What Is Protein Coffee, and Is It Healthy?

Many coffee trends have appeared on TikTok and Instagram, including "proffee," or protein coffee. Protein coffee is what you probably think it is. It's protein added to coffee. Here's a nutritionist's point of view, and the healthiest ways to incorporate coffee and protein into your morning routine.

People have been drinking coffee with milk for decades, so adding protein isn't entirely new. Yet, with protein interest continuously growing, anything protein—including coffee—may sound like a better-for-you option. 

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How To Make Protein Coffee

There's no standard recipe for proffee, so exactly how you make it is up to you. Some people mix coffee with pre-made protein shakes that pack up to 30 grams per single-serve container. Others blend their java with a few scoops of plant protein powder, infusing their coffee with about 20 to 25 grams of protein.

Adding two scoops of collagen to your brew provides about 11 grams of protein. Another option is to add milk or high-protein plant milk, such as pea milk, which offers eight grams of protein per eight ounces. 

Collagen has no flavor or aroma, and unsweetened, unflavored pea milk is also pretty neutral. Still, both will add a rich texture to your coffee, similar to creamer.

Benefits and Risks

Amid the proffee trend, keep a few things in mind about the role of protein and how much you should be getting each day

Protein's primary job is to supply amino acids—the building blocks of protein—for the ongoing maintenance, repair, and healing of protein tissues in the body. Those include muscles, enzymes, hormones, immune cells, skin, and hair.

Because exercise puts wear and tear on the body, your protein needs are more significant if you work out. An optimal daily protein intake for most active people is 1.2 to two grams per kilogram of body weight. One kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds.

The low end is appropriate for people who do a lot of cardio exercises. And the high end is reserved for those engaged in strength programs or strenuous workouts, which stress muscles more than other workouts. More stress requires more healing and, therefore, more protein.

On a per-meal basis, a protein intake would like 0.25 to 0.40 grams per kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of body weight about four or five times per day. For a 150-pound person (68 kilograms), that's a target of 17 to 27 grams of total protein at breakfast.

Ideally, you would balance that protein with the other two macronutrients your body needs: Fats and carbohydrates. Consuming protein without enough fat or carbohydrates causes your body to burn the protein for fuel, robbing it from being used for repairing and growing your muscles.

If you aim for about 20 grams of protein at breakfast, consider all your sources. For example, if you make your proffee with a ready-to-drink protein shake that packs 20 grams of protein per serving, you don't also need to eat eggs, Greek yogurt, or another protein source at breakfast. 

On the other hand, if you make your proffee with less protein, such as collagen powder or pea milk, you can round out your meal with a bit more protein.

More protein isn't necessarily healthy, so meeting—but not exceeding—your protein needs is the goal. If your proffee alone meets your protein target, pair it with healthful sources of fat and carbohydrates, like half an avocado and fresh fruit.

Types of Protein To Use

If you decide to give your morning mug a protein boost, look beyond the grams of protein in any product. Read the ingredient lists to scope out unwanted additives—including artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, preservatives, or too much added sugar. 

To get your protein from plants, opt for high-protein, plant-based milk. Or enjoy a proffee smoothie made by blending brewed coffee with frozen fruit, plant protein powder, nut butter, and spices like cinnamon or ginger. 

That combination is a balanced way to enjoy coffee, meet your protein needs, and benefit from nutrient- and antioxidant-rich plant foods. A high intake of plant protein, compared to animal protein, may help lower the risk of death from all causes. In particular, the researchers found that the risk of heart disease decreased.

A Quick Review

In any case, eating protein at breakfast is a good idea. Your body best utilizes protein when you evenly distribute consuming the macronutrient throughout the day. Additionally, a protein-rich breakfast may help reduce age-related muscle loss.

And yes, getting in on the proffee trend is an acceptable way to get that protein as long as you adhere to the following goals:

  • Aim for an ideal amount of total protein (rather than an excessive amount)
  • Balance your macronutrients
  • Prioritize whole, nutrient-rich foods for a nutritious breakfast

But remember: Your coffee can be something other than the protein source. You can enjoy your coffee black or with a teaspoon of natural sugar and a dash of cinnamon alongside a balanced meal. 

Good breakfast options rich in protein include an egg, tofu, or lentil and veggie scramble; overnight oats or pancakes bolstered with plant protein powder; and dairy- or plant-based Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.

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