Should you add protein to your coffee?

What do you get when you take a protein drink or powder and mix it with cold brew coffee or ice-cold espresso shots? Proffee is the viral trend on TikTok. The hashtag has amassed more than four million views, with even medical professionals promoting the concoction in scrubs as a protein-rich pick-me-up that helps you lose weight.

While the specific ingredients of proffee can vary from person to person, and sometimes include almond milk, sugar-free syrups, stevia, or even sugar-free chocolate syrup, Tara Collingwood, RDN, a registered nutritionist based in Orlando, Fla., Explains that it usually includes some type of coffee as well a source of protein, especially protein powder or a high-protein drink. She herself has been drinking a tea version of Proffee for years and adds a third can of Premier Protein Shake to her tea every morning. “It’s creamy and a little sweet and perfect in my big travel mug of tea that I drink all morning,” she says.

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Is protein important in the morning?

It is well known that protein is beneficial for a variety of reasons, from maintaining or increasing muscle mass to protecting the body from viruses and bacteria. However, recent research shows that the time of day you eat protein also plays a role. Many people eat their highest protein meal in the evening, which research shows is not optimal. The American Society of Nutrition states that too much protein consumed later in the day (30 grams or more) cannot be stored for later use and is either used for energy or stored as fat. For reference, a four ounce steak contains 25 grams of protein, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that participants who ate moderate amounts of high quality protein three times a day had higher levels of muscle protein synthesis (a process used to build muscle) than those who ate most of their protein at night. In fact, those who split protein evenly throughout the day experienced 25 percent more muscle protein synthesis than those who consumed most of their protein in one session.

“Protein should be spread out throughout the day because our body can only use a certain amount at a time,” says Collingwood. She recommends eating 20 to 30 grams of protein for breakfast each morning. “We need carbohydrates for energy, but carbohydrates are used up quickly and can make us hungry,” she explains. “Protein gives breakfast more stamina.”

A study published in Clinical Nutrition Experimental in December 2019 found that a single high-protein breakfast (one where just over half the calories came from protein) had a greater effect on hormones that regulate appetite than a low-protein breakfast did consumed the high-protein breakfast, later felt less hungry. The study authors noted that this effect does not apply to all satiety hormones.

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Is Drinking Protein Better Than Eating?

Why drink protein? “When protein isn’t paired with soluble fiber and fats, it can go through the digestive process faster,” said Jackie Newgent, RDN, a New York City plant-focused nutritionist and author of the Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook. “Protein in liquid form can lead to faster absorption, because when you chew you don’t just eat pure protein.”

Collingwood agrees that this may be true in theory, but says that there is no definitive research to support this statement. “We know that liquids are absorbed and digested more quickly than solid food, so it makes sense that protein in liquid can also be absorbed and used more quickly.”

Does it matter whether proffee is made with decaffeinated or regular coffee?

Because caffeine is a stimulant, decaffeinated coffee doesn’t offer the same results as caffeinated coffee. “Caffeine should have a significant impact on protein utilization and absorption,” explains Collingwood. Newgent says that since caffeine is a natural stimulant, it can also speed up the digestive process. “It can stimulate movement in the digestive tract,” she adds.

While there is significant stand-alone research on the health benefits and risks of coffee and protein, there doesn’t seem to be any studies focusing on how they work together. Although caffeinated praffy may work faster, decaffeinated praffy still provides the protein.

What Are Some Easy Ways To Add Protein To Your Coffee?

Collingwood makes them proffee with a liquid protein shake, but only uses a third of the box, which is around 50 calories and 10 grams of protein. “It blends in well and doesn’t have to dissolve like a powder,” she explains. However, protein powder is cheaper and works just as well: just mix a scoop of any flavor into your coffee.

Of course, unless you’re a high energy athlete, Newgent says, “You don’t have to rely on protein powders. Most people can get a lot of protein from real food. ”She adds that many protein powders are highly processed and do not offer all of the nutritional benefits of protein-rich whole foods, especially plant-based picks.

Instead, you can add protein-rich whole foods to your coffee. “Try a proffee smoothie by mixing cold-brewed coffee with plant-based milk, cocoa powder, banana, and nut butter,” suggests Newgent.

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Are there any risks to drinking proffee?

“It’s possible to go overboard with protein – and proffee,” claims Newgent. The greatest risk is exceeding the recommended daily amount of protein and caffeine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says adults shouldn’t consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is roughly four to five cups of coffee. According to the Dietary Reference Intake Report for Macronutrients, a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound – roughly 56 grams of protein per day for the average man and 46 grams for the average woman.

A review published in International Scholarly Research Notes found that excess protein may not be used efficiently by the body, putting “a metabolic burden on bones, kidneys and liver”. Newgent says people at risk for kidney disease may need to refrain from high protein intake, citing a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in August 2020.

In terms of caffeine, short-term side effects can include too much migraines, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, frequent urination, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors. A review of studies published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in May 2017 warned that pregnant women, children and people with mental illnesses are particularly “susceptible” to the harmful effects of caffeine. “People who need to avoid excess caffeine, such as people with certain heart conditions, will want to drink decaffeinated coffee,” says Newgent.

Collingwood says a daily cup of coffee can add a much-needed protein boost, especially because it provides more vitamins and nutrients. “It’s better than adding a bunch of creamer that is mostly fat and has no nutritional value,” she points out. Protein powders or shakes are usually fortified with many vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iron and B vitamins.

Should you try Proffee?

Should you start your day with proffee? “If you enjoy having a cup of coffee in the morning but skipping breakfast – or not getting a lot of protein in your morning meal – proffee may be a good choice for you if it’s made the healthy way,” says Newgent.

To get the maximum benefit and avoid side effects, consider how much protein and caffeine you are consuming for the rest of the day.

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