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If you get health and wellness tips from social media, you’re well aware of a new trend that’s surfaced recently: adding protein powder to coffee.
As usually happens on TikTok and Instagram, thousands of users have hopped onto the bandwagon. It’s difficult to surf the apps without seeing videos of people enjoying their morning cup of joe loaded with collagen powder or whey protein powder.
Others go a different route, mixing protein shakes or protein coffee creamers into their morning coffee. That still provides the benefits of added protein, but the blends have a smoother consistency and a different taste.
You’ll even see some Starbucks customers putting protein powder into their expensive lattes or mochas.
Is protein coffee (or “proffee,” as it’s called on social media) good for your health, or just another social media fad?
Let’s find out.
We could say “because they’ve seen other people do it,” but that would be downplaying the potential benefits of protein supplements.
The market research firm Statista reports that 46% of Americans regularly use protein supplements. Many of them are on weight loss programs that prescribe added protein consumption; that’s because the body has to burn more calories to process protein than it does for carbs or fat.
Whether dieters are following a detailed diet plan or not, protein supplements may help them lose weight without experiencing a loss of energy. Here’s why.
When you consume most of your day’s protein during dinner, your body will process it during the night. There won’t be any residual calorie-burning the next day. Adding protein to the diet throughout the day, by contrast, allows your body to keep generating energy and burning calories.
There’s one common belief that we should debunk, though: protein supplements don’t give you a short-term infusion of energy. Protein contributes long-term energy.
If you’ve thought that you got a quick-me-up from a protein supplement, something else was really happening. Protein intake slows down the body’s ability to absorb carbohydrates, so it delays the sugar crash that would normally hit shortly eating after a carb-loaded candy bar or donut. You weren’t getting more short-term energy, you simply weren’t losing energy.
It’s not only dieters who can benefit from protein powders and shakes.
Research shows that eating a breakfast filled with protein improves blood glucose control throughout the day, and helps people feel fuller – reducing cravings and snacking. Adding a protein supplement to a morning cup of coffee is a good option for those who don’t usually incorporate protein into their morning meal.
One important caution, though. In most cases, protein supplements only supply increased amounts of the macronutrient, and perhaps a few other ingredients with limited nutritional value. They aren’t adequate meal replacements; a healthy breakfast is still important.
It’s common for athletes and workout warriors to regularly use high-protein shakes or powders. It’s “common knowledge” that protein boosts athletic performance and increases stamina.
Evidence supporting increased protein consumption for those reasons isn’t conclusive. But protein supplements do appear to improve performance during resistance or endurance training and can help with post-workout recovery.
Bodybuilders also rely heavily on protein supplements. Supplements containing whey are most popular, because whey is reputed to enhance muscle growth and recovery after strength workouts. (Casein protein doesn’t build muscle; it’s better at preventing muscle from breaking down.)
Whey is the most anabolic protein, so it makes sense for muscle building. And studies show that added protein may help people add muscle mass – but only if they’re also exercising regularly and following a healthy diet.
The performance and muscle-building benefits of added protein for non-athletes still haven’t been fully proven, though. And there’s no evidence that putting protein powder in coffee automatically encourages muscle growth if you don’t work out and eat properly.
Some people simply don’t get enough protein in their diet.
There’s lots of protein in meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. But vegans and vegetarians may need protein supplements to be sure they get the amino acids they need for proper bodily function. Protein deficiency can also be an issue for people who largely follow plant-based diets.
You already consume enough protein if you eat a “normal” diet with ample amounts of animal-derived protein, or if you compensate with enough protein-heavy foods like tofu, edamame, tempeh, quinoa, seeds and nuts. Otherwise, protein supplements could be a sensible addition to your diet – or your coffee.
That brings up another question: is there any benefit to putting protein powder in coffee instead of your food, water or smoothies?
We’ve already discussed the potential benefits of protein supplements. And the health benefits of coffee, and the caffeine it contains, are well-known.
The caffeine in coffee provides a short-term energy boost and prevents you from feeling tired. It contains important antioxidants, and it lowers the risk of developing degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. And studies show that coffee consumption may reduce the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and early death.
Coffee also helps with athletic performance and endurance when consumed before exercise, the same benefits people expect when using protein supplements.
Some nutritionists and registered dietitians say that adding plant-based protein powder to a morning cup might help people who find that caffeinated, regular coffee gives them acid reflux. Protein supplements are likely to be alkaline, balancing out the acidity in coffee.
However, there’s no evidence showing that putting protein powder in coffee provides any other benefits, other than the ones that the two ingredients contribute separately.
If you decide that you want to combine protein and coffee, though, here are the ways you can do it.
Several types of protein supplements can be added to coffee.
Protein powder comes in many different forms. The most popular are whey protein and casein protein (both sourced from cheese), soy protein (the most “complete” plant protein), and collagen protein (often made from ground animal bones). Hemp, pea, oat, egg and brown rice protein powders are also available.
The physical act of adding protein powder to coffee, water, juice or a smoothie is simple. Once the powder’s been added, though, you could run into problems.
Not all protein powders are water-soluble. Whey protein is the most likely to dissolve, while others like collagen are likely to clump up in coffee. Mixing those powders into iced coffee or cold brew coffee is particularly difficult; even adding them to hot coffee is difficult at best.
The best approach: blending coffee and protein powder together. That will ensure that they mix well. Those on low-carb keto diets will often add MCT oil and grass-fed butter (or ghee) to make bulletproof coffee.
There are so many options that it’s difficult to suggest the best protein powder to add to coffee. Two to consider are Gold Standard Whey Protein and Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. And for those who are trying to build muscle mass, BSN True Mass 1200 contains a whopping 54 grams of protein per serving, although it’s also loaded with calories and carbs.
Other supplements take the same animal or plant protein powders, and combine them with ingredients that make the protein easier or tastier to consume.
Many people prefer to get their extra protein from commercially-sold protein shakes. Some like the many available flavors, and others prefer the texture of a shake. Still others choose a protein shake because of common nutrients that manufacturers add like vitamins A, D and B2, potassium, and calcium.
Shakes are easier than protein powder to blend with almost any type of coffee, even an espresso which wouldn’t have enough volume to accommodate a serving of protein powder.
Another option, of course, is preparing a homemade protein shake and combining it with coffee. Choosing your own ingredients for a shake increases the flavor and nutritional possibilities. However, mixing coffee with any type of shake causes a different problem; half your cup will contain protein shake, not coffee.
For those who don’t want to dilute their cup of joe, there’s a better way to put protein powder in coffee.
What if you don’t like black coffee?
It’s certainly possible to add protein powder, along with milk, cream, or a commercial creamer, to coffee. Many “proffee” drinkers do just that. If they’re trying to keep calories and carbs low, they may use an alternative like almond milk instead.
The easier (and often tastier) alternative is to use a protein coffee creamer. They won’t dilute the coffee, they’ll provide protein just like shakes or protein powders will, and many protein creamers taste delicious and provide additional health benefits.
Super Creamer is a great example. It’s available in eight flavors; some contain whey protein (good for muscle building), and the dairy-free flavors contain pea protein (good for cardiovascular health). All have added MCT oil, and all are low-calorie, zero-carb, and sugar-free; the natural sweeteners stevia and monk fruit extract are used instead of artificial sweeteners.
Published: April 21, 2022
Last Updated: April 25, 2022
8 Min read
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