Milk pouring into a clear glass on a rustic wooden table, demonstrating a preferred liquid for mixing with protein powder

Protein Shake with Milk or Water: Which is Best for You?

May 2024

Curious whether protein powder mixes better with milk or water? It depends on what you need and like. Milk can make your shake creamy and tasty, while water keeps it light and simple.

You might already know that the liquid you choose changes your shake a lot. Milk adds creaminess and extra nutrients, and water is great for a quick, light drink. We'll help you figure out which is best for your health goals and taste preferences.

So, if you want your next protein shake to be just right, keep reading for some easy tips.

Milk vs. Water: How They Change Your Protein Shake

Choosing between milk and water for your protein shake can make a big difference in how it tastes and feels. Milk, whether it's from cows or plants, makes your shake creamier and thicker. This is because milk has fat and protein that add richness. The creaminess also helps hide any powdery or fake tastes, making your shake more enjoyable to drink.

Using water, though, will make your shake thinner. Some people like this, especially if they want something lighter or more refreshing. Water is great on hot days or after a tough workout when you need to drink something cool and hydrating.

Your own taste will play a big part in deciding whether to use milk or mix it with water. Many people think milk makes flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and cookies and cream taste better. It can make these shakes feel like a treat.

But, milk might not work well with fruity flavors or clear whey protein. It could cover up the light fruit tastes. In these cases, mixing protein powder with water might be better because it lets the true flavors of the protein powder stand out.

Mixing Protein Powder With Both Milk and Water

If you can't decide, why not mix milk and water in your protein shake? A 50/50 mix is common and lets you enjoy the best of both. This way, you can get a shake that's creamy but not too heavy and still keep the calories down.

Mixing both can also help you play around with different textures. Maybe you'd like a shake that's thicker than just water but lighter than full milk. Or maybe you prefer a more diluted milk shake.

How much water you add affects the thickness too. Using less water can make your shake thicker, even without milk. This is great if you want something hearty but don't want extra calories or tummy trouble from milk.

But, adding more water than usual makes your shake thinner, which might feel less satisfying. If you want to bulk it up without more calories, toss in some ice cubes. This thickens your shake while keeping it low in calories.

Milk or Water in Your Protein Shake: Which Nutrients Do You Get?

Muscular man in a gym drinking from a white shaker bottle, illustrating the consumption of a protein shake after a workout

Deciding on milk or water for your protein shake impacts its nutritional content significantly. Milk, including dairy or plant-based varieties, adds calories, proteins, carbs, fats, and essential minerals like calcium and magnesium to your shake. Water, however, contributes no additional nutrients.

Let’s look at some examples to understand the nutritional impact of milk.

Based on the USDA food database, one cup of skim milk has about 83 calories, 13 grams of carbs, and over 8 grams of protein. A cup of whole milk gives you around 146 calories, 8 grams of protein, 11 grams of carbs, and nearly 8 grams of fat

If you drink two shakes a day with whole milk, that's almost 300 extra calories, plus more protein, carbs, and fat.

Using water doesn’t add any calories, carbs, fat, or extra protein to your shake. This could help if you're trying to lose weight or cut down on calories since every bit counts.

But the nutrients in milk can be good too, especially if you want to build muscle or need more protein. Milk can help muscles grow and recover, especially after a workout. It's also rich in minerals important for your bones and muscles. If you're not getting these from other foods, milk in your shakes can help.

Trying Plant-Based Milk in Your Protein Shakes

For those on a vegan diet or reducing animal product consumption, there are several plant-based milk options available for shakes. Here are some popular choices:

  • Oat Milk: Creamy and slightly sweet, oat milk is created by blending oats with water and straining out the solids. It contains about 16 grams of carbs per cup and is generally lower in protein, usually 3-4 grams per cup.
  • Almond Milk: Known for being low in calories and dairy-free, almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and straining the mixture. A cup of unsweetened almond milk typically contains 30-40 calories, 2 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of protein. It’s not very high in protein but is excellent for reducing calorie intake.
  • Soy Milk: A preferred dairy alternative due to its high protein content, soy milk is made from soaked and ground soybeans. One cup of soy milk usually has about 80-100 calories, 8 grams of carbs, and 7-8 grams of protein.

Keep in mind, the nutritional content of plant-based milks can vary significantly between brands and varieties. Some may include added sugars, oils, or thickeners that affect calorie and nutrient content. 

Always read the label and opt for unsweetened versions whenever possible to ensure the healthiest choice for your shakes.

How Digestion Works with Milk or Water in Protein Shakes

When you're deciding between milk and water for your protein shake, it's worth thinking about how they affect digestion and absorption. Milk, especially dairy milk, can slow digestion because it has fats and casein protein.

Casein is a slow-digesting protein found in milk. It forms a gel in your stomach, which slows the release of nutrients. This slow release can keep you feeling full longer, which might help if you're trying to eat less.

But if you need a quick-digesting protein, especially around workout times, water is better. Protein with water digests faster, getting amino acids into your muscles quickly. This is great for recovery after exercise. Whey protein isolate is a good choice for post-workout. It's pure and absorbs fast.

Everyone reacts differently to milk and water in shakes. Some people might find that milk makes their stomach upset, causes bloating, or gives them gas, especially if they can't handle lactose well. If that’s you, you might want to try water or a lactose-free milk option instead.

Can't Handle Milk? Here's What You Can Try Instead

Lots of people can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk. If you're one of them, drinking milk might cause bloating, gas, nausea, or diarrhea. These symptoms can really get in the way of your day.

Luckily, there are lots of lactose-free milk options. Lactose-free dairy milk has the lactase enzyme added to it. This breaks down lactose so you can enjoy milk without the discomfort.

There are also plant-based milks like soy, almond, and oat milk. These are naturally free of lactose and can give your shake a creamy texture, just like dairy milk.

If you're not sure if you're lactose intolerant, watch how your body reacts after you eat dairy. If you often feel bad after having milk or cheese, it might be a good idea to talk to a doctor about lactose intolerance.

Easy and Cheap: Using Water or Milk in Protein Shakes

A tall glass of a creamy beverage topped with chocolate shavings, accompanied by coffee beans, dark chocolate, and a sliced banana on a wooden table

When you think about ease and price, water often beats milk for mixing with protein shakes. It's super simple to shake up some protein with water—you just need a shaker bottle or a blender, and access to clean water, which you can find almost anywhere.

This ease is great for folks who are always busy or on the move. Whether you're dashing off to work, hitting the gym, or traveling, being able to whip up a protein shake with water can be really handy.

Water is also cheaper than milk. The cost of milk depends on the type and brand, but it’s usually pricier than water, which might be free or costs very little.

If you drink protein shakes often, using water can save you a lot of money. Say you have a shake each day with a cup of milk—that could cost you an extra $30-$50 every month. Switching to water cuts this cost, so you can spend that money on other parts of your health and fitness.

Sometimes, water's convenience and low cost might outweigh the benefits of using milk. For instance, if you're traveling without a way to keep milk fresh, water might be your only choice. Or, if you're trying to stick to a tight budget, using water for your shakes is a smart way to save cash without missing out on nutrients.

How to Pick the Best Liquid for Your Protein Shake

Choosing the right liquid for your protein shake can feel a bit tricky with all the options out there. By considering your goals, dietary needs, and personal preferences, you can find the best match for you.

  • Building Muscle: If your main goal is to build muscle, consider using milk. Milk adds extra calories, protein, and nutrients that support muscle growth and recovery, especially beneficial after workouts.
  • Losing Weight: If you're aiming to lose weight or maintain a lean physique, opt for water or a low-calorie milk alternative. These options help you manage your daily calorie intake and avoid excess energy that could lead to weight gain.
  • Dietary Restrictions: For those with dietary restrictions or who follow a plant-based diet, milk alternatives like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk are excellent choices. They provide a creamy texture and a mild flavor similar to dairy milk but without digestive upset or ethical concerns.
  • Personal Preference: The choice between water and milk ultimately depends on your individual needs and preferences. Experiment with different liquids and pay attention to how your body responds. What works well for one person may not suit another, so don't hesitate to adjust until you find the perfect balance.

By exploring these options, you can tailor your protein shakes to better fit your lifestyle and health objectives.

Final Thoughts: Choosing What’s Best for Your Shake

Woman enjoying a protein shake, drinking through a red straw from a glass, while holding a bag of EarthChimp Organic Vegan Protein Shake Mix in chocolate flavor

Choosing milk or water for your protein shake changes its taste and nutrition. You might like the creamy feel of milk or the light touch of water. Either way, it’s all about what you prefer and need.

If you’re into plant-based nutrition, check out EarthChimp. Our organic vegan protein powder is free from dairy, gluten, and GMOs. It doesn’t have artificial flavors or added sugars. It’s made from peas, pumpkin, sunflower, and coconut proteins and has probiotics too. EarthChimp is good for your health and doesn't harm the planet.

Why not try EarthChimp for your next protein shake? It's a tasty, healthy choice that’s good for you and the earth.

FAQ: Milk or Water in Protein Shakes?

What's the difference between making a protein shake with milk or water?

When you make a shake with milk, it's creamier and might taste better, especially with flavors like chocolate or vanilla. Using water makes the shake lighter and can be more refreshing, especially after a workout or on a hot day.

How many grams of protein per cup are in semi-skimmed milk?

Semi-skimmed milk contains about 8 grams of protein per cup. It's a lighter option compared to whole milk but still provides a good amount of protein.

How does using milk with protein shakes affect muscle mass?

Milk adds extra protein and calories, which can help with muscle growth if you're working out regularly. Just remember, it's also about the overall diet and consistent exercise routine.

How much protein is in a cup of milk?

One cup of milk usually has about 8 grams of protein. It's a good addition if you're looking to increase your protein intake for the day.

Is a protein shake better with water or milk for weight loss?

Using water instead of milk can cut calories from your shake. It's a good choice if you're watching your calorie intake for weight loss or maintenance.

Does soya milk work well in protein shakes?

Soya milk is a great plant-based option for shakes. It's rich in protein and works well with most flavors, making it a versatile choice for your shakes.





This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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