Why Does Protein Powder Taste So Bad? Controversial Take

Do you wince when you take a sip of your protein shake? You’re not alone. 

The unpleasant taste of certain protein powders is a common complaint among fitness enthusiasts. But why does protein powder taste so bad? 

As a certified personal trainer, I’ve had my fair share of protein powders that are not so tasty. 

Let’s explore why protein powders can taste bad, and what you can do about it.

Here’s what’s coming up. 

Why Does Protein Powder Taste So Bad? 

why does protein powder taste so bad?

Protein powder is a booming industry, with over $21 billion spent last year! No wonder, because it’s a must for health conscious individuals. 

Protein powder and other supplements like creatine, are marketed to fitness enthusiasts who want to gain muscle. Taste and effect are a big deal to companies, right? 

But then why does protein powder taste so bad? Protein powder is not meant to taste bad! It all depends on the brand, your taste buds, the powder ingredients, and the way you make it. 

I had a couple brands from the big box retail stores, and it did not taste good. It had a strange aftertaste that made drinking it a horrible experience. 

I regretted buying it, and maybe you’ve been in the same spot. But I did some research and tried a few different brands and flavors till I found one I liked. 

I know protein powder can get really expensive. It may not be the best idea to keep trying new kinds hoping for a lucky draw.

Protein powder can vary in taste depending on its source, flavor, and ingredients added.

The protein sources used in protein powders include whey, casein, and plant-based options such as pea, hemp, soy, and rice proteins. Each source brings its unique flavor profile to the table.

Still, that’s not the whole story about protein powders.

Here’s the 3 factors that answer the question, why does protein powder taste so bad? 

Not A Lot Of Natural Flavors

Why does protein powder taste so bad? Because manufacturers want to provide consumers with protein powders high in protein and low in calories, sugars, and fats.

To do this, they have to strip away a lot of the natural flavors that are present in the original protein source.  

Concentrates and isolates are higher in protein, but lack carbohydrates or fats that add proper texture.

That’s why concentrates and isolates often have a chalky taste and feel in the mouth. 

Manufacturers add artificial sweeteners to create a sweet, dessert-like taste to protein powders. 

But each sweetener has its own flavor profile and after taste. Some users may be sensitive to the aftertaste or side effects of certain sweeteners. 

By adding artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose, manufacturers can boast of 0 sugars and low calories. The same approach is used to sweeten energy drinks. 

However, the problem is that the resulting taste is metallic and blah. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners can give you bad side effects and affect holistic gut health. 

Related Article: Does Protein Powder Give You Constipation?

Hard To Replicate Flavors

Replicating flavors besides the basic vanilla or chocolate in powdered form can be difficult for manufacturers.

While whole foods contain compounds that contribute to their great taste, isolating and preserving these flavors in powders can be challenging. 

During the manufacturing process, proteins go through treatments of heating and filtration. These steps purify and concentrate the protein content, but also change the protein structure and original flavor. 

  • Manufacturers must then add unnatural or artificial flavors to mimic whatever flavor they are trying to imitate.
  • Using excess artificial flavors can result in an overwhelming synthetic taste that’s not even close to flavors presented on the packaging. 
  • This can be true of vegan protein powders. When the source protein is pea, soy, hemp, or brown rice, making it an appealing flavor can be difficult.
  • Also, the high fiber content on the vegetables give the powder a more gritty texture. 

Different Tastes Of Different People

Taste perception is highly personalized. It’s so complex that it impacts how we experience flavors of foods, including protein powders.

Genetics plays a big role in shaping taste, and that’s through taste receptors on the tongue. The receptors are responsible for detecting sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami (savory) flavors. 

Based on your individual tongue receptors, you may experience a protein powder in a different way.

Taste sensitivity can make you more aware of sweetness or bitterness in a protein powder. 

While one person may enjoy it, you might ask, “why does protein powder taste so bad?” 

Personal taste preference comes down to more than flavor. The texture and mouthfeel of the protein powder also contributes to satisfaction. 

How To Overcome
The Bad Taste 

Don’t let a bad taste from protein powder stop you from using it. Even if you already bought protein that doesn’t taste good, there are ways to fix it just yet! 

Use these strategies to make your protein powder taste better. You’ll never again ask the question, why does protein powder taste so bad?  

6 Flavoring Strategies 

Flavoring strategies are a game-changer when it comes to making protein powder taste better. Mask unpleasant flavors by adding natural and complementary flavors.

Transform your protein shake into something delicious and create a custom beverage. 

These strategies improve the taste, but can also enhance the nutrition of your shake. 

1. Enhance Tartness
and Sweetness

  • Add fresh or frozen fruits to your protein shake.
  • Fruits like berries, mangoes, and bananas are great healthy additions.
  • Dried fruits like dates, figs, or apricots can also add a natural sweetness to your protein shake.

Fruits can help to balance the bitterness from artificial sweeteners
in some protein powders. They also add a thickness to your protein shake that makes it delicious. 

2. Add Unique Complexity

If you want to add depth of flavor to your protein shake, try spices or herbs! Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add woody and warm notes to your protein beverage.

Adding fresh herbs like mint or basil can add a refreshing twist that can come as unexpected. 

3. Create Creaminess

  • Add creaminess to your protein shake with nut butters. You can use almond, peanut, or cashew butter for an extra blast of protein.
  • You’ll also add a rich, nutty flavor to your protein shake to combat that bad protein powder taste. 
  • Adding a scoop of yogurt or Greek yogurt can lend creaminess and a slightly tangy taste while boosting the protein content.
  • Another way to add creaminess is with a ripe avocado or with a splash of avocado oil. Both will add healthy fats to your beverage to make a super shake. 

4. Add Unique Aromas 

Throw in extracts or essential oils to provide a burst of flavor and aroma. Infuse your protein shake with vanilla, almond, or concoct extract.

You can also add a drop of orange or peppermint oil for a unique take on protein shakes. 

5. Enhance Natural Sweetness  

These natural sweeteners will cancel out the artificial sweetness in your protein drink. Honey will add thickness and a floral flavor.

Maples syrup brings a rich, earthy taste. Agave nectar can add a mild sweetness. Stevia or monk fruit are also low calorie natural sugar substitutes you can add. 

6. Combine Flavors 

Who says you can’t be creative? Combine multiple flavors until you find your perfect match. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works for you.

For example, blend bananas, chocolate protein powder, cocoa powder, and almond milk for a delicious treat. 

Blending Techniques

Use a blender instead of a shaker bottle to take your protein shake to the next level. 

If you can, invest in a high power blender to achieve a smooth consistency when blending. This will make all the difference, especially with ingredients like frozen fruits or ice.

  • Blending creates a more appealing texture for your drink, and deals with the issue of mesh count in protein powders.
  • Mesh count is the consistency of the powder. A lower mesh count is coarse, and a higher mesh count is fine. 
  • The higher the mesh count, the smoother the drink. However, proper blending will ensure the protein drink is smooth regardless of mesh count. 

Blenders evenly distribute protein powder. It will eliminate clumps or gritty textures, which can contribute to bad taste and mouthfeel.

Blending can emulsify fats from nut butters or avocado, and create a creamier protein shake. 

Blending also gives a lighter texture to the shake by introducing aeration and reducing chalkiness.

Start your shake with liquid of choice before adding the protein powder. This helps prevent protein from clumping in the bottom of the blender. 

Tips For Choosing
A Protein Powder 

Now you have a good understanding of the question, why does protein powder taste so bad? 

There is huge diversity in taste preferences of protein drinkers. So selecting the right protein powder for you does come with a bit of trial and error.

Here are some tips to help find the right protein powder for you. 

  1. Read Reviews. Most websites of protein powders have a ton of reviews. Read through the good and bad to get a good sense of user feedback.

    Others may have dealt with the same bad protein taste as you. You’ll gain valuable insights into the taste and textures of protein powders. 
  1. Sample Packs. Many protein powder brands have free offers for first-time users. Search around and find brands that give sample-packs or single serve pouches. That way you can try out flavors before committing. 
  1. Consider Dietary Needs. Ask yourself the reason for taking protein powder. It is more to sustain muscle growth after a workout? Do you have dietary restrictions or other preferences? For example, keto diet, vegan, mass gainer, specific protein type, etc. 

Other Reasons
Your Protein Powder
May Taste Bad 

Besides the lack of natural flavors and taste preferences, your protein powder may taste bad for other reasons. 

Start by checking the expiration date. Maybe it’s been in your cupboard for a while, and you forgot about it. If it’s past the expiration date, there are tell tale signs that the protein is no good. If it smells rancid, looks to be a weird color it may not be good anymore. 

Was your protein stored correctly? Store your protein powder in a cool, dark place. Improper storage can result in significantly more acidity and moisture in the protein powder, according to this study.

To make your protein powder last longer, seal it properly and use before the “best by” date. 

Bottom Line 

Protein powder is a staple in the world of fitness, but its taste can be unpleasant. But why does protein powder taste so bad? 

Artificial flavors, mesh count, and taste preferences can all contribute to a bad taste.

But now you are armed with ways to make it taste better. Add mix-ins, use blending techniques, and choose the right products based on your likes. 

Cheers to better-tasting, more enjoyable protein shakes on your journey to a healthier you!


Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!

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