Life Style

Is Protein Coffee Actually Nutritious? We Investigate

Cups of coffee on a white background

If you spend any time on TikTok, you’ve probably heard about “proffee” or “protein coffee”—a trending drink that combines black coffee with a protein shake. There’s no strict recipe for proffee—most people use black coffee or espresso, their favorite premade protein shake, and ice. Some prefer to swap the premade protein shake with protein powder, and some add sweeteners or syrups for flavor.

Many people are drawn to proffee because they like they idea of getting in some protein bright and early. But do we really need protein in our coffee when we’re likely, or should we say hopefully, eating breakfast around the same time? To find out, we reached out to registered dietitians Jamie Hickey and Ruby Ali, MS, RDN, to get their thoughts on this growing trend. To find out everything you need to know about proffee, keep reading.


Do We Need Protein in Our Coffee?

If you’re eating a balanced diet and consuming enough protein throughout the day, there’s no need to add protein to your coffee as well. That said, if you’re using a protein powder that’s nutritious (for example, it’s not loaded with excess sugar and other additives), there’s not necessarily anything wrong with proffee, either.

Ali points out that the potential benefits of proffee depend on how you make the drink. You’ll want to consider factors like the type of protein shake or powder you use, whether you add sweeteners, and what type of coffee you use. Lifestyle factors also matter, like whether you eat breakfast everyday or are using your proffee in place of a meal.

“For those who cannot get enough calories or protein or skip their meals entirely, then proffee is a great addition to help you increase your intake and meet your protein needs,” she says. For others, mixing a protein shake into coffee may help cut back on added sugar, she adds. The idea here, she points out, is that some may cut back on adding sugar or sweeteners to their morning coffee if they like how the coffee tastes when mixed with a protein shake alone.

Is Proffee Nutritious?

Whether your daily proffee is nutritious is highly dependent on what ingredients go into it, and these ingredients can vary greatly from one person’s proffee to the next. Think about it this way: If the protein shake you use in your proffee contains a large amount of added sugar, you may end up consuming more sugar than intended each day, without realizing it. Or the protein shake might contain unexpected additives.

But if you’re using a protein shake you feel good about (if you’re unsure, you can always ask a registered dietitian for their recommendations), then you’re probably okay. Hickey says one benefit of proffee is that by using a nutritious protein powder, you can add beneficial vitamins and minerals to your diet, while also increasing your energy levels.

While the drink might contain an added boost of protein that keeps you going in the morning, most people definitely don’t need proffee everyday. “There isn’t anything in proffee that you shouldn’t already be receiving in a well-balanced diet consisting of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables,” Hickey says.

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Proffee?

For some, proffee might offer a solid dose of fuel before a workout. “Because caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, it is an excellent physiological pick-me-up and it may also have a positive effect on physical performance,” Hickey says.1 For people who are physically active, consuming caffeine and amino acids—which is what protein is—can improve high-intensity exercise performance.

Nutritionally, proffee can be a smart choice in certain scenarios. If you are already eating a nutritionally sound breakfast, there is no need to add proffee, Ali says. But if you often skip breakfast, proffee can help ignite your metabolism and fuel and nourish your body. “It will provide nutrients and protein that you would have otherwise skipped altogether,” she says.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Proffee?

Depending on what ingredients you use, proffee can be high in calories, fat, and sugar. Hickey makes proffee by adding two scoops of his organic protein powder of choice to an eight-ounce glass of black coffee. But “some people add sugar, syrups, creamers, and artificial flavors, and the calories and fats add up quickly when you do this,” Hickey says. “This is not healthy, and at this point is more like a blended candy bar.”

Another reason to be mindful of your proffee consumption is that caffeine can interfere with the absorption of specific vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins.2

Meanwhile, depending on the time of day you’re drinking proffee, the drink’s caffeine content can potentially interfere with your circadian rhythm and cause sleep disturbances, Ali says. So don’t sip too close to bedtime. If it’s a time of day when you wouldn’t typically have coffee, you shouldn’t reach for proffee either.

You should also take a look at your daily protein intake and see if you really need to be adding protein to your morning coffee. Most people get plenty of protein throughout the day without touching proffee. “If your diet is already adequate on protein intake, proffee can add excess protein to your diet,” Ali says.

The Final Takeaway

Proffee can fit into a nutritious diet, but it really depends on how you make it. It’s important to be mindful of the ingredients you’re using and know that you might be consuming more sugar, fats, and calories than intended. And if you’re reaching for proffee for protein alone, that’s probably not necessary as long as you maintain a balanced diet that’s high in whole, unprocessed foods.


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