners that are tasty and healthy. For example, I like to use honey or maple syrup as a natural sweetener in combination with coconut or cocoa powder to totally transform bad-tasting protein powder.

You can put whatever you want in the shaker, even orange juice or vanilla powder. There is more than one recipe - experiment until the protein shake tastes good.

Sometimes those additions make it a bit difficult to mix the protein, so you have to be persistent.

Flavor enhancers will undoubtedly make your protein shake delicious, but check what they contain.

Flavor enhancers are generally considered safe, but they are certainly not the healthiest thing you can consume, so you can come up with a better idea.

Adding Gainful Chocolate Flavor To Protein Powder

Cool It Down

If you like cold drinks, just put the protein shake in the fridge. You can also add a few ice cubes if you are in a hurry and want to refresh during the summer.

You will not affect the nutritional value while enjoying the coldness of the protein shake.

Adding banana, monk fruit, or mashed berries is an excellent way to make something similar to a cold smoothie with extra-protein content.

Try Mixing Protein Powder With Milk

Who doesn't love a milkshake? Now you finally have the opportunity to drink milk protein powders every day without a guilty conscience and weight gain.

Unlike milkshakes you can buy in supermarkets and fast-food chains, homemade protein chocolate milkshake does not have too much sugar and is rich in proteins.

Use the same amount of milk, chocolate milk, or yogurt as water for the protein shake. Of course, you can pour less or more if you like a thicker/thinner texture.

The best alternatives for lactose intolerant people are lactose-free milk, almond milk, soy milk, and fruit juice, plus you can add natural sweetener.

Mix It Better

Imagine you are a bartender on the beach shaking a margarita. You can't finish after a few seconds and expect that there will be no lumps.

You must put in a little effort to make the protein shake perfect. Otherwise, giving the manufacturer a bad review because the powder supposedly doesn't dissolve well in the liquid won't be fair.

When it comes to liquids, change the liquid and powder ratio if you constantly fail to get a smooth texture.

Mesh counts matter, too. A higher mesh count means the powder has finer consistency. Blend well!

Common Questions About Protein Powder Taste

How can you make protein powder taste less chalky?

Adding milk can make protein powder taste good and less chalky. Dairy milk is a better choice for mixing protein shakes, but a milk substitute such as plant-based milk will also make it less chalky than water. So, there is a solution if you are vegan and using plant-based protein powders.

What should a protein drink taste like?

The taste of a protein shake depends on so many factors. Flavor, type of protein, and additives, such as sweeteners, primarily affect the taste.

Why do protein shakes taste bad with water?

Powder often cannot dissolve properly in water, causing an ugly texture, which is the primary reason why protein shakes taste bad with water.[4] Also, water is tasteless and, therefore, cannot improve the taste of protein but only makes it blander, especially plant-based proteins.

What happens if you eat bad protein?

Bad protein might cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and other stomach problems. Even if it does not cause any immediate health issues, it is not as effective as protein powder that has not expired.

How To Improve The Taste Of Protein Powder Shake?

Just because you've had a bad experience with protein powders doesn't mean you have to give up on them altogether. You can turn that unpalatable protein shake into a delicious treat with a few tweaks.

It's all about finding the right protein powder for you and experimenting with different recipes and mix-ins.

My tips are to add milk, fruits, natural sweeteners, flavor enhancers, and anything else you can fit into your high-protein diet while improving its taste.

Bon appétit!


Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Miloš loves three things - science, sports, and simplicity. So, what do you get when you put the three together? A no-BS guy that's all about efficient workouts and research-backed supplements. But he also thinks LeBron's the greatest ever, so...