My Ugly Protein Shake

I am currently testing the higher protein advice of Dr. Peter Attia, which I mentioned back in April.

This year I started increasing my protein levels and I started eating breakfast 3-4 times a week. The result so far has been I’ve gained 6 pounds, most of which I would say has been fat, not muscle. Oops. 😮

I’m 186 now instead of 180. Considering I was 222 at my peak, I’m not concerned. I just need to get better at high-protein meal prep. It is a skill and I will figure it out.

Since April, I have dialed in my higher protein levels better. I am back down to 180. I am starting off every morning with a protein shake. My shakes are not pretty. Any juice bar that tried to sell my style of shake would go bankrupt. That is a feature, not a bug. More on that later.

Shakes Again?

In the 2013-2014 era, I tried and failed to use protein shakes when testing The 30 in 30 Experiment by Tim Ferriss. Consuming 30 grams of whey protein resulted in weight gain for me. And although casein was better than whey on appetite, that experiment also failed.

But I’ve learned a lot since then. I understand how highly flavorful food can stimulate appetite. Having a vanilla protein shake with blueberries and a banana is very tasty and for me resulted in more hunger.

My goal today is to consume a low-flavor, nutrient-dense protein shake that is more filling with fewer calories. I believe I have succeeded.

ugly protein shake

This isn’t pretty.


2 tablespoons of Chia seeds (soaked overnight)

Chia seeds will add 116 calories to the shake, but due to the fiber and additional protein, it is more filling.

200mg Hyaluronic Acid (soaked overnight w/chia seeds)

This is good for skin and joint health. It may assist with wound recovery. It doesn’t mix well with water, so soaking overnight with my chia seeds solves that issue.

20-25 grams Whey Protein Isolate

I’m using two different vanilla wheys. One is sweetened with sucralose, the other uses stevia.

10 grams Collagen Peptides

This might be the ingredient that is most debated. I’m taking collagen peptides for skin health and healing. I was a skeptic for a long time but was recently persuaded by Anti-Wrinkle Supplement That ACTUALLY Works by Dr. Brad Stanfield which includes recent studies.

20 grams Creatine Monohydrate

For most people, 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate is enough. In February, Huberman mentioned a study in progress where the individuals were using high doses of creatine to alleviate headaches. I decided to test myself.

My 6 month results so far have been amazing. I have had fewer headaches than in any period of my adult life. The few headaches I have had were shorter in duration and intensity as well. Note that I also started shoulder hangs at the same time. Maybe both helped? I want to continue the test and monitor my results during the winter months.

1.5 grams of Betaine Anhydrous (TMG)

See Eight Supplements That *Actually* Work by Dr. Brad Stanfield for an explanation. Note this supplement can have a fishy smell. I contacted the company that makes mine and they tell me it is normal.

2 grams of various mushroom powders

I bought a sampler pack of the six different mushroom extract powders sold by FreshCap. Lions Mane, Turkey Tail, Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga, and Complex. Are mushrooms a superfood? I don’t know, but a lot of smart people love them, so I’m adding them to the shake.

1 teaspoon Psyllium Husk Powder

There are many articles online that discuss the benefits of this fiber supplement.

Chlorella / Spirulina tablets

I used to add chlorella and spirulina powder to the shake. It was too messy, so I bought the tablets, which I take with the shake.

UPDATED: 1-2 tablespoons of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Thanks for the idea from Grubby in the comments. Mic the Vegan has a good video on the health benefits of ACV on YouTube.

Tastes OK, Not Good

My protein shake is ugly, but it tastes rather neutral. The vanilla punches through the mushrooms and other ingredients – but just barely. I’m using the principles of my Potatoes and Protein Diet in shake form. High protein and increased volume (via chia seeds and psyllium husk).

My morning appetite is in check and I remain at my leanest levels ever.

Is there anything you would add or remove from my ugly protein shake?


Add yours

  1. Very cool. Did you just jump from taking 5 grams of creatine per day up to 20? And if so, did you have any issues at first? (Bloating/digestive, etc.)

  2. @M – Good question. I went from 5g to 10g for a few days. Then 15g for a few more days before landing on 20g. I also did the half dose of the husk fiber for a week.

  3. Shakes never satisfy my appetite. A large iced coffee with some milk at 60 cal, 3g protein, satisfies me the same as a whey protein shake at 300 cal, 20g protein.

  4. Simon Melville

    Aug 29, 2023 — 1:49 pm

    How is the hernia? I wondered if use of the back extender could have exacerbated that in any way?

  5. @Simon- I have surgery scheduled for September 20th.

    I don’t think the back stretcher was a factor. That region isn’t really impacted.

    I still think it was the yoga pose upward dog with a side twist. I did this twice a day for months. Most of the back stretcher use was last year. I was just doing the occasional tune-up recently.

  6. very similar to my morning smoothie. I do all the same supplements except I use beet powder instead of the TMG. I use plain unsweetened protein powder with a cup of mixed berries and a packed cup of mixed greens. I use ground flax seed (rather than the chia), 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric and a tablespoon of ACV. It’s not as horrible as it sounds – I make it thin and the berries and ACV give it kind of a kombucha taste.

  7. @Grubby – I love the ACV idea. I just added some this morning. It does give it a kombucha flavor.

    I just watched this video on vinegar last week, so ACV is something I just started experimenting with.

  8. @MAS, love your experimentation and mental model about satiety.

    Your comment about your headaches is timely. I have tried the potato hack several times, most recently about three weeks ago, and I always seem to develop headaches, sometimes excruciating. It’s notable because outside of these periods associated with eating boiled and cooled potatoes, I don’t get headaches.

    The preparation method seems to matter. If I leave skins on and/or boil them, the headaches are much worse than if I bake or airfry them.

    I’ve stopped potatoes entirely, and am mimicking the concept with cooked and cooled rice–and adding a bunch of other high-satiety per calorie foods to my meals.

    I’ve intended to ask you if you are aware of others who have experienced similar symptoms. Curious to get your thoughts.

  9. @Chris – Yes, I have read about people experiencing headaches when they do a strict potato hack. I don’t know the reason, but if I had to speculate, I would say that during a true hack, one is in a deep calorie deficit. And although you aren’t experiencing hunger, you can feel worse just from a lack of energy. This is no different than the headaches we can experience when fasting.

    The 2nd possible explanation is when we are in deep calorie deficit and fat is being liberated a high rate, so are the fat-soluble toxins.

    One solution is to do the Potatoes and Protein version. It won’t be as deep of a calorie deficit, but it works. And I think it works better when you are close to your target weight, as it defends muscle loss better.

  10. @Mas, I can fast for hours and days without the same headaches.

    I started doing time restricted feeding long before it was popular because I found that I felt much better doing my morning distance-running workouts in a fasted state rather than eating before I trained. That included 2- and 3-hour+ workouts.

    I commonly do not eat my first meal of the day before noon. I’ve also done a few multi-day fasts without headaches. I also find that I get these headaches after my first one or two potato meals, not a day or two into a potato-only diet.

    I don’t think my potato-associated headaches are a low energy problem.

  11. @Chris – OK. That rules out a few ideas. Maybe a nightshade sensitivity that isn’t triggered with lower calorie nightshades like onions, peppers, and tomatoes?

  12. Curious if this is a meal replacement for breakfast or if you consume other calories in the am beyond the smoothie?

  13. @Ben – I tend to wake up between 4-5 AM and have the shake around 6:30 AM. Some days I have a mini-meal around 9 AM. Usually gym days. Low-fat cottage cheese over cold boiled potatoes is a common mini-meal.

  14. How many meals do you have now, when you eat breakfast? And how is your mood and sleep on higher protein? I need at least 5:1 carbs to protein to be in good mood without anxiety, so I need to stick with 1g of protein per kg of BW. Do you know your ratio?

  15. @Samson – 3 meals + a shake. My mood and sleep have not changed on higher protein. Both are fine. I do not know my ratios. I need to do a new “what I eat” post. It has been a few years since the last edition.

  16. @MAS Good. Yeah, new “what I eat” would be cool, I am interested in this. Your diet is very inspiring for me.

  17. MAS, I’m curious what brand of creatine do you take? My husband gets migraines and I’m really hoping this would help. He’s already taking Omega-3’s after we listened to the Huberman podcast episode on headaches.

  18. @thezenhobbit – I’m unaware of any differences between brands. Many fitness people say any brand of Creatine Monohydrate is fine. I have Nutricost right now.

  19. MAS,

    I’ve added potato, canned pumpkin, sweet potato, or cold cooked oats to my shakes for a real satiety bomb. Also adds a nice sludginess that keeps it in the low reward category.

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