Tell me, how many times have you made a protein shake with just a little too much liquid and then instantly regretted your actions? For me, that happens quite a lot - I’m never able to get consistency quite right, and it usually ends up with me drinking a thin, watery protein shake. I do not enjoy my shakes on those days, I can tell you!
So, in the spirit of trying to better my post-workout shake experience, I have been looking at the best ways to thicken up a protein shake, which mainly involve a blender and some extra ingredients. Adding anything extra to your protein shake will increase the calories and may mess around with your macros, so you will need to be aware of that. On the plus side, those extra ingredients may also have extra benefits of their own which can make your protein shake even more nutritious.
What can I add to my protein shake to make it thicker?
Bananas: Adding fruit is a great way to make your shake thicker, as well as adding more fibre, and an extra burst of flavour. Bananas blend especially well, come packed with potassium, and give you that creamy, thick texture. Add to this that studies have shown bananas may help with post-workout recovery due to their levels of potassium and magnesium which can help to alleviate muscle cramps and soreness associated with exercise (Baker and Wolfe, 2020).
Ice: This one might sound counterproductive, but blending some ice into a protein shake can certainly thicken it up, and give us more of a frothy milkshake texture. This option keeps your shake as close to the original ‘recipe’ as possible and adds no extra calories. The only downside to this cool, refreshing method of thickening your shake is that you have to make sure you drink it immediately because not only will you lose the thick texture of the shake, the ice will actually dilute the shake further as it melts.
Oats: Not only will oats thicken your shake, they also add essential vitamins and minerals such as selenium, which has to be obtained through our diet and has several important health benefits including making sure that our thyroids are functioning properly (Ventura, Melo and Carrilho, 2017). Adding oats to your protein shake might not create the creamiest of textures, but it will certainly add thickness and absorb some of the liquid if you’ve put more in than you needed. Plus, oats are a fantastic source of beta glucan, a type of dietary fibre which plays a significant role in digestion, making your protein shake easier on the stomach (Rasane et al., 2013).
Coconut cream: Providing that you like the taste of coconut, coconut cream is a great way to add creaminess to your shake. With its high fat, low carbohydrate content, it is often used in keto recipes, and it also packs a potassium punch which can help with recovery (Stone, Martyn and Weaver, 2016). However, the fact that it is high in fats may affect your macros - so it might be best to use it sparingly! I tend to pop a can of coconut milk in the fridge to separate the cream from the water, and then use a tablespoon of the cream in my protein shakes.
Avocado: I love avocado. On toast, in guacamole, grilled with pesto on top, it’s wonderful. It can also be added to your protein shake to create a smooth velvety texture, and add a wonderful fresh note in terms of flavour. Not only that, they are great for adding a boost of lots of different nutrients into your day. They also contain around 14g of fibre, making them excellent for gut health and digestion. Plus, they’re a fantastic source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds which may help prevent against chronic illness and cognitive decline (Bhuyan et al., 2019)
Greens Powder: If you’re looking to add thickness to your shake, then why not try adding a greens powder. Not only will it help to thicken your shake if it’s a little thin, it will add a huge boost of nutrition to your shake. Try Vivo Life’s THRIVE vegan multinutrient and greens powder for live cultures to aid in digestion, alongside extra vitamins and minerals.
Of course, you could add a product like Xanthan Gum to your shake if you wanted, but I prefer to look at whole foods ingredients which can add extra goodness to your shake and help to give you extra nutrition. If you need a little more inspiration, you can take a look at our trio of post-workout smoothies!
Rasane, P., Jha, A., Sabikhi, L., Kumar, A. and Unnikrishnan, V.S. (2013). Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods - a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(2), pp.662–675. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1072-1.
Bhuyan, Alsherbiny, Perera, Low, Basu, Devi, Barooah, Li and Papoutsis (2019). The Odyssey of Bioactive Compounds in Avocado (Persea americana) and their Health Benefits. Antioxidants, 8(10), p.426. doi:10.3390/antiox8100426.
Ventura, M., Melo, M. and Carrilho, F. (2017). Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. International Journal of Endocrinology, [online] 2017, pp.1–9. doi:10.1155/2017/1297658.