Last updated on November 1st, 2022 at 05:00 pm
It’s the question on everyone’s mind, “Why is Protein Powder So Sweet?”
We all typically guzzle down a shake post-workout to get our shot of 20-30g of instant protein.
However, you immediately feel like throwing up as it tastes so bad.
There’s nothing that will ruin your “workout high” more than a sickly sweet zing that makes your toes curl and your stomach do somersaults.
Allow me to explain why your shake is so sweet and what you can do about it.
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Why is Protein Powder So Sweet?
The main reason that protein powder is so sweet is because the companies who make them will add a variety of sugars and artificial sweeteners. This is typically done to mask the often bland and unpleasant taste of protein. With that being said, consuming sugar either during or after your workout will aid blood glucose maintenance, while replenishing glycogen in the liver and muscles. You can make protein shakes less sweet by adding your own bitter ingredients, avoiding the well-known sweeter flavours, and using water rather than milk.
1. Not All Protein Powders Are Created Equal
I would hazard a guess that most people simply look at the protein content (and little else) before buying protein powder.
And usually, the more protein per scoop the better.
Okay, I know some of you will check for other ingredients, particularly carb content.
However, in truth, most of us don’t spend much time studying what goes into our protein powder.
Most of the mainstream protein powders will have sugar or artificial sweeteners added simply to make your shake taste better.
Grab your protein tub now and scan through the list of ingredients.
If you see any of the following you can guarantee that your powder is packed with sugar:
And the list goes on.
Now, I will say that consuming sugar isn’t always a bad thing, and there are times when it can actually do you some good.
This is especially true during or after a workout.
Hence, another reason why so many protein powders contain sugar.
A secondary aim in adding sugar is that it will replenish glycogen in your liver and muscles.
Furthermore, it will help to maintain your blood sugar levels.
However, this can also mean that your protein drink is terribly sweet.
This also means that you have to be wary of your teeth if you consume protein powder.
That being said, not all protein powders will have such a high level of sugar content.
There are unsweetened powders that typically contain less than 1g of sugar per serving.
Then again, the protein powders that are aimed at helping you gain weight may contain up to 75g of sugar per serving.
So, always do your due diligence first.
2. Add “Bitter” Ingredients
If you’re using a standard protein powder, and the sweetness is too much, you can also add ingredients to counteract this.
Admittedly, this could be a hassle depending on when and where you consume your protein shake.
I guess for most of us it will be immediately following our workout.
So, you may not have these options available to you if you’re drinking your protein shake in the gym.
However, there are certain unsweetened or even bitter ingredients that will definitely do the trick.
Most people swear by adding unsweetened cocoa powder, and this works especially well if your shake is chocolate flavoured.
Other options include ground coffee, lemon or lime juice, or matcha powder.
I have even heard of people who add unflavoured or Greek yoghurt to their protein shake, although this will generally involve having to blend it into a smoothie.
The same can be said for those of you who have considered peanut butter as another option.
You could of course go the opposite route and purchase an unsweetened, flavourless protein powder.
This then gives you the option of adding your own form of sweetener to suit your taste buds.
3. Avoid the “Sweeter” Flavours
There are some protein powders that tend to be sweeter than others.
Of the standard flavours, vanilla and strawberry tend to me much sweeter than chocolate.
I know this probably goes a little against the grain, as we would typically associate chocolate with “sweet”.
However, more often than not, due to the actual chocolate flavouring there is generally less artificial sweeteners added than the other two.
There are of course a huge variety of protein powder flavours nowadays.
And many of these will almost give you a clue as to how sweet they are.
In fact, I found myself giggling when I came across someone questioning why their “Cookies and Cream” protein shake was so sweet.
Eerm, the clue’s in the name.
Believe it or not, some of the other protein powder flavours include:
- Birthday Cake
- Golden Syrup
- Sticky Toffee Pudding
- Maple Syrup
- Chocolate Brownie
- Salted Caramel
And this is to name but a few.
So, sometimes it just needs a bit of common sense when it comes to choosing a “non-sweet” protein powder.
Do Protein Shakes Make You Fat & Constipated?
4. Stick to Mixing With Water
What you generally mix your protein powder with can also have an impact on sweetness.
Okay, admittedly it’s usually down to a choice of milk or water, although there are other options too.
What I will say is that milk typically accentuates the sweetness of your protein shake.
So, if you do have a particularly sweet flavoured powder to begin with, milk is simply going to make it even more sickly.
I know it’s not very exciting, but water is always going to be the best option.
Yes, I know that the consistency is different, and clearly it’s going to make your shake more “watery”.
As I’ve mentioned, the flavour is also going to be slightly different.
However, water will always make your shake taste less sweet.
In fact, you can even add more water than the recommended amount if sweetness is a problem.
This will make your shake extremely watery, but you’re still getting the full benefit of the protein.
5. Just Grin & Bear it
Okay, this is probably not what you want to hear, but…
“Suck it Up Buttercup”.
Let’s remember that the reason for consuming protein powder is simply that, to get more protein into your system.
This obviously helps with weight management, muscle-building, and helping you feel more satiated.
Consuming a protein shake isn’t always about enjoying a lovely, flowery and light aperitif.
So, sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.
This is true whether you’re drinking an extremely sweet concoction or if you’ve decided to go flavourless.
Always keep in mind the actual benefit of drinking a protein shake, as opposed to overly worrying about what it tastes like.
In truth, a protein shake is typically consumed in less than a minute, and not many of us have more than 1 or 2 a day.
So, it’s not like it’s going to ruin your entire day by having a couple of flavourless protein shakes.
You can treat yourself if you want when it comes to eating “real food”.
Is it Healthy to Have a Protein Shake Every Day?
So, as you can see the main reason that protein powder is so sweet is due to the added sugar and artificial sweeteners.
The companies who manufacture protein powder do this to mask the bland taste of protein.
You can add certain bitter ingredients to dial down the sweetness somewhat.
Plus, you should avoid the especially sweet flavours of protein powders, and perhaps even try a flavourless shake.
Milk will always make your shake taste sweeter than if it were mixed with water.
And you should remember the real reasons for consuming protein powder in the first place – it’s not so much the flavour, but the benefits it provides.
In the pursuit of building muscle I have also written about whether 100g of protein is enough to elicit hypertrophy.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.