Unflavored vs Flavored Protein Powders: Which to Choose?
July 13, 2017
As you look through the incredible and baffling selection of protein powders on the market, one of the many factors that you’re going to have to consider is flavor. Proteins powders can be designed to taste like strawberries, cheesecake, plain old vanilla and a host of other options.
And then you have the ability to pick up unflavored protein powders, too. But, why would anyone want a flavorless protein powder? Are there any advantages to either flavored or unflavored protein powders? And most importantly, which should you choose?
Below, we break down the strengths and weaknesses of flavored vs unflavored protein powders.
If You Want Convenience: Flavored Protein Powder
Convenience is the primary reason for choosing a flavored protein powder.
If you want your protein shake to have a specific taste or just don’t enjoy the idea of a flavorless liquid snack, then a flavored protein powder would be an easy option. Since the powder itself carries the desired flavor, that’s really all that’s needed. Of course, you could still blend in other ingredients too, if you want to add some depth.
With unflavored protein powders, it’s not that easy. Because the protein powder doesn’t have any built-in flavor, you have to essentially start from scratch. So, if you would like a chocolate protein shake, you need to add something chocolatey. This may take some advanced planning to make sure that you have the necessary ingredients on-hand.
You will also likely to have to spend more time preparing the shake, especially if you have to blend the ingredients together. With flavored protein powders, though, you can usually just get by with a shaker cup.
If You Want Adaptability/Versatility: Unflavored Protein Powder
But here’s the thing: Flavored protein powders taste like what they taste like. If you purchase a chocolate powder, for example, you are locked into that flavor. And, when you decide to blend in other ingredients, you have to think about what will pair well with chocolate.
The situation gets even more complicated if you have a strong or specific flavor like cookies and cream. Tasty…but highly limiting!
Unflavored protein powders, however, don’t have these limitations. The powder becomes nothing but a nutrient-rich blank slate that you can build all sorts of other flavor combinations on top of. Feel like adding strawberries and bananas one day, but spinach and blueberries the next? Go for it!
If You Want to Use it for Cooking: Unflavored Protein Powder
This versatility is especially useful if you want to use your protein powder for cooking. Unflavored powders can be used to thicken soups and sauces without having a strong impact on the flavor while also delivering a boost of protein to the dish.
Unflavored plant protein powders are particularly well-suited for baking and cooking because they tend to retain moisture better than whey or casein, allowing you to create nutrient-rich, delicious recipes. Plant-based proteins also tend to be higher in healthy fats, lower in saturated fats and higher in fiber than their animal based counterparts.
If You Want to Eat Clean: Unflavored Protein Powder
It’s also important to remember that in order to achieve that dizzying array of flavors, manufacturers often resort to…unsavory techniques. Generally, this involves the use of artificial flavorings that can have a host of negative side-effects.
According to the watchdog organization Eat Well Group (EWG), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor – and therefore does not test – any flavoring for safety. Considering the widespread use of artificial flavoring additives, this is a major concern.
Even when the flavors come from “natural sources,” they may be derived from things you’d rather not ingest – like ground-up beetles. Yuck! Of course, this isn’t always the case. For example, Naked Nutrition offers a line of flavored protein powders that use only natural, organic ingredients.
But for those looking to keep their diet as clean as possible, unflavored protein powders are an invaluable tool. Since the ingredients list is often just one or two things – which are generally pretty familiar – you can be confident that you aren’t taking anything into your body that you might regret.
Interestingly, many unflavored plant protein powders naturally have their own flavors – even if they are very subtle. Pea protein powder, for example, has a slightly savory taste similar to what you might expect from pea soup. Rice protein powder, though, is very lightly sweet. This allows for these proteins to be used in a number of applications, without the need for any unstudied flavorings.
The Bottom Line
While both flavored and unflavored protein powders have their strengths, we firmly believe that unflavored protein powder should be a regular staple in your pantry.
Whether you opt for unflavored plant-based protein powder (perfect for vegans and vegetarians), unflavored whey powder, unflavored egg white powder, or unflavored casein powder, choosing a protein powder with no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors means that you can create your own delicious protein shakes using natural foods such as bananas, berries and more.