If you find the idea of putting protein powder in coffee strange, you are not alone. But this trend is growing. Read on to discover the benefits of protein powder in coffee.
Article At A Glance:
- When you add protein powder to coffee you get the dual benefit of coffee’s appetite suppressing, antioxidant and stimulating properties, as well as the nutritional value of protein.
- Putting protein powder in coffee is a great way to aid weight loss, especially if you are using a high protein/low carb diet.
- Bodybuilders can use protein powder in coffee to increase muscle mass and energy levels during workouts and still benefit from the protein during recovery, post workout.
- Protein powder in coffee is good for the heart and the brain.
I really LOVE coffee! And I really love my protein shakes. But the two together? Surely not!
I would never, in a million years, have thought to put protein powder in coffee. So I did some research on the health benefits. On top of that, I tested this unseemly concoction out. And what do you know, it tasted more than okay.
But are there any health benefits? And who would this type of drink appeal to? Well, we know protein is an essential macronutrient. But how much protein do we need daily? And can you get too much protein?
A common question asked: Does protein get destroyed by the heat of coffee? Short answer: No.
Then, of course, there is the coffee. I view coffee as one of my vices. So how can it be healthy? If you are as curious as I was, read on.
Spoiler Alert! Coffee Is Healthier For You Than You May Have Thought!
Who Benefits? It is a fast way for bodybuilders, weight-watchers, shift-workers and very busy mom to get more protein and boost energy levels at the same time. And if you skip meals, like I do, it is the perfect solution to keep your body’s metabolism running efficiently.
Followers of intermittent fasting may also enjoy the benefits of this fast growing trend.
Let’s unpack this concept. First off, we will look at the benefits of combining protein powders and coffee.
I also want to share the different options of protein powders available and which ones work best.
Secondly, we will discuss possible disadvantages and side effects.
And finally, I will give you a few simple tips on how to make a kick-ass cup of coffee with protein powder. Tried and tested.
So let’s jump straight in.
How Does Adding Protein Powder To Coffee Benefit Us?
Why It Works – We know both coffee and protein powders have health benefits but what is so special about mixing them together?
Simply put, the adverse effects that can come drinking from coffee get canceled out by the protein powder. For example, coffee consumption can inhibit iron absorption.
Studies have shown that whey protein (containing lactoferrin) can enhance iron absorption [A]. On the other hand, soy protein inhibits it.
In other instances, the effects of one can get enhanced by the other. In still further instances, the effects counterbalance each other.
For example, the raised cortisol levels experienced by bodybuilders who take caffeine pre-work may get lowered, post workout by adding protein powder to the coffee. [B]
There Are 7 Main Benefits To Protein Powder In Coffee.
For bodybuilders and athletes, using caffeine to enhance performance is nothing new. But caffeine in itself has limits.
Coffee, on the other hand, is comprised of alkaloids (like caffeine), as well as plant polyphenols like chlorogenic acid and ferulic acid.
This gives coffee its potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Black coffee also contains the alkaloids, paraxanthine, theobromine, and theophylline. And protein powder, especially taken consistently over time.
Improved Endurance And Strength During Exercise
Taking coffee and protein powder an hour prior to working out gives you an instant energy boost. The heat from the coffee allows the protein to denature just enough to digest and absorbs faster than it would if taken with cold milk.
The coffee gives you energy and the protein gives you strength .
The coffee will elevate your blood pressure for a short period (about 3 hours). This could be due to the vasoconstriction which results from caffeine’s ability to fit into the adenosine receptors in the brain.
The adenosine receptors block feelings of tiredness and encourage the body to release other stimulating hormones, like dopamine.
The reason the vasoconstricting effects aren’t detrimental is because the adenosine receptors actually relax the central nervous system.
This explains why the effects wear off so quickly and then the vasodilators kick in. Please leave comments on this if you disagree or can prove otherwise. [C]
Key Insight: The paradox here [D] is that coffee can act as both a vasodilator and a vasoconstrictor. Caffeine metabolizes into paraxanthine, theobromine, and theophylline. These alkaloids have stimulating effects on the brain as well as being vasodilators.
Post Workout Benefits And Recovery
It is not advised to take coffee after a workout  because coffee is catabolic, meaning it breaks down energy. This is where the protein powder taken with coffee, before working out, comes into effect.
Protein powder has an anabolic effect.The catabolic effect of coffee releases stored energy and the anabolic effect of protein repairs and builds.
Protein acts like a slow release tablet, once the effects of the coffee wear off, and your workout is over, the protein kicks in and lowers the cortisol levels induced by the stress of training.
Another possible reason why protein powder in coffee works is because protein mixed with water (as opposed to milk) has a faster release and absorption time.
This means, post work out, the protein will get to work repairing the muscle fibers you broke down during training, reducing cortisol and balancing the testosterone/cortisol ratio.
The vasodilating effect of the coffee means quick nutrient delivery and better recovery time.
Key Insight: The research and facts of how protein powder and coffee work to aid bodybuilding is too vast to cover in this one article, so if this is your main interest I would definitely suggest you do independent research. It is a fascinating concept, that works!
Please leave comments if you want more from me on this subject.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Research done by Dr. Masato Tsutsui, and funded by the All Japan Coffee Association, found that coffee increases blood flow to the peripheral nervous system. This means the smaller blood vessels get more blood flow through them, circulation improves, blood pressure increases and functioning of the cells, that line blood vessel walls, improve. Thus cardiovascular health improves. [3a] [3b]
Protein supplementation lowers blood pressure in overweight people. Again we see the beneficial paradox of increasing blood pressure to lower pressure, from drinking protein powder in coffee.
Anti-Oxidant And Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are the result of oxidative stress at cellular level. This causes cell damage and may lead to many minor and major illnesses.
Inflammation is the body’s response to cellular or tissue damage . So it starts off as a help but in the long run, inflammation that is not backed up by a healthy immune system leads to inflammatory diseases.
Coffee comes loaded with potent phytochemicals [4a] that counteract the detrimental effects of both oxidation and inflammation. Whey protein powder also has these two properties.
Taking protein powder in coffee is good for lifting, as the inflammation around the muscles, from training, may ease by the synthesis of whey.
Acts As An Aid To Weight Loss, Although In Itself Does Not Create Weight Loss.
If you skip breakfast regularly, you may end up with a slow metabolism. Most diets encourage you to have breakfast. I, for one, can’t eat too early.
Making a protein powder coffee before work has the benefit of suppressing your appetite and revving your metabolism at the same time. Problem solved.
The coffee gives you a mental boost too, so you feel good while on a calorie restricted eating program.
Basically, protein shakes are the pioneers in meal replacements and weight loss aids. Preparing it this way is a new twist on an old idea. Plus you get the benefits of coffee.
Prevents Onset Of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a condition that develops as a precursor to many chronic illnesses, like heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Non- alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and insulin resistance are signs of metabolic syndrome. It is a result of a high fat/high sugar diet. [6a] [6b]
Studies done on rats show that compounds in coffee can protect the liver and decrease insulin resistance.
Protein rich diets, enhanced by taking protein powders as meal replacements, proved beneficial in aiding weight loss in people with metabolic syndrome.
Studies showed people that switched to a protein rich diet, as opposed to a conventional protein diet, lost more weight. And those with metabolic syndrome managed to reverse the condition to a point where they no longer had three or more of the symptoms that met the criteria for the condition. [6d] [6e]
Improves Cognitive Brain Function And Mental Alertness
Drinking coffee with protein powder increases alertness, improves brain function and memory thereby possibly delaying the effects of early on-set Alzheimer’s disease.
The stimulating effect of coffee can lift states of depression, by linking to adenosine receptors.
Best Protein Powder To Use In Coffee
When it comes to protein powders, it is a flooded market. I would suggest, for the purpose of this drink to be most effective, you get as pure a protein powder as possible.
Although having said that, it depends on what you want to get out of it. Sometimes using a protein shake powder can add a really great taste. But check labels because many brands add artificial ingredients.
The job of protein is to
- Build and repair tissue,
- Manufacture hormones, enzymes, and chemicals
- Build muscle, bone, cartilage and blood cells.
BUT, not all protein powders are equal. Using whey protein powder in coffee for weightlifting is great but for vegans, or people wanting to lose weight, trying rice protein mixed with pea protein will deliver a far greater nutrient profile.
Soy protein is another option, as is hemp protein powder. Casein protein, on the other hand, is a slow digesting protein so whey is much more effective in some cases.
Casein protein has inflammatory properties, so adding it to coffee may reduce these effects. Lifters use both based on where they are in there training.
Of all the protein powders available whey is the winner.
Whey protein is the most effective protein powder to use if you want to lose weight and gain muscle.
Make sure you use whey protein isolate. In this form, the lactose gets removed. It will absorb faster and is high in leucine.
Best Protein Powder To Use In Coffee
- For Lifters: Anabolic Whey Protein and Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder 100% Pure Whey
- For Vegans: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
- For Weight Loss: Zantrex Fat Burning Protein
- For Purists: Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate Powder
Biological Value (BV)
Protein absorption and synthesis vary depending on the type of protein. Amino acids enter the bloodstream during absorption and get used during synthesis. The amount of protein absorbed is the biological value of protein.
Roughly speaking, whey has a BV of just over 100 and gets absorbed at a rate of 8-10g/hr. Soy absorbs at 3-4g/hr and casein 6g/hr.
Recommended Protein Dose Per Sitting
The body can only absorb 20-30g of protein per meal. This is why high protein diets are best broken up into 6 smaller meals.
Eating more is useless. So when adding powders to coffee bear in mind the type of protein (BV).
Example: If BV is 100, take 30g but if BV is 50 you would need 60g to absorb the full 30g.
Does The Type Of Coffee Matter?
Although the roast didn’t change caffeine levels. Caffeine levels depend on the beans.
It is difficult to tell how much caffeine you get from one cup. Some brands have gone overboard with the caffeine content so just be aware of the daily safe dose and use the coffee you prefer.
Below I have listed my favorite brands.
At first, I thought drinking brewed coffee would be the better option. I have since found that I personally get the best results from a good quality instant coffee.
So use what works for you.
5 Quality Coffee Brands To Choose
- For Iced Coffee: Bizzy Cold Brew
- For Burgeoning Baristas: Green and Unroasted
- For Coffee Junkies: Death Wish Coffee
- For Cheats (like me): Organic Instant Espresso
How Can You Put Whey Protein In Coffee Without Denaturing It?
Whey protein will clump if you add it to hot coffee, straight from the tub. To avoid this, mix into a paste using water at room temperature. Make your coffee and then add the paste.
The consistency of the paste should be medium, not too thick and not too runny. Too runny will make the coffee too cold and too thick will result in clumping.
Soy doesn’t clump in the same way as whey but I still prefer to make a paste and then add.
I haven’t tried casein protein powder myself but I assume it would be the same as whey.
Note: To get the best results: Use black coffee and whey protein.
Hemp: I tried this out by first mixing 2tbs of coconut oil with 1tbs hemp powder. I added it to my coffee and the result was okay. As with all hemp protein, it has a bit of grittiness but I like it because I know hemp powder's benefits.
Protein Shake Powders: Prepare as for whey.
Or you can mix it with milk as if you are preparing a meal replacement shake. Use 500ml milk and around 50g of powder. I discovered this method by accident. My partner mixes his protein powder with milk.
I took out the milk one day and added it to my coffee. When I took my first sip I got a pleasant surprise. The flavor was delicious. I had used his chocolate flavored protein powder mixed with milk!
Iced Coffee and Protein Powder: I found this clip online. It is a great recipe for an iced coffee version.
Disadvantages, Precautions and Side Effects of Protein Powder and Coffee Beverages
As we can see drinking coffee with protein powder can be a useful, effective and pretty natural supplement for working out, intermittent fasting and weight loss. The side effects of only get seen if taken in excess.
Daily safe dose: Health authorities recommend keeping caffeine intake below 200mg per day.
- Taking more than this will lead to the first symptoms of caffeine overdose or toxicity. Symptoms include “butterflies” in your stomach, jittery tremors in your hands, nausea and even diarrhea. Different people will have different tolerance levels. The problem here is that you can increase your tolerance over time. And there are certain health risks associated with overdosing on too much caffeine.
- People with high blood pressure should avoid taking high caffeine drinks of any kind before strenuous activity.
- Withdrawal symptoms from coffee are now classified as a clinical disorder. Symptoms include extreme tiredness and headaches. These usually last anywhere between 1 and 3 days.
- Too much caffeine reduces bodies ability to absorb iron [G]
Mixing protein powder in coffee has health benefits ranging from
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved cognitive brain function and memory and
- Hepatoprotective, insulin-sensitizing benefits that reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
It is a great aid to bodybuilders as a pre-workout drink because it enhances training and boosts energy levels. It also benefits post-workout recovery, thanks to the added protein.
It is a weight loss aid, reducing appetite while still having nutritional benefits. This keeps your metabolism efficient.
Try it and leave your comments.