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Protein Coffee: The Story Behind the “Proffee” Trend
This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts, including licensed nutritionists, dietitians or medical professionals. The information in the article is based on scientific studies and research.
It is designed to be honest, unbiased and objective, and opinions from both sides of an argument are presented wherever there is disagreement.
The scientific references in this article (marked by 1, 2, 3, etc.) are clickable links to peer-reviewed research material on the subject being discussed.
If there’s anything that most Americans can agree on, it’s their shared love of coffee.
Statistics from the National Coffee Association show that 70% of us drink coffee at least once a week. 62% drink it at least once a day. And the typical coffee drinker has about three cups of coffee per day.
The amount of coffee we drink makes it the perfect “delivery device” for additional ingredients.
Obviously, lots of people take their coffee with dairy or almond milk, cream or creamer, sugar or other sweeteners. And there’s no need to list all of the yummy stuff that goes into Starbucks coffee drinks.
But in recent years, coffee lovers have started experimenting with other types of additives, and some have quickly become trends.
Keto dieters and bulletproof coffee. Vegans and plant-based milks. Covid shut-ins and whipped Dalgona coffee.
The latest craze is protein coffee – a protein-coffee combo popularly known online as “proffee.”
Let’s find out why so many people are now adding protein to a morning cup of coffee.
The Importance of Protein
Needless to say, our bodies need protein.
Protein is an amino acid chain that the body needs to support muscle and tissue health, immunity, digestion, the production of hormones, and many other crucial functions. And the body can’t produce protein on its own; we have to get it from dietary sources.
Most people get sufficient amounts of protein from the meat, poultry, fish and eggs they consume each day. Vegans can get it from foods like tofu, quinoa, lentils, nuts and seeds.
However, some folks don’t have enough protein in their diet. The problem is most often seen in developing nations, but vegans, vegetarians and even some meat-eaters suffer from protein deficiency. Protein supplements are the best way for them to deal with the issue.
Others consume protein supplements for different reasons.
- Athletes and workout warriors use the products because there’s some evidence that extra protein boosts stamina, improves performance, and encourages fast recovery.
- Some forms of protein supplements can help those who want or need to gain weight.
- On the other hand, many weight loss regimens encourage supplemental protein, because the body expends more energy-burning protein than it does burning carbohydrates or fats.
- Research has found that people who don’t eat much protein with breakfast can benefit from supplemental protein early in the day. It reduces food cravings and snacking, and improves blood sugar control. (However, these supplements should never be used as meal replacements on an everyday basis.)
One common belief isn’t quite accurate, though: the theory that consuming extra protein provides a fast boost of energy.
Adding protein to a diet may create additional energy over the long term, but the sensation of getting quick energy from protein supplements is really because protein slows down the body’s absorption of carbs. That eases the “sugar crashes” that can follow the consumption of sugar-laden energy bars or energy drinks.
Common Protein Supplements
Everyone’s seen them. You see them while watching TV or on social media, when surfing Amazon, or when visiting supermarkets and nutrient stores. Protein shakes, protein drinks and protein powders are sold virtually everywhere.
These popular supplements usually contain one of four different types of natural protein.
- Whey: A “complete” protein that contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs, it’s a byproduct of cheese production.
- Casein: Another complete protein that’s created during cheese making, and is also known as milk protein.
- Soy: This complete protein is dairy-free, of course, because it’s made from soybeans which have had all sugars and fiber removed.
- Collagen: A non-vegan protein, collagen is made from ground animal and fish products as well as eggshells. In the body, collagen is an important component of connective tissues.
The majority of supplements contain whey protein because it quickly dissolves in water and it’s believed to be the best choice for muscle building. Casein is said to be better at preserving existing muscle. Collagen theoretically supports joint, muscle and skin health. Soy, of course, is favored by those seeking a vegan alternative.
It’s clear why so many people choose to add protein supplements to their diet, even if they get “enough” protein naturally. But why put protein into coffee?
Why Protein Coffee Has Become a Big Deal
In the last year or two, social media users – particularly on TikTok – have fallen in love with “proffee,” the mixture of protein supplements with coffee.
What would be the reason to mix the two? As we’ve mentioned, coffee is an ideal medium for additional ingredients.
Some like cream, sugar, or the extra goodies in mochas and lattes, provide flavor. Bulletproof coffee ingredients like MCT oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee, contribute the extra “oomph” that low-carb dieters need.
So what better way is there to get more protein than mixing it into your morning coffee?
Proponents also say that protein coffee provides even more health benefits than a simple cup of joe. The caffeine in coffee, of course, delivers a temporary energy boost, blocks the neurotransmitter that makes the body feel tired, and stimulates the release of dopamine (the “happy hormone”).
But coffee is also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals like potassium and magnesium. It seems to protect against everything from neurological diseases and type 2 diabetes to heart disease and depression. It may help dieters burn body fat, and even increase longevity.
Finally, coffee appears to help improve athletic performance and endurance. Add some of the similar benefits that protein supplements arguably provide, and protein coffee would seem to be a natural choice.
Coffee can cause acid reflux in some people. But protein can counteract that effect, making the mix of coffee and protein a great idea for some coffee drinkers.
Making protein coffee isn’t quite as easy as it might seem, though.
Preparing Protein Coffee
Proffee advocates commonly mix three types of supplements into their coffee.
The easiest approach is adding protein powder to coffee, but the process can be problematic. Whey is the only protein that dissolves relatively easily in water; the others, particularly collagen, don’t mix in well and are likely to leave coffee lumpy and unpleasant to drink.
Mixing whey and hot coffee, or adding whey to espresso coffee drinks, are the easiest combos to pull off. But trying to stir whey protein into iced coffee or cold brew coffee is difficult, and other forms of protein just don’t easily mix with coffee.
The best approach is to blend the two ingredients together. A countertop blender, a hand mixer, or a coffee frother is must-have equipment when preparing proffee with protein powder.
There are some very tasty protein shakes on the market, and you can choose between products made with whey, casein, collagen, or soy protein. That’s one reason why many proffee devotees prefer to mix one of these shakes into their coffee.
Other good reasons:
- Protein shakes create a richer texture than protein powder.
- Many shakes contain added nutrients like vitamins A and B2, calcium and potassium.
- They’re easier to combine with any type of coffee; a blender is great, but you can even use a cocktail shaker to mix protein shakes and coffee.
- Some high-protein shakes provide 50+ grams of protein per serving (that’s around the total amount that adults need daily). Some contain additional protein-rich ingredients like peanut butter, for those looking to boost protein intake even further.
There are drawbacks to making proffee with protein shakes, though.
The biggest issue is that many are loaded with added sugar or other less-healthy ingredients, dramatically boosting the total fat, calorie and cholesterol content of healthy coffee. Some of those additives may also not be gluten-free.
Here’s another problem. When you dilute coffee with a protein shake, you’re only getting “half a cup” of coffee – along with only half of its benefits.
There’s another method of adding protein to coffee that solves that problem and is gaining popularity.
A growing number of companies have created products that blend healthy coffee creamer with protein powder.
The best ones include natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract, making them low in carbohydrates and calories. Many contain natural flavors that add more taste to any ordinary coffee or coffee recipe.
And these creamers eliminate any prep time that’s otherwise required to make protein coffee. The total time it takes to make proffee with a protein creamer is just a few seconds.
The best choice is Super Creamer, which is a delicious, keto-friendly, zero-carb, low-fat, low-carb coffee creamer that lets coffee drinkers easily add non-dairy whey protein isolate or dairy-free pea protein to their brew. Other alternatives to check out include LevelUp Grass-Fed Coffee Creamer and Catching Ketones Creamer.