Are protein powder clumps exploding at the back of your mouth like an oral air-strike? Then you need to read this post. Because today, I will be teaching you how to mix protein powder without lumps!
Mixing protein powder without lumps requires you to keep your powder and equipment dry. You should also invest in a high quality shaker bottle or blender. If you are hand-mixing, make sure you combine the ingredients slowly, adding the liquid before the powder, and stirring with a fork or whisk.
Let’s be honest- protein lumps aren’t fun.
They’re unsightly, hard to clean, and make the tastiest of shakes strange to drink.
And the worst thing is when an unassuming powder lump suddenly get’s stuck at the back of your throat, causing you to implode on your own cough.
Well, maybe i’m overreacting.
But you get my point- protein lumps are no good to anyone!
But the good news is they’re easy to get rid of (with our without a shaker bottle or blender).
And today, I will be sharing my 11 best tips for a clump-free shake!
So let’s get “stuck” in (bad joke?)!
- Protein Lumping Is Normal!
- 11 Tips For A Lump-Free Protein Shake
- 1. Invest In A Shaker Or Blender.
- 2. Combine Ingredients Slowly.
- 3. Break Lumps Before Combining.
- 4. Liquid First And Powder Second.
- 5. Store Your Powder In A Cool Dry Place.
- 6. Keep Equipment Dry.
- 7. Add Ice To Your Shaker.
- 8. Use A Fork Or Whisk.
- 9. Swirl And Shake The Bottle.
- 10. Warm The Liquid.
- 11. Increase Liquid:Powder Ratio.
Protein Lumping Is Normal!
First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room:
Protein lumping happens with all brands of powders, and it is completely normal!
In fact, it’s actually a good sign of an unadulterated protein powder. And many organic powders are often the hardest to mix.
Here’s the science behind why protein powder clumps.
As you know, protein powder contains….well…protein!
You knew that already.
But do you know what protein is made of? At the molecular level?
The answer is amino acids!(1)
There are 20 different amino acids in total. And these come together in different combinations to form different proteins (like the beads of a necklace).
Each amino acid shares a common amino and carboxyl backbone. And each amino acid also contains a side-group which is unique to each amino acid.(2)
Furthermore, each amino acid is classified as either hydrophobic or hydrophilic. And this classification is based on the the tendency of the attached side-group to repel or attract water molecules.
Hydrophobic amino acids have a side-group which has a tendency to repel water and attract fats (like an oil slick in water).
In contrast, hydrophilic amino acids have side-group which has a tendency to attract water (like how a sugar dissolves in water).
Of the 20 amino acids, 10 are hydrophobic and 10 are hydrophilic.(3)
The hydrophobic amino acids like to clump together in an effort to get away from water (such as moisture in the air). Whilst the hydrophilic amino acids lump together in an effort to attract water.
As you can see, amino acids are quite cliquey. Much like kids in the schoolyard- the sporty guys attract similar minded people. And the gamers stick to their own crowd!
A decent protein powder should contain a “complete amino acid profile”.
And this is why high quality protein powders (should) lump together!
11 Tips For A Lump-Free Protein Shake
So protein lumping is normal. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it!
Much like how a teacher can encourage the sporty jocks and gamer freaks to mingle together in the schoolyard, you can do the same!
In fact, there are many ways to sling up a lump-free protein shake.
Here are my 11 best tips to mix protein powder without lumps and bumps.
1. Invest In A Shaker Or Blender.
If you are drinking protein shakes on a regular basis, then I would highly recommend you to buy a quality mixing device.
If you don’t know already- I’m referring to a hand-shaker or electric blender.
Investing in either will will solve 90% of your protein mixing headaches.
The protein shaker is the cheaper and more convenient option. It’s basically a plastic bottle large enough to house your protein and liquid.
A good shaker will also come with a mixing device. And this commonly takes the form of a metal/plastic mixer ball.
Simply drop it into the liquid and shake. The mixer ball bounces around to break up any lumps. Metal mixing balls are superior due to a more substantial mass.
Then theres the electric blender. These will be able to pulverise even the most stubborn of protein powders. But the requirement for mains power makes them much less convenient.
Furthermore, if you decide to invest in an electric blender, make sure the mixing chamber is large enough to hold all your liquid and powder!
I would recommend a 1 litre capacity (minimum). This will be enough to contain your powder, liquid, and any other ingredient (like oats and fruits to make your own mass gainer).
Finally, there are battery-powered portable blenders. I find these to be slightly gimmicky. But if you like these kinda gadgets, go ahead!
Check out my other article to learn how to make your own mass gainer at home!
2. Combine Ingredients Slowly.
Shakers and blenders are awesome. But what if you only have access to the traditional mug and spoon?
If this is the case, then you will need to be more nuanced in your mixing procedure.
One of the most effective methods to hand-mix protein powder without lumps is to combine the liquid and powder slowly.
Add a bit of powder to your liquid. Stir into a thick paste (crushing any lumps). And repeat.
By the time your shake has reached a custard-like consistency, you can pour the rest of the liquid.
By incrementally combining your ingredients, you lower the opportunity for the protein powder to lump together!
3. Break Lumps Before Combining.
Protein powders will often clump together even before the liquid has been added.
Yup. Open your tub and look inside.
You will probably see a moon-like terrain, full of rocks and boulders.
This is due to the hydrophobicity and hydrophilic nature of protein (as described above).
So why not break up those lumps whilst it’s easy to do so (before liquid has been added).
You can use either a fork to smash up your powder.
Or you can use a sieve to seperate the lumps.
Either way, breaking up your protein will increase the surface area for it to combine with your liquid.
And this will increase overall “mixability” to produce a nice smooth shake!
4. Liquid First And Powder Second.
Regardless of whether you are mixing by hand or with a shaker/blender, you should always add your protein powder ON TOP of your liquid.
In other words- liquid first!
If you add your protein powder first, gravity will naturally compact the powder into a solid clump.
And if the bottom of your mug/bottle is wet, this will make it even worse.
Additionally, as you begin to add the liquid, you will find it can’t seep through the solid mass of protein powder. And this is because of the hydrophobic amino acids.
Consequently, big lumps of protein powder are formed.
All in all, this is a rookie mistake which leads to a hugely disappointing shake.
5. Store Your Powder In A Cool Dry Place.
One of the best ways to get a smooth protein shake is to perform preventive measures. And this means storing your protein powder correctly.
“Store in a cool dry place” is a manufacturer recommendation which is mostly ignored by the majority people (myself included!).
But you better follow this advice if you want to prevent those god-forsaken protein lumps!
Always make sure your tub of protein powder is properly sealed to limit external moisture seeping. This is a sure-fire way to clump up your protein before you have even started mixing it.
Additionally, store your protein in a cupboard that’s at ground level. Warm air tends to rise. And this carries moisture with it, which will find it’s way into your protein tub.
So find a cupboard at floor level, and make it the new home for your protein powder!
If you live in a humid area, you may want to put some silica gel packets into your tub of protein. This will suck up any moisture that enters your protein.
And you know what’s great about silica gel? It’s free! Just re-use the old packets from the other foodstuffs you usually buy.
6. Keep Equipment Dry.
Not only should you keep your protein powder dry. But you should also keep your equipment dry!
This includes the protein scoop and any bottles, containers, and mixing balls.
You should already know by now that moisture is your arch nemesis when it comes to clumpy protein powder.
Whenever you wash your equipment, you should towel dry it before letting it air dry completely.
And if you live in a humid environment, you can use a hairdryer to ensure your equipment is 100% dry.
When (and only when) your cup/bottle is is completely moisture-free, can you use it to mix a shake.
This is especially important if you are using a protein shaker. That’s because the lids often have nooks and crevices which attract water droplets.
And when you add your protein powder, you will find clumps forming in these crevices. These are a nightmare to clean!
7. Add Ice To Your Shaker.
Rememember how I said metal mixing balls are better than plastic ones due to a more substantial mass?
Well ice is even better.
This tip doesn’t work so well when hand-mixing in a cup.
But if you are using a shaker, it works wonders.
Simply add a few ice cubes to your shaker and let them take the brunt of the dirty work.
As you shake your bottle, the ice cubes will knock into each other. And this will break up any protein lumps unfortunate enough to be caught in the cross-fire.
Crushed ice is even better than cubed ice. That’s because crushed ice is more jagged and has a higher surface area for impact.
You can make your own crushed ice by vigorously shaking cubed ice in your bottle (before any powder or liquid has been added)!
8. Use A Fork Or Whisk.
Earlier, I reccomened you to use a fork to break up protein clumps in the tub.
But forks are also an awesome utensil for hand-mixing.
The prongs on the fork act as a whisk, slicing up any protein clumps it goes through. You can also use it to break clumps against the wall of the mug.
Use wrist-action (as opposed to arm movement) to mix your shake more vigorously. If you know the difference between a badminton and tennis swing, you will know what I mean.
What’s even better than a fork?
Clasp the handle between both hands and rub (like you are trying to start a fire caveman style).
In my experience, this is the most effective way to make a lump-free shake without a shaker.
9. Swirl And Shake The Bottle.
This tip is for those who have a shaker bottle but no mixing ball (maybe you have lost it or the manufacturer wasn’t generous enough to include one).
A simple way to increase your mixing power is to first swirl your liquid and powder into a vortex (like a tornado in your bottle).
Then as the vortex is spinning, vigorously shake your bottle.
This will increase the movement of liquid in your bottle and it’s a great way to break up stubborn clumps!
10. Warm The Liquid.
If time permits, you can also warm up your liquid before adding your protein powder.
Warm liquids have a higher amount of kinetic energy.
Without boring you with physics- this basically means the water molecules are moving faster, so they are more effectively able to pull apart those protein lumps.
It’s also the reason why sugar dissolves faster in warm water than cold water.
But be careful.
Make sure the liquid is warm but not hot.
Hot liquid (especially above 70°C) will begin to cook your protein.
When this happens, the proteins lose their shape.
This is called protein denaturing and it will make clumping even worse.(4)
It’s the same chemical process which turns liquid egg white into a jelly-fied mass of white.
11. Increase Liquid:Powder Ratio.
The liquid:powder ratio simply refers to the amount of liquid you are using compared to powder.
By increasing the the amount of liquid in your shake, you will increase mixability.
If you are mixing with a calorie-rich liquid (like milk), you should increase liquid volume incrementally. This will prevent excess calories being consumed (if you are watching your calories).
Furthermore, even the slightest increase in liquid volume can make a large difference to the overall consistency of your shake.
In other words, adding a even tiny bit more liquid can be highly effective at removing stubborn lumps of protein powder.
If you are currently mixing your protein shakes with water, you should consider using milk instead (if it’s suitable for your calorie allowance).
Milk will increase the mixability of fat-heavy protein powders (such as mass gainers).
This is because milk is high in fat molecules.
And fat molecules will mix well with other fat molecules in your protein powder. They will also increase the mixability of the hydrophobic amino acids in your protein powder.
Using a thicker milk (like coconut milk) is also a good way to thicken your shake. And this will effectively hide the texture of small protein lumps!
Today I have shared 11 tips on how to mix protein powder without lumps.
A lump-free shake requires you to store your equipment and protein powder in dry environment absent from moisuture.
Additionally, using a high quality shaker or blender is the best way to prevent lumps from forming as you mix your shake. But not everyone has access to one.
If you are hand-mixing, you will need to find more creative ways to increase the mixability of your protein powder. Examples include changing the order you add your ingredients, adding the ingredients slowly, increasing the temperature of the liquid, and increasing the liquid:powder ratio.
A lumpy shake is common, but completely avoidable!
Have you got any other tips and tricks for making your protein shakes without lumps?
Please let me know in the comments below!
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Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)