Protein Powder With Milk or Water: Which Is Better?

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At FeastGood, we’ve analyzed every single way to mix protein powder.  Both milk and water are the most popular options.

So, if you had a choice, is it better for you to mix protein with milk or water?  Both milk and water are great options to mix protein powder with as they both offer benefits depending on your nutrition goals.  Mixing with milk offers more calories, as well as protein, carbs, and fats while mixing with water offers a zero-calorie option for those looking to save calories or with lactose intolerance.

Depending on your nutrition goals, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both options as one may be a better choice for you.

By the end of this article, you will learn:

  • The 6 differences between drinking protein with milk and water
  • The benefits and drawbacks to mixing protein with milk
  • The benefits and drawbacks to mixing protein with water

Protein Powder With Milk vs Water: 6 Differences

Protein powder with milk vs water 6 differences
MilkWater
CaloriesAdds an extra 130 calories to your protein shake (if using 2%)No additional calories added
Carb Content12 grams extra0 grams
Fat Content5 grams extra0 grams
Protein Content11 grams extra0 grams
MicronutrientsRich in calciumNo additional micronutrients
Texture & TasteThicker, CreamierWatery and tasteless

1. The Number of Total Calories

Generally speaking, when mixing protein powder with milk there will be a higher amount of calories when compared to mixing with water.  This is due to the fact that water is a zero-calorie liquid.  

One scoop of protein powder is 110 calories on average.  If you are mixing your protein powder with water, you do not need to worry about adding more calories to your day.  

If you are mixing protein powder with 250ml of 2% milk, you will be adding an additional 130 calories to bring your protein shake to a total of 240 calories.

If you are someone who is looking to gain more muscle, do a body recomposition, or simply maintain the physique you have, mixing your protein powder with milk will provide additional calories for you to achieve those goals.  

Related Article: How Many Calories Are In A Protein Shake? 9 Examples

2. The Number of Carbs When Mixed With Milk or Water

Protein powder, on its own, does not offer a large number of carbohydrates.  On average, there may be 2-3g of carbs per scoop.  Mixing with water will not increase this number.  On the other hand, if you are mixing protein powder with milk, you may be increasing that number more significantly.  

For one 250ml glass of 2% milk, there are 12 g of carbohydrates.  This will bring your total number of carbohydrates per protein shake to ~15g of carbohydrates.  

Mixing with water is a great option for you if you are in a cut and looking to watch the overall number of carbohydrates you are consuming.  As well, eating your carbs instead of drinking them may be more satisfying and help to keep you feeling fuller, longer.  

This is important when dieting in order to avoid being overly hungry when reducing your overall caloric intake.  

If you are trying to increase the number of calories you are consuming while in maintenance or a bulking phase, choosing to mix your protein powder with 2% milk will help to reach the increased number of carbohydrates that you are trying to consume more easily.

3. The Amount of Fat When Mixed With Milk or Water

Protein powder tends to be very low in dietary fats.  Should you choose to mix one scoop of protein with 250ml of 2% milk, the number of fats in your protein shake will increase to 5 g per serving.  

This number will change based on the amount of fat in the milk you choose.   If you choose to use skim milk there will be no fat compared with whole milk, which will be 8g of fat per 250ml serving.

When mixing protein with water, it remains a low-fat protein source.  This is great if you are cutting and need to watch the overall amount of fat you are consuming in a day (since fat has 9 calories per 1g).  

Additionally, if you are solely looking to keep the number of fats down, mixing protein powder with skim milk will also keep that number at 0g per 250ml serving while still offering a creamier shake flavor.

4. The Number of Protein When Mixed With Milk or Water

One scoop of protein powder will provide approximately 23g of protein depending on the brand you choose.  Mixing your protein powder with milk is a great option to increase your daily protein intake.  You add an additional 11g of protein for a total of 34g of protein per shake.

If you have already consumed adequate amounts of protein or plan to consume enough protein in your day from other food sources, you may choose water to mix with instead.  This will ensure that you don’t receive the additional protein from the milk.  

Related Article: What Happens If You Go Over Your Protein Macros?

5. The Micronutrients When Mixed With Milk or Water

The main micronutrient in protein powder is calcium.  As calcium plays a key role in maintaining healthy bones and teeth, it is also beneficial for muscle contraction.  Without calcium, your muscles wouldn’t be able to perform this important function, which would make moving and lifting weights harder.  

By mixing protein powder with milk, you add an additional influx of calcium: 

  • 450 mg from the milk (250ml)
  • 100mg from your protein powder (1 scoop)
  • A total of 550mg of calcium 

With consuming your protein shake with milk, you are consuming approximately 50% of your daily recommended intake.  

On the other hand, when mixing protein powder with water, the majority of the calcium you will receive will come from the protein powder since water has only 3mg per cup.  

  • 3mg from water (250ml)
  • 100mg from your protein powder (1 scoop)
  • A total of 103mg of calcium

With that said, Optimum Nutrition’s whey protein is a great option if you are mixing with water and interested in a higher amount of calcium in your protein because it has110mg of calcium per serving.

6. Texture and Taste When Mixed With Milk or Water

If you like a creamier and sweeter taste when drinking your protein powder then mixing it with milk will be the best option for you compared to mixing it with water.  When mixing with water, you may notice that the flavor is less sweet and less thick.  Depending on your palette, you may prefer one over the other.  

If water is the favorable choice for your nutrition goals but you prefer a creamier or more dense texture, try blending in some ice cubes with your protein powder and water to increase the thickness of the protein shake.  

Also, check out my article on mixing whey protein with hot water, which will also create a different taste and texture compared with drinking it with cold water. 

Should you take whey protein?  If so, when and how much?

Mixing Protein Powder With Milk: Benefits, Drawbacks, & Who Should Do It? 

Pros vs Cons of mixing protein powder with milk

Benefits

1. Keeps You Feeling Full for Longer

In addition to protein, milk contains carbs and fat.  This is beneficial in keeping you feeling full and satisfied for a longer duration of time after you’ve consumed your protein shake.

2. Provides More Protein To Hit Your Daily Protein Goals

Getting enough protein will help to maintain lean muscle mass and help keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals.  Mixing your whey protein with milk accounts for an additional 11g of protein giving you a total of 43g per protein shake.

3. Creates a Thicker Texture and Sweeter Taste

Mixing your protein powder with milk not only sweetens the flavour of the protein but also gives you a thicker texture, almost like a milkshake.  Not only is this beneficial for the enjoyment of flavor but it can also be used as a dessert replacement.  

4. Provides an Additional Source of Fats and Carbs for Your Post-Workout Snack or Meal

After a workout, consuming carbs, fats, and protein is key to replenishing the energy stores you just depleted.  By including all 3 macronutrients in your after-workout snack or meal, you are going to be helping your body not only create more energy for future workouts and activity but also maintain lean muscle mass through repair and recovery.  

5. Provides an Additional Source of Calories if You Are in the Maintenance or Bulking Phase.

Increasing calories can be challenging for some, especially when you first move out of a cutting phase.  Getting your calories from milk is an easy and effective way to increase your daily intake without necessarily having to add in more food volume. 

Want to learn about mixing protein powder with different types of milk?  Check out my complete guides: 

Drawbacks

1. Not an Option if You Are Lactose-Intolerant

Both whey protein and dairy milk will contain lactose, which is a sugar found in dairy products.  There are many causes and various tolerances when it comes to lactose intolerance, which can intensify the symptoms you experience. 

You may also find it helpful to use lactose-free milk that is ultrafiltered, as it tends to have a higher protein count than most plant-based kinds of milk. 

2. Higher in Calories Compared to Water

When cutting your calories or avoiding excess calories from liquids to hit your nutritional goals, milk may be the less desirable choice.

Although there is a balanced source of nutrients in the glass of milk from carbs, fats, and protein, when you are looking to lose weight, you may rather eat your calories in order to help you stay full longer between meals. 

Best Time To Mix Protein With Milk

In the Morning

Protein can be mixed into a protein shake with milk and packed with fruit and vegetables or even added to the milk in your cereal.  Both of these options will help to keep you feeling full longer between breakfast and lunch so that you can stick to your nutrition plan easier by avoiding mindless snacking. 

In the Evening

You may find it beneficial to mix your protein with milk before bed to help keep you feeling satisfied going to sleep.  Falling asleep can be challenging when you are feeling hungry.  Consuming a thicker protein shake before bed can help to give you the feeling of being full and therefore help you fall asleep easier.  

Pre or Post-Workout

Pre-workout shakes will be better mixed with low-fat or fat-free milk since fat will slow down digestion.  This can impact the amount of energy that we are breaking down for our workouts.  

Post-workout shakes can be mixed with whole milk or even 2% milk since they contain both fats and carbs in addition to protein.  These are going to help you repair your lean muscle mass and replenish your energy stores from your workout.  

Who Should Mix Protein Powder With Milk?

Since there are different types of milk that you can use, you can control the number of calories depending on your goals.  

For example, if you are looking to increase muscle mass, you can choose to use whole milk.  If you are looking to cut body fat, choose to use skim milk to help hit your protein goals easier. 

Mixing Protein Powder With Water: Benefits, Drawbacks, & Who Should Do It?

Pros vs Cons of mixing protein powder with water

Benefits

1. Zero Calories

The biggest benefit of mixing protein powder with water is the fact that it’s zero calories.  This is an ideal choice for anyone that is looking to cut body fat or manage weight loss.  As it doesn’t increase the number of carbs or fats when you use it for your shake.

In a cutting phase? Mixing with water also gives you the chance to eat your calories instead of getting them through your beverages.  

2. Less Sweet Flavor

Many protein powders are made with artificial sweeteners like stevia.  When you mix your protein with milk, it can sometimes increase the level of sweetness. If you are someone who prefers a less sweet shake, mixing with water is a great option for you.

Check out my article Why Is Protein Powder So Sweet? And How To Make It Less Sweet if you prefer a less sweet protein shake for tips and suggestions on how to do that.

3. Lactose-Free

If you are lactose intolerant, mixing with milk may not be a possible option for you.  Choosing to mix with water will ensure that you don’t consume any lactose and can still hit your protein goals for the day with the use of a plant-based protein supplement.

4. Cost-Effective & Readily Available

Mixing your protein powder with water is a cost-effective and readily available option since most gyms, offices, and public places have water fountains or access to water to mix.  This makes for a great on-the-go option as well to hit your protein intake for the day.  Simply pack your protein powder with you ahead of time.

Drawbacks 

1. Watery Shake Consistency

The consistency of a shake mixed with water tends to be more watery in comparison to one that is mixed with milk.  Some people may not prefer this sort of texture.

2. No Carbs or Fats

Although one of the biggest benefits of mixing with water is the fact that it’s a zero-calorie option, you may also want to look at the fact that there are no carbs or fats.  This means that when you are using your protein shake as a pre or post-workout snack, you are going to want to ensure that you are consuming other sources of carbs and fats through foods with your protein shake.

Best Time To Mix Protein With Water

Whenever you are looking to have a protein shake, there is no one time that is more ideal than another for mixing with water.  As a zero-calorie option, it is also a great item to pair with your snack items.  

By adding a water-mixed protein shake to your snacks, you now have the opportunity to add a source of carbs and fats from food.  Eating your calories will help to keep you feeling full, longer and more satisfied between meals.

Who Should Mix Protein With Water?

Anyone can benefit from mixing with water but most frequently if you are cutting and need to be mindful of calories, this is going to be a great zero-calorie option for you.  

As well, anyone that is lactose-intolerant will also find this to be a more favorable option to avoid digestive discomfort

Frequently Asked Questions: Protein Powder With Milk vs water

What Are The Benefits of Taking Protein Shakes With Milk?

Taking protein shakes with milk will help to increase your daily protein intake, increase carbs and fats, provide a thicker consistency, and keep you feeling full longer.

What Are The Benefits Of Taking Protein Shakes With Water?

Mixing your protein shake with water is a zero-calorie option if you are looking to cut body fat.  It’s readily and easily available, is a less sweet option, does not include lactose and is cost-effective.

Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?


About The Author

Caryn Watt
CARYN WATT

Caryn Watt is a certified personal trainer & nutrition coach. Working primarily with women all over the world, she focuses her time on helping clients learn more about nutrition and the importance of improving their relationship with food through tracking macros, movement, and mindfulness.