Protein shakes and smoothies are as much a part of the fit life as a closet bursting with spandex. For many of us, shakes are a non-negotiable daily ritual.
Getting enough protein is critical for building muscle, burning fat, and boosting recovery after strenuous workouts, and a powder that delivers 20-plus grams in one shot, shaken with water, is the straightest line between you and your daily protein goals. But you don't have to live on shakes alone. After all, you do have teeth. There are plenty of other ways to use protein powder in healthy, energizing foods that will keep you (and your muscles) nourished and fueled throughout the day.
Use these protein hacks in your routine as a break from shakes. Just be cautious: Not all protein powders behave the same way when you bake and cook with them. Start with our suggestions or whatever you already have on hand, and then experiment to fine-tune your recipes.
1. Soups and Stews
"Collagen is the hottest type of protein powder on the market," says dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, who recommends using it in savory dishes like soups and stews.
What's great about collagen is that it's easy to toss in when you're cooking, and it doesn't compromise flavor.
"It's virtually tasteless and even one small scoop can be a nice protein booster to thicken soups and sauces," Rizzo says.
Just stir in the amount you like until you reach your preferred thickness, and you're set.
Try it with: MuscleTech Platinum 100% Hydrolyzed Collagen
2. Chia Seed Pudding
If you're looking for a way to make your chia pudding thicker and creamier, add a scoop or two of whey protein powder.
"For a simple recipe, combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1 cup of your favorite milk and 1 scoop of protein powder," Rizzo suggests.
Let the mixture chill until it jells up from the chia seeds. Then add toppings, such as nuts, seeds, or fresh fruit.
Generally, muffins don't contribute much to a healthy diet, but when there's some protein added to the mix, you get a much healthier treat.
"If you want to add a protein boost to your muffins, you can substitute about 1/3 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of protein powder in most recipes," says Rizzo.
She suggests using an unflavored variety for this type of baking, which won't affect the taste of the muffins.
Try it with: Isopure Whey Protein Isolate, Unflavored
"Pancakes are one of my favorite breakfast meals!" says dietitian Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT. "But as much as I love carbs first thing in the morning, without a dose of protein, I find myself getting hungry within an hour or two."
Protein powder is the solution.
"Simply add the powder into the mixing bowl when you add the flour, and combine with your traditional ingredients like milk, eggs, and baking powder," Shaw says.
For pancakes, you may want to use a flavored protein powder.
"I highly recommend pairing the flavor based on your choice of pancakes," Shaw says. "For instance, a more traditional pancake tastes great with a vanilla flavor while something more creative like carrot cake pancakes pairs well with a cinnamon roll flavored protein powder."
5. Energy Bites
Sure, you may have seen a thousand different recipes for energy bites on Pinterest, but the ones that really help satiate athletes who are burning insane amounts of energy during training are those that pack protein, too.
"While nuts provide a plant-forward source of protein and healthy fat, used solo, one bite will typically have under 4 grams of protein, which leaves individuals eating more than perhaps they're comfortable with to meet their post-workout protein recs," says Shaw. "Instead, try mixing 1-2 scoops of chocolate or peanut butter protein into your bites. This will create a satisfying snack filled with protein."
Try it with: Natreve 100% Vegan Protein, Fudge Brownie Sundae
If your cooking skills are at the toast-and-ramen level, we got you. "Proats," or "protein oats," is your entry-level protein recipe. Make oatmeal, stir in protein powder. Boom. Any protein powder will work here. Use a little extra water when you cook your oats, though, or it can turn out gluey.
Try it with: REDCON1 MRE Lite, Dutch Apple Pie