Protein powder is ubiquitous.
From top-tier athletes to casual gym rats to even the elderly, protein powder has exploded in popularity.
Well, put, protein powder is:
- High in Protein
- Low in Calories
- Low in Carbohydrates
- Low in Fat
- Available is both gluten-free and sugar-free options
- Low Maintenance
Beyond that, protein powder is incredibly versatile, meaning it can be used in several ways besides the traditional post-workout shake.
What are other uses therefor protein powder?
We'll discuss a plethora of ways protein powder can be used, but first, let's discuss why protein matters in the first place.
Why Protein Matters
Have you noticed the increased number of products that advertise themselves as "high protein" and wondered what the big deal with protein is in the first place?
Well, consider this -- every single cell in your body is made of protein.
Hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles are all composed of protein.
Without protein, you wouldn’t have the structure to support your body or even a body to have supported!
You see, protein is comprised of building blocks called amino acids.
When we eat protein, whether it be from meat, dairy, eggs, fish, or whey protein powder, our bodies break down these large protein molecules into individual amino acids (such as branched-chain amino acids like leucine, isoleucine, and valine).
With this pool of individual amino acids, the body can then repurpose them to repair and rebuild tissues throughout the body as well as use them to create enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and neurotransmitters. <1,2>
Moreover, protein also helps keep us from overeating as it is quite possibly the most satiating of all the macronutrients. <3>
This is why research has shown that individuals following a high-protein diet have greater compliance when in a calorie deficit because consuming higher amounts of protein leads to less stress, fatigue, feelings of deprivation, and bouts of poor mood than low-protein diets. <4>
Besides, high-protein foods like steak, chicken, and pork just flat out taste great!
But, we don't always have time to properly prep, cook, clean, and eat a delicious piece of meat. We still need to get in our daily requirements of protein, which is roughly 1 gram per pound of bodyweight for physically active individuals. <5,6>
This is where protein powder comes in handy as it provides a delicious, ready at a moment's notice option for muscle-building, hunger-crushing protein.
But, as great as a whey protein shake tastes after a hard workout, sometimes you’re in the mood for something a little more filling as well as perhaps something that has a bit more texture, while still providing a powerful punch of protein.
That’s where these fun protein powder uses come in handy!
Fun Way to Use Protein Powder Besides Protein Shakes
Coffee is the way a significant portion of the population like to get their day started.
I mean, what’s not to love about coffee.
It’s decadent, rich, indulgent, and packed with caffeine and antioxidants! <7>
Coffee can be part of a healthy diet; however, where the coffee goes bad is when you start getting into the world of gourmet "designer" coffees that more resemble coffee-flavored milkshakes than actual coffee.
These fancy coffees are chock full of sugar, fat, and other additives that detract from the healthful qualities of the morning kickstarter.
But, not everyone is up to drinking plain black coffee.What is the coffee-craving individual left to do when they want to enjoy the many benefits of coffee while also enjoying the rich, sweet flavor of high calorie, low protein gourmet coffees?
You can mix the protein powder in coffee to recreate your favorite gourmet coffee flavor with a fraction of the fat, sugar, and calories.
One of our favorite protein coffee recipes is to add one scoop of chocolate whey protein powder into a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and top with a dash of cinnamon for a high-protein mocha!
Our Favorite Protein Powder Recipes
Protein Oatmeal (Proats)
Alongside their morning cup of coffee, many people also kick start their day with a bowl of oatmeal. It’s been a staple of bodybuilders and fitness buffs for decades because oatmeal is packed with complex carbohydrates and belly-filling fiber that help keep you full while providing a steady supply of energy.
The one “drawback” to oatmeal is that it doesn’t contain much protein on its own.
However, with the addition of a simple scoop of whey protein, you create the perfect muscle-building breakfast to kickstart your day the right way.
The combinations of protein powder + oatmeal are only limited by your imagination, and if you're not that creative (or don't feel like wasting the neurological bandwidth), you need to look around the web.
A couple of our favorite protein powder uses in oatmeal are:
Chocolate Peanut Butter
- 1 serving old-fashioned oats, cooked
- 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter (can sub in a serving of powdered peanut butter if on a low-calorie diet)
- Dash of cinnamon and cocoa powder
- 1 serving old-fashioned oats, cooked
- 1 serving vanilla whey protein powder
- 1 serving frozen (or fresh) blueberries
- ½-1 oz chopped walnuts
Strawberries n’ Creme
- 1 serving old-fashioned oats, cooked
- 1 serving strawberry whey protein powder
- 1 serving frozen (or fresh) strawberries
- ½-1 oz chopped pecans
- Dash of cinnamon
Protein Yogurt (Progurt)
Yogurt parfaits are a delicious and indulgent beginning (or end) to any day.
However, most yogurt parfaits that you’ll find in restaurants and stores can contain 4-5x as much sugar as they do protein!
However, by incorporating a scoop of protein powder into your parfait, you can enjoy the same sweet flavor you’ve come to expect with parfaits, but with significantly less sugar and a whole lot more protein!
To make your high-protein yogurt parfait, mix one scoop of protein powder into 1 cup (8oz) of your preferred plain yogurt.
As with protein oatmeal, you’re really only limited by your imagination.
For a more neutral base, you can use vanilla protein powder, or for a more fruit-forward parfait use, strawberry-flavored whey protein powder.
Once you’ve got your yogurt + protein powder base, the rest of the toppings are up to you!
A few of our favorites are chopped nuts, fresh berries, and protein granola.
Speaking of granola, protein powder can even be incorporated into your weekly batch of granola to amp up the protein content while lowering the amount of sugar you have to add to it.
As an added bonus of making your own granola, you get to control what goes into the mix as well as how sweet or savory you make it. The minimal amount of effort required to make granola will be well worth it in the number of calories you save per serving.
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (GF if needed)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅔ cup vanilla whey protein powder
- ½ cup unsweetened apple juice
- ⅓ cup liquid sweetener (e.g., maple syrup, honey, etc.)
- 3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil (melted)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Turn out onto a sheet tray and place into a 325℉ for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until granola is dry.
Pancakes are another carb-heavy breakfast favorite that often delivers a paltry amount of protein. Our take on the pancake is just as easy to make (as it requires only 4 ingredients) but contains significantly more protein and considerably fewer carbs.
Base Low-Carb Pancake Recipe
- 2 Eggs
- 2 scoops Whey Protein powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 6 Tablespoons milk of choice
Combine all ingredients in a blender (or magic bullet) and blend into a thick liquid.
Cook on a preheated griddle as you would regular pancake batter.
- ½ ripe banana
- 4 large strawberries
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1 egg
Waffles are another delicious breakfast bread that’s typically light on protein and heavy on the refined carbohydrates.
Just as we made some clever swaps and switches with the protein pancake recipe above, we can do the same thing with waffles.
Use can use either of the batter recipes above to make a batch of high-protein (keto-friendly) waffles, or try this easy-to-fix recipe:
Basic Protein Waffle Recipe:
- 1 scoop of protein powder
- 1 egg or 20g egg whites
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 tablespoons water or milk of choice
Blend all ingredients in a blender to form a smooth batter.
Pour batter into a preheated waffle iron and cook until the desired level of doneness is reached, usually 3-4 minutes.
We all love a delicious homemade cookie, but they're generally very low in protein and bursting at the seams with refined carbohydrates and processed fats.
Protein cookies allow you to indulge your sweet tooth without completely blowing your macros or diet for the day.
There are literally thousands and thousands of recipes for protein cookies on the internet, far too many for us to list here. Some are incredibly simple, while others are a bit more complex.
Here’s a great “entry” recipe, courtesy of WellPlated.com:
- 1/2 cup nut butter of choice peanut butter
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg white
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder (~36 grams)
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat (such as SilPat).
- In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, light brown sugar, salt, egg, egg white, and vanilla extract.
- Mix until ingredients are well incorporated.
- Sprinkle the baking soda over the top and mix in the whey protein powder and coconut flour with a spatula until well combined.
- Fold in chocolate chips.
- Dough consistency will be slightly sticky but not mushy. If you need to firm up the dough, add a bit more protein powder. For a looser dough, add in a tablespoon (or two) of milk.
- Using a spoon or cookie dough dropper, portion the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet such that you have 12.
- Gently flatten the tops of the cookies with your fingers, as they will not spread out during baking.
- Bake for 5-6 minutes until the edges just start to brown. Note that the middles will still be a bit doughy.
- Place the cookie sheet on a wire rack and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes devouring.
Protein bars are a great on-the-go snack that delivers a powerful shot of protein while also simulating the experience of eating an indulgent candy bar. Unfortunately, most protein bars at the store are well over $2 per bar. You can make your own for a mere fraction of the cost with this super-easy, no-bake recipe from ChewOutLoud:
- 1/2 cup milk of choice
- 1 cup nut butter of choice
- 2–3 tablespoons honey
- 1-1/4 cups whey protein powder (vanilla or chocolate, preferably)
- 2 cups uncooked old fashioned (rolled) oats
- (Optional: Melted dark chocolate for drizzling)
- Combine milk, nut butter, and honey in a medium sauce-pot over low heat and stir until well combined and heated through.
- Mix in protein powder and oats and stir to incorporate.
- Pour mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
- Press mixture evenly into pan.
- Allow bars to cool completely and then cut into bars or squares.
- Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired, and let cool completely again.
Guacamole is fan-favorite dip during football season (or any get together really), and it’s also one of the healthier dips you can eat while you’re hanging out as avocados are chock-full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
It’s also got a good bit of fiber, too.
But, what if we could amplify the power of guacamole even more with the addition of some protein?
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted
- 1 jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed and minced (you can also remove the seeds to lessen the heat)
- 1/2 small lime, juiced
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion
- A small handful of cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 scoop unflavored whey protein powder
- Toss all ingredients into a food processor and buzz to desired consistency, or
- Mash the avocado in the bottom of a large bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
Protein Mashed “Potatoes”
We all love mashed potatoes, but they’re not always the most figure-friendly, especially for those of us who are closely watching our calorie intake.
You see, your average serving of mashed potatoes is coursing with carbs and fats. And, while there's nothing inherently wrong with mashed potatoes, they're ridiculously easy to eat in excess, thereby causing you to exceed your daily calorie intake and gain fat.
But, with a clever low-carb switch, you can enjoy the same satisfaction of mashed potatoes but with a fraction of the calories with mashed cauliflower.
In addition to being low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, this cruciferous veggie is also rich in Vitamin C, calcium, iron, and B vitamins!
And, when you add in a dash of unflavored protein powder, you transform this low-carb indulgence, into a real muscle-building side dish.
- 1 medium head cauliflower, rough chopped
- 1 scoop unflavored whey protein powder
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp granulated onion
- 1-2 Tbsp butter
- pepper to taste
- Optional: cheddar cheese, nutritional yeast,
- Chop cauliflower into florets and place in a microwave-safe dish with 1 tsp of water
- Cover dish and cook on high in the microwave for 4 minutes
- When done, remove from the microwave and drain residual water
- Mash cauliflower with a potato masher to desired consistency
- Microwave cauliflower for another 4 minutes, uncovered
- Drain any remaining liquid
- Combine the rest of the ingredients with the cauliflower and mash until desired consistency is reached
Hummus is a delicious Middle Eastern dip or spread made from chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), and olive oil. Similar to guacamole, this dip is already a pretty healthy option for partygoers as well as those looking for a more nutrient-rich sandwich spread than mayonnaise.
We can amp up the nutrition power of this centuries-old dip by adding some unflavored whey protein, just as we did with the protein guacamole above.
- 1-16oz can reduced-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- Pinch Black Pepper
- 1-2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 4 Cloves Minced Garlic
- 3 Ounces (85g) Plain Greek Yogurt
- 2 Scoops Unflavored protein powder
Combine all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process mixture until it has a smooth, hummus-y consistency.
Cheesecake is one of the most luxurious desserts there are. It’s rich, creamy, and teeming with fat and sugar.
Our faux-cheesecake recipe recreates the indulgent experience of eating cheesecake with a fraction of the calories.
For a single serving, combine the following in a food processor or NutriBullet:
- 1/2 Cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/2 Scoop chocolate protein powder
- 1-2 Tbsps nut butter
- 1/2 tsp sweetener of choice (splenda, stevia, etc)
- Process until all ingredients are blended together
- You can eat it right out of the container or pour the mixture into a bowl and let it firm up in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before enjoying.
The final decadence we'll leave you with is another after-dinner (or any time of day) treat -- protein truffles.
- 1/2 cup nut butter
- 4 tablespoons chocolate whey protein powder
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Pinch of salt
In a medium bowl, mix together the almond butter, protein powder, and cocoa powder until well combined.
Drizzle in the honey and salt and thoroughly mix
Place mixture in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to firm up
Measure out 1 tablespoon cocoa powder onto a plate.
Remove the truffle mixture from the fridge.
Using a cookie dough scooper, portion out one serving of truffle mixture and roll into a ball.
Roll truffles in cocoa powder to coat and set aside.
Repeat until all truffles are made.
There’s nothing wrong with using protein powder for post-workout recovery shakes, but that doesn’t mean that the only thing you can make with them is a shake.
We’ve given you a boatload of protein powder uses in this guide.
Next time you’re feeling a little burnt out with shakes, try taking one of these alternative uses for protein powder for a spin!
- Lonnie M, Hooker E, Brunstrom JM, et al. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):360. Published 2018 Mar 16. doi:10.3390/nu10030360
- Wu, G. (2016). Dietary protein intake and human health. Food & Function, 7(3), 1251–1265. https://doi.org/10.1039/C5FO01530H
- Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Nieuwenhuizen, A., Tome, D., Soenen, S., & Westerterp, K. R. (2009). Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annual Review of Nutrition, 29, 21–41. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141056
- Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., Naidoo, R., & Cronin, J. (2015). High-protein, low-fat, short-term diet results in less stress and fatigue than moderate-protein moderate-fat diet during weight loss in male weightlifters: a pilot study. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 25(2), 163–170. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0056
- Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:20. Published 2014 May 12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
- Jäger, R., Kerksick, C. M., Campbell, B. I., Cribb, P. J., Wells, S. D., Skwiat, T. M., Antonio, J. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8
- Yashin A, Yashin Y, Wang JY, Nemzer B. Antioxidant and Antiradical Activity of Coffee. Antioxidants (Basel). 2013;2(4):230–245. Published 2013 Oct 15. doi:10.3390/antiox2040230