Getting enough protein during the day is a challenge as not many people want to eat meat three times a day. Fortunately, we can use alternatives like pea protein to deliver fast-digesting amino acids. The only problem is the taste.
Today I will explain how to make pea protein taste better, especially if you plan to make it part of your diet.
In general, you can make pea protein taste better by mixing it with low-calorie drinks, spring water, squeezed fruit juice, or even coconut water. However, the type of fluid you choose will depend form the taste of your pea protein and your personal preferences.
Read more to find out how to make your unflavored pea protein taste delicious, whenever it tastes beany, earthy, bitter, or chalky.
What’s Wrong With The Pea Protein Shakes Taste?
Have you ever wondered why some protein shakes taste better than others and why pea protein tastes so bad?
Pea protein tastes so bad because it’s made by extracting protein from yellow and green peas. Unflavored plant-based proteins can have a bitter, even earthy flavor due to the high amount of glutamic acid and arginine, which has a horrible taste.
Can you taste pea protein powder? You can taste pea protein powder, but it’s usually unflavored, which means it has an earthy and bitter taste. Some brands manufacture flavored pea protein. However, people who choose pea protein as an alternative to whey are plant-based eaters, are health conscious, and do not use artificial additives.
Does pea protein taste like whey? Overall, pea protein does not taste like whey. Organic pea protein is derived from plants, whereas whey is made from milk. Pea protein has twice as much arginine, phenylalanine, and glycine, compared to whey isolate. Whey isolate tastes slightly sweet, almost like light powdered milk, whereas pea protein is tasteless.
As you can imagine, this can be off-putting for many people.
However, please remember that this terrible flavor has also many benefits.
For example, unflavored pea protein powders can be used for cooking, and baking because they tend to retain moisture better than whey or casein.
Keep in mind that the bad taste does not mean pea protein powder is not effective. In fact, studies have shown that pea protein supplementation delivers similar effects on muscle growth and strength, compared to whey protein shakes.
Organic pea protein isolate does not have any additional ingredients. It often includes 80-85% of protein and is mixed with other macro and micronutrients like:
How to mask pea protein taste? In general, you can mask pea protein’s bad taste by mixing it with zero-calorie sweeteners like Splenda, Equal, Sweet n Low, or even Stevia. You can also use flavored mineral water or coconut water to make it taste sweeter, as well as cocoa powder or table sugar (as long as you drink it as a post-workout meal).
How To Make Pea Protein Taste Better
Overall, you can make pea protein taste better by adding a combination of the flavors that will hide the bitter taste. Pea protein contains a high amount of certain amino acids like lysine and leucine, which can taste chalky.
Not only that.
You can mask the taste of organic pea isolate by mixing it with honey, milk, vanilla, coconut oils, or other extracts. Mixing it with sweet ingredients that contain glucose will not only help to combat the bitterness of the powder but also maximize resistance training effects by enhancing muscle anabolism.
This not only helps to hide the bitterness of the powder but also can improve creatine uptake in the muscles.
Okay, wanna know how to make pea protein taste not so bad? Check out these 5 tips that can help you transform your tasteless powder into a powerful post-workout cocktail that is packed with flavor.
#1 Mix Scoop Of Pea Protein With Milk
You can make pea protein shakes taste better by combining them with 250ml of semi-skimmed milk. Milk has a sweet flavor and is easy to mix with protein powder. It is also packed with essential amino acids like leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which can maximize the protein synthetic response after training.
Getting more proteins is an important element if your goal is to build or maintain muscle mass. Also, for people who want to lose weight and are counting calories, semi-skimmed milk contains 52 calories per 100ml.
Apart from changing the awful flavor of pea protein, adding mix has also other benefits.
One study compared the effects of drinking milk versus isotonic sports drink (a drink that contains 40-80g of carbohydrate per liter) before exercise on hydration status in active adults.
An isotonic drink is the most effective way to rehydrate the body because it has the same osmolarity as body fluids.
Surprisingly, the results have shown that both milk and isotonic drinks are equally effective to replenish and rehydrate the body after strenuous exercise. The researchers added that milk is a viable alternative to hydration drinks before and during long-distance endurance events (García-Berger, 2020).
TIP: To make the pea protein taste even yummier, you can mix it with chocolate milk. It has more sugars than regular milk. However, it is still ok to drink a bit more glucose, especially after a workout.
After hard exercise, the muscle glycogen stores are low, therefore, drinking a tasty pea protein shake with chocolate milk is a good way to replenish used glycogen and enhance recovery.
#2 Mix Pea Protein Powder with Apple or Orange Juice
Adding orange juice to unflavored pea protein shakes can hide the bitterness and provide a vibrant and refreshing flavor. Freshly squeezed orange juice comes with a boost of vitamin C, carotenoids, and other anti-oxidants that helps to combat the muscle’s soreness after a workout.
Studies revealed that vitamin C had beneficial effects on muscle soreness, muscle function, and plasma concentrations of malondialdehyde (Thompson, D et al. 2001).
Instead of taking a vitamin C supplement, you can squeeze a couple of oranges to get similar effects.
Also, adding the freshly squeezed orange juice can replace this nasty plant-based flavor with a stimulating orange taste.
You may also consider adding orange juice to your pea protein shakes because the smell of freshly squeezed orange is very relaxing.
A study from the University of Vienna documented that the ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients (Lehrner, J et al. 2000).
Needless to say, exposure to the smell of orange has a relaxant effect.
TIP: You can enhance pea protein powder flavor even more by mixing orange juice with fruity tea extract. Brew a fruity tea just before your workout and leave it in the fridge to make an ice tea. By the time you finish, the tea will be ready to use as a base for your post-workout pea protein shake.
#3 Mix Pea Protein Shake with Gatorade
If you don’t have much time but still want to hide the pea protein taste you can use Gatorade. Gatorade is a sports drink that is full of electrolytes and minerals that help to rehydrate the body after exercise. Plus, Gatorade comes with dozens of different flavors like lemon, fruit punch, or green apple.
I like to mix Gatorade with pea protein but only after my cardio sessions because I sweat a lot and the amount of water loss is insane. On the other hand, after my strength training workouts, I often mix it with flavored spring water to reduce my calorie intake.
I don’t recommend mixing pea protein with water only.
Pea protein powder taste like cardboard, which means water won’t make any changes in the taste. Instead, use simply flavored mineral water like Spindrift, La Croix Berry Sparkling Water, or Grapefruit Topo Chico Mineral Water.
#4 Combine Coconut Water with Pea Protein
Another great way to make pea protein taste better is by mixing it with coconut water. Coconut water is a good alternative to artificially flavored carbohydrate drinks. It has a sweet flavor but it does not upset your stomach or cause fullness.
Don’t forget that coconut water is a great source of minerals itself like potassium and sodium, which both play a role in muscle stimulation and contraction. Drinking pea protein with coconut water immediately after your workout helps to keep you hydrated.
Plus, coconut water has less than 4 grams of carbs per 100ml, which is similar to commercially available carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages.
Of course, you can always use artificial sweeteners to mast the awful taste. However, people who choose organic pea protein powder do not want additional additives and artificial colorings in their post-workout drink.
This is why I really like the idea of mixing coconut water with unflavored pea protein powder. It’s a simple, yet natural alternative to artificial sweeteners that are usually found in sports drinks.
What makes pea protein taste bitter? Apart from the fact that pea protein is derived from peas, the main reason why it tastes bitter is because of the combination of amino acids like aspartic acid and glutamate.
#5 Combine Pea Protein with Ice Coffee
In general, you can mix pea protein with coffee to make it taste better. Coffee has a rich aromatic flavor and can be further enhanced with other natural ingredients like cocoa powder, coconut oil, or honey.
Coffee contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant that helps to enhance exercise capacity, as well as a pre-workout replacement.
The reason why I recommend coffee together with pea protein is that it’s because caffeine has a long-lasting half-life (even up to 6 hours after drinking) and it’s rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
For this reason, I would recommend taking a pea protein shake with coffee an hour before your workout. This will increase the amino acid pool in the body and helps to reduce the muscle protein breakdown rate that peaks during the workout.
For example, you can choose to have a pea protein shake for your breakfast and enhance the flavor with ice coffee. 30 to 60 minutes later you hit the gym and enjoy the ergogenic effects of caffeine. Caffeine in the coffee also can enhance your energy production and eliminate fatigue.
TIP: You can mix coffee and pea protein also after your workout, especially if you have a hard day of work ahead of you. Studies have shown that caffeine increases alertness, as well as neurocognitive performance.
Learn more: Click here to learn more about “how to make pre workout taste better“.
How Should Pea Protein Taste?
Overall, unflavored pea protein doesn’t have a nice flavor. It tastes like soil because there are no artificial sweeteners added. Some people describe it as disgusting. There are some brands that manufacture flavored pea protein, however, the price is significantly higher due to the high amount of natural sweeteners.
Here you can see the video from fitfood YouTube channel on how to make pea protein taste better.
Of course, some people like to drink unflavored pea protein without altering its taste.
Learn more: Click here to learn more about “how to make creatine taste better“.
What Should You Not Mix With Pea Protein?
In general, you should not mix your pea protein with Alcohol for obvious reasons. Alcohol not only reduces the muscle protein synthesis rate but also contributes to higher muscle soreness after your workouts.
NOTE: I’m not gonna cover here the mechanism of how alcohol affects your muscle gains. You can read about it in my article “does alcohol kill gains” here.
Here are other things that shouldn’t be in your pea protein shakes:
- Vegetable oils and fats
- Soda water
As you can see, pea protein is a great alternative to whey, especially for plant-based eaters or for those who may not tolerate powders made from sources like whey or soy. Many studies have shown that pea protein has a similar composition of amino acids to whey, which is great for building muscle.
However, the worst thing about pea protein is the taste. You can make unflavored pea protein shakes taste better by adding semi-skimmed milk, orange juice, apple juice, coconut water, or ice coffee.
These natural sources not only help to enhance the flavor but also can improve exercise performance, reduce muscle soreness and increase strength gains after your workout.