I like to drink protein shakes, but I find that it's very hard to dissolve the protein powder into water or milk. You get clumps, and unless you want to get your blender dirty or spend ten minutes whisking you're out of luck. Recently I've started experimenting, and I've made some discoveries that could solve this problem.

First off, my protein powder dissolves in oil. I can dissolve it in oil then add water, and then instead of clumps I'll just have two separate layers, one with protein powder dissolved in oil and the other water. This is still better than clumps and tastes super creamy, but obviously this is much more calorie dense and kinda defeats the purpose of drinking protein shakes.

My next experiment was to try adding as little oil as possible. I added just enough oil to the protein powder to get the texture of wet sand, then added my water and stirred. This seemed to create an emulsification although there were some small clumps, but I think with some refinement I could get clump free emulsions using this technique. My theory is that when I added the water it mixed slowly with the oil and protein since the oil protein mixture was still in mostly solid form, and this allowed an emulsion to form while it could not in the previous case. But that's just a guess. Just like with the previous method, this was delicious but unhealthy.

So, is there something else I could try dissolving my protein powder in, or something I could dilute my oil with so it will still dissolve the powder but be less calorie dense? I'm using some sort of vegan protein powder with added emulsifiers. I can tell you what kind of protein it is later if it helps, but I suspect I'd get similar results with whey protein.

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    I think you want to emulsify, preferably without needing to use oil. – David Schwartz Nov 18 '20 at 1:21
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    An emulsion is one liquid intermixed with another, either temporarily (salad dressing) or permanently (homogenised milk or household paint). What the OP is creating is a suspension or slurry, a solid in a liquid. Ironically, the best way to get this to disperse rapidly would probably be a couple of drips of dish-washing liquid… which I really wouldn't recommend ;) – Tetsujin Nov 18 '20 at 9:56
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    Lecithin as an emulsifier? – Technophile Nov 18 '20 at 14:44
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    Solubility is temperature-dependent. Try increasing the temperature of the water in which you attempt to dissolve the powder. This should help it to dissolve more readily. Once dissolved, you should be able to cool the liquid back down. So, in this way, you can prepare some batches (perhaps a couple of days) in advance, keeping them in the refrigerator for handy mixing into shakes without the hassle of poor solubility. (That said, you do say this is protein powder, which tends to have poor or no solubility in water. In fact, it just emulsifies. So thorough mixing may be your only option.) – Cody Gray Nov 18 '20 at 22:21
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    Wait, so basically your question is "how to blend protein shakes without using the blender"? I always used the blender and didn't even know there was a problem :) TIL! If you get access to an emulsifier, you could try adding a bit - maybe lecithin. – Kuba hasn't forgotten Monica Nov 19 '20 at 2:26

It doesn't actually dissolve. It disperses (easily seen as some will eventually settle out). The distinction is important, as dissolving could be solved by time or heat.

A few things may help when mixing with water (or milk):

  • Make a paste with the powder and a little water, then dilute
  • (this is what I do for protein shakes) Put a little water in the bottle. Add the powder on top and put the lid on. Shake briefly but vigorously. Add more water to about 1/3 full, shake again. Top up to 2/3 full, shake a final time. If you insist on using a blender, a similar approach might be good. It stops the clumps forming stuck to the sides where they're hard to get free. This is normally with whey derivatives. I've tried it with a plant-based powder but it was too disgusting to drink.
  • I've never used them (because they wouldn't fit in the bike bottles I use for shakes) but there are mixing balls. They're basically a whisk made of wires and makes the shaking more effective.
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    People at work who have protein shakes use those whisk balls, they seem quite effective. Similarly with Huel – spikey_richie Nov 18 '20 at 14:03
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    I've been having some trouble with my whisk-ball-bottle myself. I'll have to try adding a bit of water (well, coffee actually) at a time tomorrow morning and see if that improves the blend – BThompson Nov 18 '20 at 15:56
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    I'm another satisfied user of shaker bottles. (Bottle + whisk ball sold as a combination so the whisk ball is properly matched to the bottle.) Don't get it too full, shake it hard. – Loren Pechtel Nov 19 '20 at 5:14
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    Pre-mixing in a small volume of water works for a lot of things. It seems counter-intuitive but the smaller volume is easier to mix vigorously and clumps can't 'hide'. In a large volume they just get pushed around. – JimmyJames Nov 19 '20 at 14:34
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    @JimmyJames: but OTOH also not too small a volume of water otherwise the drop will move around in the powder. Help dissolving by heat works only for some proteins, others (whey) will denature and thus form irreversible clumps! – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 19 '20 at 17:15

To answer your question as stated: no, there is no way to dilute oil, at least not in a sense that would be helpful for your situation.

In cooking, there are basically only three edible liquids: water, oil and alcohol. Everything else is a mixture based on one or more of these. This view of things is terribly oversimplified, but it provides us with a good way to approach your problem.

First, alcohol is out - I suppose you don't want to get drunk from your protein breakfast.

Second, other oils are out, they have the same amount of calories. (When I use the imprecise term "oil" here, I mean cooking oils and not nonpolar nonnutritious ingestible solvents such as glycerine or propylene glycol, you shouldn't be using them in such amounts).

Third, water is also pretty much out. Water doesn't mix with oil. If you start looking into ways of using an emulsion, you will find that oil-in-water emulsions such as milk will behave pretty much like water for your case. You would need a water-in-oil emulsion, and these are rare in cooking, not necessarily tasty, and to make your emulsion, you will also have to dirty the blender.

So, the conclusion here is, there is no way you can dilute your oil as you intended.

For the actual solution of your situation, you can either implement one of the suggestions in ChrisH's answer, or see if a mixture with another powder will be sufficient for your powder to not clump (this could be sugar, or maybe a nut flour), or switch brands to a different protein powder that dissolves better.

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    @Technophile - ethanol is a fine solvent. Tasty too. – Willk Nov 18 '20 at 18:18
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    Good answer, but I would definitely add acetic acid and glycerol to the list of edible liquids. – leftaroundabout Nov 19 '20 at 0:54
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    @nick012000 this doesn't sound like an especially good strategy. 1) it is more effort than just whisking for a few minutes. 2) the cooking will chnage the taste of the shake. 3) alcohol never boils completely off, you always end up with a mixture of water and alcohol. – rumtscho Nov 19 '20 at 8:38
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    Acetic acid is NOT an edible liquid. Drink it and you'll end up in the hospital. Vinegar is not acetic acid, it's mostly water, with a small percentage of acetic acid, usually around 5%. Don't take my word for it, review the msds... msdsonline.com/2014/11/19/… – barbecue Nov 19 '20 at 15:16
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    The same would apply to a neat habanero chile, for most people :) – rackandboneman Nov 20 '20 at 18:29

I invented a method to facilitate dissolving of protein powder shakes for an Innocentive contest. It worked pretty well but I did not win so there must be a better method out there.

The idea is that the powder would rather stay with powder than move off into the water - it is hydrophobic to some degree.

I mixed the powder with a small amount of baking soda and a small amount of powdered citric acid. When dry it was just another powder. When wet, the baking soda and citric acid foamed up, breaking up interactions between the particles of protein shake. The foam (containing shake powder particles) then stirred in easily.

Maybe they did not like the additives. You could taste them both in the shake. It occurs to me that if you have a hard time finding powdered citric acid (I ordered mine) you could powder some vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tabs and try with that.

It occurs to me that you could achieve the same end by breaking up the protein powder particles with some hydrophilic powder that did not alter the flavor or nutritional value of the shake. I propose you could use dextrin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dextrin This is on the market as a laxative (usually in the store next to metamucil and fiber supplements) but it mixes to imperceptibility in drinks - it is soluble fiber. A brand name in the US in Benefiber. Adding this to the powder and mixing well in advance should facilitate dispersal of the protein shake powder without altering flavor or nutritional benefit.

Third idea: alcohol. If your protein powder dissolves in oil it will dissolve in pure ethanol. Dissolve powder in pure grain spirits - Everclear is a brand in the US. Use the smallest amount of alcohol to get the job done. Once dissolved, make your shake with boiling water then let it sit and cool off before you drink it, or leave it overnight in the refrigerator. The ethanol will evaporate as it cools. Or if you are digging a little kick just make the shake cool and drink the ethanol with. If you are about to go exercise ethanol is good low-carb fuel.

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    I like the acid/base foam idea. For the flavour you'd want an excess of acid to ensure all the soda was neutralised; I've been known to add citric acid to overly-sweet shakes when I'm out of lemon or lime juice so that taste can be fine. I have worked out the mass ratio of bicarb to citric acid before, but don't have the figure to hand. I doubt it's actually soluble in alcohol though; just as with oil it's not dissolving, but wetting better than with water. You might get away with very little but mixing with boiling water won't drive off very much (search here; it's been discussed before) – Chris H Nov 18 '20 at 17:16
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    @ChrisH - If I recall I did use an excess of acid so there was some residual sourness which was good. The baking soda made it a little salty which is not terrible but unusual for an American drink. – Willk Nov 18 '20 at 18:21
  • I read somewhere that ethanol was the first performance enhancing substance to be banned. Biathlon competitors were using it to steady their aim. – JimmyJames Nov 19 '20 at 14:30
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    Careful with the acid: proteins can be denatured by acid, and if that happens, the precipitate "coating" of the powder bubble will prevent the protein powder inside from dissolving. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 19 '20 at 17:01
  • Interesting ideas. I did one experiment where I tried making a shake with boiling water, but it seemed to cook the proteins, so that could be a problem with the boiling off the alcohol idea. I also tried making a shake with vodka because that was the purest alcohol I had on hand, but that did not work. At the time I figured alcohol was no better than water for dissolving the protein powder, but it sounds like the problem was just that vodka is mostly water. – A. Kriegman Nov 24 '20 at 0:10

If you buy a shaker (at least in Spain, even the cheaper 3e ones), it will in most cases come with a mixer in it, either a Ball as seen in the first image,

Ball mixer

or they just come with a mixer inside, like in the second image (sorry if it looks promotional, it's not). This should definetly end your problems (supposing you are taking your protein shakes in these). You should be able to buy for a very low price these separate parts.

enter image description here

The ball might look hard to clean but it is definetly not!


In a similar vein to @Wilik's solution, I often use carbonated/sparkling water with my protein shake (pea-protein usually). As this foams up dramatically, you are forced to add it in small amounts stirring it in until the foam is dissolved, then adding more and stirring again, repeating until you get to where it will all fit in the glass. I can still get a large clump of powder on the bottom if my stirring is insufficient to start with, but the foam has helped separate out the particles and the top portion is usually fine.

  • You don’t say what kind of oil you are using, just that you want to dilute it for health reasons. Since there is no handy “dilution” for oil, what if you try coconut oil, or even MCT oil? MCT is used for bulletproof coffee and the health benefits may Interest you. It is also tasteless and doesn’t seem so oily. BTW, Thanks for the tip to dissolve protein powder in oil first. What brand do you use? – NaniBly Nov 26 '20 at 0:15
  • @NaniBly I think your comment was intended for a different answer – Dragonel Nov 26 '20 at 1:43

Here is what I do:

  1. Use just water or milk, no oil.
  2. Start by mixing the powder with just a tiny amount of liquid.
  • It will be a very thick paste.
  1. Mix thoroughly, then add a bit more liquid.
  • It should still be a paste.
  1. Alternate adding more liquid and mixing thoroughly.
  • Once it is thin like a gravy you can add the rest of the liquid.

I have also found that using hot liquid works better, but it is not necessary.

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    +1. Exactly that is a common technique I use when mixing any powders with water. It works well not only with proteins shakes but also with flour (when preparing flour to make "thickener") – mishan Nov 19 '20 at 17:09

The technique I use for diet shakes is to add ice to the water and use a hand shaker. The ice takes on a similar role to mixing balls etc.

Add water to the shaker, then the powder, then ice on top, just one or two cubes. Swirl gently until the powder is more or less submerged (this prevents the first shake from propelling dry clumps of powder against the top of the shaker).

Then shake until mixed in. After this, allow it to rest a while. This allows the ice to melt (if you prefer) and allows some of the trapped air bubbles to escape- I found they were causing burping!


Without adding solvents and assuming that you are below saturation (as others have pointed out, the only one that is even remotely an option is ethyl alcohol, and I'm sure that's not your answer):

-time (your protein may be soluble, but slow to dissolve) -heat (will increase solubility and rate of dissolving) -vigorous mixing (related to time... breaks up the material, increases the surface area of the material you're trying to dissolve so it should speed up the process)

Ultrasound is a more hardcore way to speed things up. But, probably out of scope.

Playing with pH is a good option. Adding either an acid (lemon juice?) or base (baking soda?) should make a difference, but the amount you might need to add to make a difference to solubility could be a problem.

Accept that many proteins are just not very water soluble. Make a steak smoothie.

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