Everyone from TikTok stars to exercise buffs is a fan of protein powder in coffee. The question is: Is this mix actually effective? (And only slightly less important, how does it taste?)
Fans say that it boosts weight loss and workout performance, but are those claims valid? We’ve compiled your guide to the pros and cons of protein powder in coffee, and how to combine the two for a great texture and taste.
Is there a difference in protein powders? Yes, there is a difference in protein powders. Below, we’ll mainly talk about the best protein powder — whey protein — but collagen is another good addition to your cup of joe. (Men should probably avoid soy protein, though.)
Benefits of Protein in Coffee
What are the benefits of adding protein powder to coffee? Adding protein powder to a cup of coffee has several potential benefits, particularly for weight loss and training. Let’s take a look at the research.
Protein powder can improve your workout performance, and so can antioxidant-rich coffee (mainly due to caffeine). Together, they form a science-based exercise enhancer.
A 2019 study found that whey protein powder supplementation improved athletes’ levels of myoglobin and creatine kinase. Myoglobin is essential for oxygen storage and transportation. Creatine kinase helps repair muscle damage.
Another 2019 study states that protein supplements may increase muscle protein synthesis while reducing fatigue and muscle soreness. The less tired and sore you feel, the better your workout performance.
Yet another study from 2019 reveals that men may benefit from caffeine more than women when it comes to workout performance.
Ladies, adding protein to coffee might not benefit your workout as much as men, and we agree — that’s not fair.
For many vegetarians and vegans, it’s difficult to find plant-based sources to meet your daily recommended protein intake. The same problem can occur for individuals who regularly skip breakfast.
Some studies indicate that it’s important to space out protein intake over the course of the day, since your body can only use 0.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight at one time. By this standard, a typical 150-pound person could only use 30 grams of protein from each meal.
That’s where this coffee-protein blend comes in.
Adding protein powder in coffee can provide a boost of needed nutrients. During the day, you can get small doses of protein regularly delivered through your regular coffee consumption.
Protein powder in coffee may lead to weight loss — it should at least make weight loss easier.
A 2019 study shows that protein powder may make you feel more full, meaning you eat less. Eating fewer calories generally leads to less weight gain and more opportunities for weight loss.
An older study reveals that a higher protein diet can lead to greater fat burning than a standard protein diet.
Interestingly, this study concludes that post-exercise whey protein powder can aid weight loss.
You may be able to better build muscle with protein powder in your coffee. Whether you’re a child or an older adult, the science is robust.
In 2020, researchers found that a peanut protein supplement before resistance training increased muscle growth and strength, particularly in older adults.
Whey protein was part of a Brazilian study in children that showed protein was an important part of improving pre-school children’s growth and development, including muscle growth.
Most people consume the most protein at dinner. 2014 research reveals that spreading your protein intake evenly across all three daily meals may increase muscle protein synthesis by 25% after only one week! A great way to boost your breakfast protein is with protein powder coffee.
Warning: Soy protein powder reduces testosterone levels in healthy men. Since low testosterone levels can lead to loss of muscle mass and strength, among other things, we suggest men avoid soy protein powder.
A protein powder that doesn’t contain harmful additives can act as a healthy sugar replacement if the powder already improves your coffee taste.
If your protein powder adds delicious flavor to your coffee without sugar or dangerous sugar substitutes, then you can skip the unhealthy sugar and creamer, and your body will thank you.
Avoid added sugar and look for healthy sugar alternatives like stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, and xylitol.
Downsides of Protein in Coffee
Protein in coffee is generally a good thing. However, watch out for these potential downsides when looking for your protein powder and planning your protein intake.
Too Much Protein
Like any macronutrient, too much protein can mean too many calories. Plan out how many calories you need in a day, then pour just enough protein powder into your morning coffee.
When you consume more calories than your body needs, those excess calories can be stored in your body at fat (adipose tissue). That’s right — dietary fat doesn’t necessarily lead to body fat. Any excess calories from dietary fat, protein, or carbs can lead to body fat.
Make sure not to consume too much protein in a day, so you don’t have to worry about unburnt calories turning into fat tissue (adipose tissue).
Most protein powders do not contain the same nutritional value that other breakfast foods might. Protein powder in your coffee is missing vital nutrients, so it is not a replacement for a balanced breakfast.
For instance, whole foods contain additional vitamins, minerals, and beneficial nutrients that are typically absent in protein powder products.
I recommend thinking of protein powder in coffee as an exercise supplement, rather than a breakfast replacement.
Harmful additives in protein powders can ruin the health benefits.
Steer clear of protein powders with added sugar, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. (There’s a reason those don’t make our list of the best coffee sweeteners.)
Even “natural flavors” can be problematic. Some natural flavors are better than others, but the FDA doesn’t require food companies to list the specific natural flavors. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Opt for protein powders sweetened with stevia. If you purchase an unsweetened protein, you can sweeten your coffee with erythritol or monk fruit (luo han guo). Sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol are very low-calorie but may cause some gastrointestinal distress when consumed in large amounts.
How do you add protein powder to hot coffee?
Although protein powder and coffee are a great mix, according to research, mixing them with a spoon might cause a lumpy mess. You should use a handheld blender to add protein powder to your hot coffee.
Can you mix whey protein into coffee? Yes, you can mix whey protein powder in coffee, but avoid stirring it into hot coffee using only a spoon or coffee stirrer. Use a handheld blender instead.
Use an immersion blender for hot coffee and protein powder. You can add ice after the fact to make it an iced coffee. Use a blender for frappuccinos.
One source suggests blending milk and protein powder together first, then heating it slowly in a saucepan before adding the coffee (or espresso) once the protein-milk mixture is simmering. Almond milk and oat milk are great non-dairy milk alternatives.
Warning: Avoid shaking hot coffee in a sealed container like a thermos. Shaking will slightly increase the temperature and, therefore, the pressure inside the container. All this increases the risk of the sealed container bursting open.
Shaking cold coffee in a specially designed shaker bottle is safer because the coffee is not hot. Still, be careful in your pursuit of foamy perfection.
Can you use a protein shake as a coffee creamer? Yes, you can use a protein shake as a coffee creamer substitute. Depending on what’s in the protein shake, it may be a healthier coffee alternative to the creamer.
Consult a dietitian before making any significant dietary changes, especially if you’re going to add a huge protein boost in preparation for a competition.
What is the difference between protein powder and protein shake? The difference between protein powder and a protein shake is that the shake is a pre-made ready-to-drink product with other nutrients such as fiber and vitamins. Protein powder is a chalky powder that you have to add to a drink, such as gold coffee. They both contain protein.
The best coffee for adding protein is Golden Ratio gold coffee. It’s higher in caffeine content, less acidic, less bitter, better for your teeth, and better for your stomach than regular black coffee. Not to mention, the taste is just better!
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- Protein supplements and their relation with nutrition, microbiota composition and health: is more protein always better for sportspeople?
- Effect of caffeine supplementation on sports performance based on differences between sexes: a systematic review.
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- The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations.
- The effects of resistance training with or without peanut protein supplementation on skeletal muscle and strength adaptations in older individuals.
- Improvement the nutritional status of pre-school children following intervention with a supplement containing iron, zinc, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C and prebiotic.
- Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.
- Clinical and biological activity of soy protein powder supplementation in healthy male volunteers.
- Review of health risks of low testosterone and testosterone administration.
- Relationship between added sugars consumption and chronic disease risk factors: current understanding.
- The “Natural” vs.“Natural Flavors” Conflict in Food Labeling.