There are plenty of reasons to prioritize protein. It repairs and creates new cells and helps you feel satiated after eating, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. In other words, if you weigh 160 pounds, you'll need to take in 58 grams of protein a day. But, it may be best to think of this RDA as the minimum amount of protein you require, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
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Several factors can lead to a person needing more protein than the RDA, such as age, pregnancy and activity level. For instance, athletes may benefit from getting at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, notes the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
There are so many ways to use protein powder, and it's a simple way to add more of the nutrient to your diet. But if the thought of a protein shake just isn't appealing, take heart: There are plenty of ways to incorporate protein powder into your diet that don't require you to whip out the blender. These recipes include sweet and savory options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as plant-based protein powder alternatives.
Protein Powders We Love
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein ($71.99, Amazon.com)
- Amazing Grass Vegan Protein & Kale Powder ($21.99, Amazon.com)
- KOS Unflavored Protein Powder ($29.99, Amazon.com)
1. Tiramisu Protein Pancakes
Unlike the pancakes you'd get at a diner, these won't leave you feeling sluggish. You'll get a wake-up jolt from the cold brew coffee incorporated in the pancake batter, which also has vanilla protein powder and rolled oats.
Go ahead and skip the maple syrup — instead, dollop a luscious scoop of "cream" filing made from bananas and cottage cheese on top (or between) these pancakes for natural sweetness.
Get the Tiramisu Protein Pancakes recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Oh Yeah! Protein Oatmeal
Calling all oatmeal lovers: This weekday breakfast is a breeze to make. Microwave oats and milk (you can use regular milk or a dairy-free alternative if you'd prefer). Then, mix in your preferred protein powder. Feel free to experiment with combos that delight your taste buds such as chocolate protein powder and raspberries.
Get the Oh Yeah! Protein Oatmeal recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Coconut Silver Dollar Protein Pancakes
Coconut flour and coconut milk helps give these gluten-free silver dollar pancakes a tropical taste. The recipe also calls for vanilla-flavored pea protein, which results in the same gains in muscle thickness as whey protein, according to a January 2015 article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
That's good news for people who follow a plant-based diet, or avoid whey due to allergies.
Get the Gluten-Free Coconut Silver Dollar Protein Pancakes recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Protein-Packed Recovery Rice and Oat Crispy Treats
The first step in making rice and oat bars more grown-up is to nix the stickiness — and the sugar — from marshmallows. This version gains flavor from honey, vanilla-flavored whey protein powder and almond butter. As well as the crunch courtesy of cereal, these treats also include fiber-rich oatmeal.
Get the Protein-Packed Recovery Rice and Oat Crispy Treats recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Mashed Potatoes With Protein Powder
Potatoes — particularly the creamy, rich, mashed variety — may not be the first thing to come to mind when you're determining what to eat after a workout. But done right, mashed potatoes can deliver both carbs and protein to help you refuel and repair your muscles.
This spud side dish has 10 grams of protein thanks to the inclusion of dairy as well as a flavorless protein powder.
Get the Mashed Potatoes With Protein Powder recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Gluten-Free Protein-Packed Cinnamon Roll Waffles
If you find it hard to satisfy your sweet tooth, these waffles just may be the answer. They combine both oat and almond flour, as well as protein powder and a hefty amount of cinnamon, for a satisfying breakfast with 23 grams of protein (and just 365 calories) per serving.
Get the Gluten-Free Protein-Packed Cinnamon Roll Waffles recipe and nutrition info here.
7. No-Bake Vanilla Protein Cake
This cake recipe starts with a classic formula — combine the wet ingredients and then add in the dry ones. But instead of using a stand mixer, the ingredients are combined in a blender. And you can skip preheating the oven, too, because this cake is cooked in the microwave.
You could even make mini-treats in mugs. Making this dessert is a piece of, well, cake!
Get the No-Bake Vanilla Protein Cake recipe and nutrition info here.
8. The World's Easiest Protein Pancake
If you need a recovery breakfast after your morning workout, this is the easiest pancake recipe in the world. It has just two ingredients: water and protein powder. The only trick to breakfast perfection is to add the water slowly — since various powders have different absorbencies, you'll want to be careful not to add too much water.
Get the World's Easiest Protein Pancake recipe and nutrition info here.
9. Protein Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches
It's probably the addition of chocolate-flavored protein powder that makes these gluten-free waffles such a delightful, crowd-pleasing option.
After you make the waffles, combine frozen bananas and vanilla extract to make the "ice cream." Then, layer it between two waffles. The waffle sandwiches can be frozen to eat later, or you can enjoy them right away.
Get the Protein Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches recipe and nutrition info here.
10. Whole-Wheat Blueberry Protein Muffins
These filling muffins are made from whole-wheat flour and incorporate applesauce and brown sugar as well as vanilla-flavored whey protein powder for sweetness and flavor. Each bite of these satisfying muffins is bursting with blueberries.
Before baking, check to see if your protein powder is sweetened. If it is, use less brown sugar.
Get the Whole-Wheat Blueberry Protein Muffins recipe and nutrition info here.
11. Easy Vanilla Protein Cheesecake
What's not to love about this cheesecake: It's high in protein — each serving has 31 grams — and it's low in fat, with just 2 grams of fat per serving. Plus, you don't even have to turn on the oven: just add the ingredients to a bowl, then mix and refrigerate briefly before digging in. Opt for non-dairy cream cheese and dairy-free milk if you're looking for a vegan dessert option.
Get the Easy Vanilla Protein Cheesecake recipe and nutrition info here.
12. Passion Fruit Protein Mousse
Try this mouthwatering mousse for breakfast, a snack or dessert. To make it, you'll use your food processor to mix together all the ingredients. And while coconut milk and passion fruit are a delightful flavor combination, you can opt to make this mousse with any fresh fruit that's in season (try peaches, plums or even berries).
Bonus: There's no added sugar in the ingredients.
Get the Passion Fruit Protein Mousse recipe and nutrition info here.
13. Protein-Packed Cereal
Instead of pouring milk over your cold cereal, combine protein powder with water. This is one time when you'll want to keep texture in mind — whey, finely ground rice protein powder or casein powder are all good options that won't lead to a grainy mixture. Drown your flakes — or the cereal of your choice — with this liquid for an effortless breakfast or snack.
Get the Protein-Packed Cereal recipe and nutrition info here.
14. Vanilla Almond Butter Protein Granola
Granola lovers, gather round. This granola version incorporates almond butter, protein powder and ground flax as well as high-fiber oats for a filling snack. You can pair it with milk or yogurt, or crunch it on its own. Just be mindful of the serving size, which is about a palm-full.
Get the Vanilla Almond Butter Protein Granola recipe and nutrition info here.
15. All-American Protein French Toast
This French toast recipe starts with Ezekiel bread, then adds protein powder to the egg and milk mixture for an extra blast of protein. Top this appetizing breakfast with sliced up bananas and syrup for a scrumptious start to your morning.
Get the All-American Protein French Toast recipe and nutrition info here.
16. Blueberry Protein Parfait
The protein content of yogurt varies by brand. A one-cup serving of one popular brand of yogurt contains 10 grams of protein, according to the USDA. For an even more protein-rich snack, opt for Greek yogurt and mix in a scoop of protein powder. For more flavor, and some natural sweetness, add in fresh or frozen berries.
Get the Blueberry Protein Parfait recipe and nutrition info here.
17. Gluten-Free Margherita Protein Pizza
If you're looking to cut down on carbs, try this recipe for a gluten-free pizza, which has 29 grams of protein and just 5 grams of carbs in each serving. The crust is made from protein powder, cauliflower and Quest Protein Chips, along with almond meal and egg whites. Once the crust is baked, top it with a simple sauce and cheese, bake again and then dig in!
Get the Gluten-Free Margherita Protein Pizza recipe and nutrition info here.
18. Cinnamon Protein Apples
The only equipment you'll need to make this snack is a knife to cut up the apples and a plastic bag for mixing. No need to peel the apples beforehand. The recipe calls for three apples, but it's easy to scale it down to just one. No matter what quantity you make, the result will be full of protein and have a taste reminiscent of apple pie filling.
Get the Cinnamon Protein Apples recipe and nutrition info here.
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Other Ways to Use Protein Powder
If you want to know how to use protein powder in some other, more creative ways, here are some customizable tips and tricks you can try.
1. Make Hummus and Other Dips
Unflavored is the best protein powder to use when you're incorporating the ingredient into a recipe. While chocolate or strawberry may be better options for mixing with just water, you want to be able to control both the flavor and the sugar content when used in a dip recipe.
To amp up hummus, add about one scoop of plain, unflavored protein powder for every can of chickpeas in your recipe. Try this in other savory dips, too.
2. Amp Up Bean Burgers
Another pro tip: Look for a powder with as few ingredients as possible. "A lot of companies add gums and emulsifiers to their protein powders to ensure that they can easily be turned into a smooth drink by shaking. When it comes to cooking, though, those ingredients can make your recipes turn out gummy and rubbery," explains Anna Sward, founder of ProteinPow.com and author of "The Ultimate Protein Powder Cookbook."
Give bean burgers even more protein by adding anywhere from a quarter-cup to a half-cup of protein powder for every can of beans your recipe calls for.
3. Build Your Own Pizza Crust
You can make a variety of typically carb-heavy foods a protein makeover by adding in some protein powder. Pizza crust is one of the best options. Just process one cup of oats, a quarter-cup of protein powder (unflavored pea protein is great), one egg and a half-cup of liquid egg whites, Sward says. Then, cook the batter in a skillet like a pancake.
Once the crust is ready, add your favorite toppings and place your pizza under the broiler until your cheese is nice and gooey.
4. Create Soups That Satisfy
Add up to a scoop of unflavored protein powder to the broth, milk or other liquid you're going to use when you're making soup. To eliminate clumps, blend well with a whisk or in a blender before adding the liquid to your pot. You may also need to add more liquid if you prefer thinner soups, so add half a scoop of protein powder at a time, adjusting as necessary.
5. Make Super Salad Dressings
Get more nutrients into your homemade salad dressings but incorporating protein powder. That's right — you can whisk unflavored protein powder into your favorite vinaigrette or yogurt- or avocado-based salad dressings.
Use no more than one scoop of protein powder for every one-and-a-half total cups of liquid (oil, vinegar, etc). Too much powder will leave you with a gloppy mess on your hands rather than a delicious drizzle for your kale or Caesar salad.
"The main way I turn a recipe into a protein powder recipe is to substitute half the flour for unflavored protein powder," Seitz says, who recommends using whey protein. Try it in your favorite cookie recipe and see. Or search online to find cookie recipes for everything from chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin to snickerdoodles and even thin mints!
7. Create Protein Truffles of All Flavors
Thanks to the many varieties of flavored protein powder, you can make truffles flavored with chocolate, vanilla, cookie dough and more. One of the easiest ways to make these is to mix protein powder and nut butter in a two-to-one ratio in a food processor, adding honey, maple syrup or agave to taste. Add a splash of milk if necessary to help it all combine nicely.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Proteins"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day?"
- American Council on Exercise: "Do You Need More Protein?"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Pea proteins Oral Supplementation Promotes Muscle Thickness Gains During Resistance Training: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial vs. Whey Protein"
- USDA: "Stonyfield Nonfat Yogurt, Vanilla"