You may have heard about people putting honey into their protein shakes and wondered if there’s any benefit in doing so or if it just makes your shake extra tasty.
So, should you put honey in a protein shake? You should add honey to your protein shake if you want to improve your exercise performance. Adding honey to your protein shake is an easy way to add fast-digesting carbs (16g/tbsp) that provide fuel for your workout and help replenish energy following a workout.
That said, there are situations where you may not want to put honey in your protein shake because it could stall progress rather than encourage it.
After reading this article, you’ll learn:
- Reasons to put honey in a protein shake
- Who should put honey in a protein shake
- When to put honey in a protein shake
- What kinds of honey work best in a protein shake
6 Reasons to Put Honey In A Protein Shake
The six main reasons to put honey in a protein shake are:
- Quick energy for workouts
- Enhanced recovery after training
- Source of micronutrients
- Convenient source of carbs
- Great taste
- Can help to encourage weight gain
Quick Energy For Workouts
One reason why you should add honey to your protein shake is that honey is an excellent source of quick-digesting carbohydrates. Fast-digesting carbs are ideal before a workout because they digest so easily that sugar enters the bloodstream very quickly to provide energy for workouts.
If you’re noticing that you lack energy for your workout, I recommend including 1-2 tbsp of honey in a pre-workout shake around 30 to 60 minutes before your workout.
Because honey digests so quickly, you can also use it to provide energy during a long or intense workout where your energy would typically be depleted before your workout is over.
One tbsp (21g) of honey has the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 64
- Carbs: 16g (0g fiber; 16g sugar)
- Fat: 0g
- Protein: 0g
- Sodium: 0mg
Recovery After Training
Another benefit of adding honey to a protein shake is that it’s also helpful for replenishing energy after a workout. Taking in carbs after training helps to boost your energy levels back to baseline, which is especially important if you’re training more than once per day.
If you’re not consuming enough carbs after training to replenish your energy stores, you’ll feel tired, lethargic, and even moody. This lack of energy can affect any other training sessions you have that day and your personal life.
Source of Micronutrients
Honey is also plentiful in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which can help boost the number of nutrients in your protein shake and help to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
The amount of each micronutrient per 100g of honey, as well as the % of the recommended daily allowance, are shown below.
Vitamins In Honey
- Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) 2.2-2.5mg (2.4-2.8% RDA): Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps with the growth and repair of tissue, which is a great benefit for bodybuilders specifically, and anyone who works out in general.
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) 0.1-0.2mg (0.6-1.2% RDA): Vitamin B3 helps improve circulation and suppress inflammation, which can help reduce soreness after exercise.
- Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) 0.02-0.11mg (0.4-2.2% RDA): Vitamin B5 helps turn the food you eat into the energy you need for training and daily activities.
Minerals In Honey:
- Phosphorus 2-15mg (0.2-1.2% RDA): Phosphorus works with calcium to form strong bones. Phosphorus is also vital in how the body stores and uses energy and can reduce muscle pain after exercise.
- Magnesium 0.7-13mg (0.2-3% RDA): Magnesium is a key mineral for all organs in the body, assisting with metabolism, digestive health, sleep, and recovery from training and life in general.
- Iron 0.03-4mg (0.2-22% RDA): Iron is an important component of red blood cells, carrying oxygen-rich blood to all cells of the body and assisting in the production of energy. Iron can assist in sports performance.
- Zinc 0.05-2mg (0.5-18% RDA): assists with blood clotting and has an important role in the immune system, along with assisting with thyroid function. These aspects make it important for recovery from training and for ensuring a healthy metabolism.
- Manganese 0.02-2mg (0.9-87% RDA): Manganese supports healthy metabolism and can help reduce inflammation, easing soreness from exercise.
- Copper 0.02-0.6mg (2.2-67% RDA): Copper helps your body to make red blood cells and collagen, which are important for the health of your connective tissues, to keep you moving well. Copper also assists in the absorption of iron.
Another benefit of adding honey to a shake is that it’s a convenient source of carbs. Since honey is already a liquid, it’s very easy to add a spoonful or two to your shake so you can grab it and go.
Honey is easy to add to a protein shake if you need a quick burst of energy while you’re on the road or heading to the gym. It’s also great to have on hand if you’re someone who experiences bouts of low blood sugar.
Adding honey to a protein shake can also help to enhance the taste because honey has a pleasant sweet taste and flavor that many people prefer to the taste of high-intensity sweeteners common in protein powders.
Adding honey to a protein shake allows you to use an unflavored protein powder and avoid unwanted artificial sweeteners that are commonly used in flavored protein powders. It could also help improve the taste of a vanilla protein shake that you don’t enjoy.
- Related Article: Why Is Protein Powder So Sweet? How To Make It Less Sweet
Can Help Encourage Weight Gain
Adding honey to your protein shake can help you gain weight more easily because the honey increases the calories and carbohydrates in your shake without adding too much volume.
Adding honey is an easy way to increase your calories without becoming too full, which is important when you’re trying to gain weight by eating in a caloric surplus (more calories than your body needs to maintain weight).
Each tablespoon of honey will add 64 calories and 16g of carbohydrates. However, while honey does provide more micronutrients than refined sugar, it is still a form of sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests a limit of no more than 5-10% of total daily energy intake coming from added sugars.
Keeping track of your sugar intake doesn’t have to be complicated. Using a tracking app like MacroFactor makes it easy to keep your calories and macros on point. Use this link and enter the code FEASTGOOD when signing up to get an extra week on your free trial (2 weeks total). Cancel any time before your trial ends without being charged.
- Related Article: Can You Mix Gatorade With Protein Powder?
Who Should Not Mix Honey With Protein Shakes?
You should not mix honey with your protein shakes if you’re allergic to honey, dieting on low calories, vegan, or following the keto diet.
Those with a honey allergy should avoid mixing honey into their protein shakes for obvious reasons. However, if you still want the benefits of adding honey to a shake, consider using maple syrup as an alternative.
Maple syrup provides similar calorie and carb content (55 calories & 14g of carbs per tbsp) and has more micronutrients than refined sugar. Therefore, maple syrup offers all the same benefits as honey when added to a protein shake.
Since honey is made by honeybees, which are living creatures, many people following a vegan lifestyle choose not to eat honey.
The best vegan alternatives to honey include agave, coconut nectar, and maple syrup because they’re plant-based sweeteners with similar calorie and carb content to honey.
If you’re on a low-calorie diet to lose weight, adding honey to your protein shake isn’t a good idea because it will add calories without increasing your satiety.
This is partly because honey digests so quickly and partly because drinking calories compared to chewing solid food does not provide the same sense of fullness. It is harder to adhere to your calorie deficit when you feel hungry again too soon.
Honey is too high in carbohydrates for the keto diet, which focuses on severely restricting your carbohydrate intake. Therefore, individuals following the keto diet cannot add honey to a protein shake.
Note that our team of nutrition coaches and Registered Dieticians at FeastGood does not generally recommend diets that restrict or remove entire categories of food (like keto), except in special, medically-necessary circumstances.
- Please book a complimentary one-on-one consultation if you’d like to speak to a Nutrition Coach or Registered Dietician about how to lose weight sustainably.
When To Have Honey In A Protein Shake
The best time to have honey in a protein shake is pre- or post-workout to provide fuel for training or recovery after a workout. The two most important nutrients pre- and post-workout are carbs and protein, which are fulfilled by adding honey to a protein shake.
A protein shake with honey can also provide supplemental calories when served alongside a meal for individuals looking to gain weight.
The only time you should avoid having protein shakes with honey is before bed because the sugar in honey can disrupt your sleep quality.
How To Mix Honey In A Protein Shake
The best way to mix honey into a protein shake is to mix it in a shaker cup or with a blender to ensure that all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Honey shouldn’t have an issue dissolving, so the extra effort is really for the whey protein powder, which tends to clump if you don’t use a shaker cup or blender.
- Related Article: What Can You Mix With Protein Powder (13 Examples)
What Kind Of Honey To Use For Protein Shakes?
The best kind of honey for protein shakes is regular liquid honey in a squeeze bottle because it’s easier to measure, pour, and dissolve into a shake.
The honey with the most micronutrients is raw, organic, unfiltered honey, but this honey is closer to a solid at room temperature, which makes it harder to measure, pour, and dissolve.
I use liquid honey over raw, organic, unfiltered honey because I get enough micronutrients through whole foods throughout the rest of the day, so the micronutrients in honey aren’t the main reason I’m adding honey to my shake.
If you don’t consume enough nutrients throughout the day, then maybe the higher-quality honey is worth the effort and price to add more nutrients to your diet through your protein shakes.
What Is The Best Type of Protein To Mix With Honey?
The best type of protein powder to mix with honey is a high-quality, third-party tested protein powder like Diesel New Zealand Whey Isolate. This protein powder dissolves more easily than other protein powders on the market and tastes great.
Using a protein powder that is third-party tested for quality ingredients and label accuracy is important to me so that I know I’m getting what I expect from my supplement, and there are no cheap fillers.
Protein Shake & Honey Recipes
The “Tropical Bee” Protein Smoothie
The tropical bee protein smoothie is my favorite way to add honey to a protein shake because it has a great tropical vibe.
- 1 cup milk or water
- 1 scoop (30g) vanilla protein powder of choice (I use Diesel New Zealand Whey Isolate in French Vanilla)
- ¼ cup (63g) plain non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp honey
- ½ cup chopped fresh pineapple, or canned pineapple chunks, drained
- 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- Handful of ice cubes
- Optional: sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt
Combine the ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth.
Calories/macros will depend on the exact ingredients and amounts used.
- With water: Calories 370 (34P/53C/5F)
- With 2% milk: Calories 500 (42P/65C/10F)
Other Recipes To Try
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About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.