When you think of a bad tasting protein shake, the most common thing is to think of clumps.
It applies to every type of protein powder I’ve ever had, whether it was whey, casein, pea, hemp, etc.
On top of that, clumps can stick to the side of your bottle, blender, or glass, meaning that you’re essentially wasting some of that protein.
Clumps are the enemy.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce or eliminate clumps.
Table of Contents
Factors That Affect Protein Shake Clumps
There are 6 main factors that affect clumping, I’ll break them down one at a time in this post:
- Powder mixability (surface area)
- Mixing order
- Amount of solid
By the end, you’ll know how to make a shake with minimal protein powder clumps.
Pick the Right Protein Powder
Some protein powders mix vastly better than others.
Most are okay, but a few of them are terrible.
The biggest factor that I’ve seen here is the size of the protein powder itself. Some powders that mix really well, like PlantFusion, have much smaller grains of powder than most brands.
You can either try a bunch out yourself, or see my guide to the best tasting plant-based protein powders; all the top ranked ones mix well.
If you’re interested in a whey or casein powder, you might be able to find a similar guide on a different site.
Some protein powders mix better than others. The easiest way to tell from a visual inspection is to look at how small the grains of powder are.
Add Liquid Before Protein Powder
If you ever find that protein powder sticks to the bottom or edges of your shaker, this is why.
When you add protein powder first, and then liquid, it forms a sludgy barrier at the edges of your container that prevents the shake from mixing completely.
The simple solution is to always add the liquid first.
Adding your liquid before protein powder reduces clumps significantly compared to adding the powder to your bottle first.
Use Warmer Liquid to Reduce Clumping
Anyone who has taken high school chemistry knows that the speed of reactions of any kind are influenced by temperature.
In general, warmer things mix or react faster than cold things.
When I started pouring the almond milk in my shaker bottle a few hours ahead of time to allow it to warm up to room temperature, the amount of clumps in my shakes went down approximately 50-75%.
Alternatively, microwave the liquid for 30-60 seconds if you’re using it straight from the fridge.
Finally, I know it may seem gross at first, but some protein powders taste better in water, and you can just use room temperature water from the tap.
Warmer liquid improves the solubility of protein powder in liquids, and tastes better in my opinion once you get used to it.
Use the Right Mixing Tool to Minimize Clumps
The mixing tool you choose, as well as the mixing order can have a huge impact on how well your powder mixes.
Here are common mixing tools in order from best to worst:
- Blender – Nothing will beat a blender. There are even portable bottle blenders if budget isn’t a problem.
- Shaker bottle with metal mixer – The mixer acts like a whisk and removes most clumps.
- Shaker bottle with plastic mixer – Mixes okay, but you’ll often have clumping issues.
- Glass and spoon – Works reasonably well, but can leave clumps depending on the specific protein powder.
Using a blender is ideal, but can be a pain due to not being portable and extra cleaning.
A shaker bottle with a standard metal mixer will do a very good job. It’s what I use 95% of the time.
The more you hate protein clumps, the more you should lean towards using a blender.
The Protein Powder to Liquid Ratio (and Order)
As you add more and more protein powder, it becomes harder (or even impossible) for it to dissolve in the liquid.
If you’re finding that you have a ton of clumps, try adding a bit less protein, or more liquid.
In general, you should mix powder and liquid in about a 1:15 (grams:mL) ratio. In other words, mix about 20 grams of protein powder with at least 300 grams of liquid, and scale that up if you want more protein per shake.
If you’re getting more protein shake clumps than expected, try adding more liquid or less protein powder to your shakes.
Mix Long Enough For Clumps to Disappear
I’ve had some friends complain that their shakes have clumps after shaking for 10-15 seconds.
That’s not long enough.
I’ve found that 30-45 seconds is right around the point where you get the best results. Shaking for longer may help a bit, but not significantly in most cases.
Protein powder takes a bit longer to dissolve than most people expect. Make sure you’re mixing it for long enough, and put a little bit of effort into it if you want a smooth shake.