People are finding all kinds of new ways of making their standard protein shakes more interesting. Whether you’re adding protein powder to your coffee, using unflavoured proteins in cooking or popping protein in your porridge, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why protein can’t be used when it’s been heated.
Why, then, are we asking this question? Well, as it turns out there is quite a bit of discussion about whether heating up protein can reduce the benefits or nutritional value, so I took it upon myself to investigate the truth behind the chatter, so that you don’t have to!
Let’s start off with whether heating protein powder does, in fact, damage it. The short answer is no - bake away with your protein! To create protein powders, the protein itself is extracted from the source by heat and enzyme treating, which removes the moisture, with the result being the protein powders that we know and love. As the initial heating process doesn’t harm the protein molecules, and is what helps to concentrate it into powder, there is little evidence to suggest that using a protein powder with warm milk in a shake, or even baking with it, will reduce the benefits of the protein itself.
However, heating a protein does change its molecular structure in a process which is called denaturing. This is where the strands of protein begin to unfold and break apart, which is exactly what happens to protein in the body during digestion! So whilst heating your protein causes a denaturation of the protein molecules, its nutritional value remains unchanged, and it does not become ineffective or dangerous. In fact, our bodies absorb the amino acids from proteins in exactly the same way, heated or not.
Essentially, then, heating up your protein shake before you drink it will not spoil it, but incorrectly storing your protein can. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, prolonged exposure to higher temperatures might well cause your protein powder to spoil or lose some of its potency.
What’s the best way to heat a protein shake?
We are probably all aware that an incorrectly made protein shake can have a terrible texture, am I right? We’re aware that protein powder can clump and go claggy, and this is especially true if adding warm liquid to your protein shake.
That’s why I have a top tip for you! I mainly use this when I’m making a Hot Chocolate or an afternoon Chaga Chai Latte, but it works for warm protein shakes too. Whilst you’re heating your plant-milk or water (whichever you prefer), add a little of the same liquid at room temperature to your powder and stir it up into a paste. This will help to prevent any lumps forming - as long as you keep stirring when you’re adding your hot liquid. I also find using a frother or a hand blender can be really helpful (if you have them!)
What if I don’t want a warm shake?
We have a number of recipes for other things that you can make with protein powder, if you’re finding yourself a little tired of the same old shake every day - even baked goods! I think the muffins are my favourite.
Or, if you fancy a coffee, a protein boost and a delicious tasty treat all at once, then I thoroughly recommend the Pumpkin Spice Protein Latte. I have taken to making loads of the pumpkin spice mix, so I can just add it to everything!