Is protein coffee good for you?

When Starbucks announced the official launch of protein coffee, many people learned about this interesting beverage choice for the first time. When you think about it for a minute, the idea of combining your favorite morning drink with a healthy, filling breakfast seems to make perfect sense.

There’s a lot of hype behind it, sure – but is it actually good for you?

The advantages of protein

Protein has plenty of amazing benefits!  

This is probably the world’s worst kept secret: protein is the single most important ingredient (or macronutrient) when talking about weight loss, muscle building and overall body composition.

Due to the high satiety levels protein provides when compared to carbs and fat, the more you eat, the fuller you’ll feel and the fewer calories you consume. This is a fantastic tool for weight loss, but it is just one small piece of how protein can help your body.

Whey protein (the most common form of protein supplement and that kind found in protein coffee) evidence shows that muscle growth and strength is promoted with the repairing nature of the substance (its most popular use). Whey protein is often used by athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts for exactly this reason – it makes them stronger faster, build bigger and recover quicker.

Although protein as a supplement is not necessary, since it can be found naturally in meat, fish and eggs (as well as plenty of other food sources), none are as convenient as whey powder. It’s not the magical capabilities of the powder, but the ease of use that promotes its use in diets and as an important ingredient to speed recovery when training.

Protein isn’t just about building bigger muscles and recovering as fast as possible, it can also be good for bones.  Many long-term studies indicate that protein has major benefits for the skeleton.

In sum, it’s vital to get enough protein throughout the day, whether from food sources or supplementation.

The advantages of coffee

Coffee carries its own fair share of associated benefits.  Numerous studies on both caffeine and coffee find some expected and some not-so-expected benefits to the bean-based beverage.

First and foremost, it’s no surprise that coffee and caffeine are great for improving alertness and focus.  Most users state this as their primary reasoning for drinking coffee. The caffeine in coffee stimulates you by fooling your adenosine receptors.  These are the receptors that slow nerve cell activity. Caffeine blocks these receptors, alleviating the feeling of fatigue and seemingly speeding the activity up.

But you might not be aware of some of coffee’s other benefits. Just a single cup of coffee can help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, protect against Parkinson’s, reduce the risk of heart disease and (if drinking black coffee) prevent cavities.

The advantages of combining

If protein and coffee each have their own associated advantages, it makes sense to put them together and kill two birds with one stone, right?

Although the combination is not necessary, putting protein and coffee together reduces the total number of calories consumed daily from both whey protein and coffee.  This is hugely important if you’re heavily into fitness. By combining the two, you’ll avoid the milk calories that come with a standard protein shake while getting a simultaneous caffeine hit.  How cool is that?

Similarly, you’ll never miss your protein hit in the mornings when whey protein and coffee are involved. Because of the addictive nature of coffee (which we love to hate and hate to love), you’ll fill your first protein requirement while taking care of your caffeine fix, so you can function like the human being you usually are for the day.

Essentially, convenience and adherence to a higher protein diet are the two major reasons for combining protein and coffee.  Of course, it’s not a necessity, but whatever helps elevate that protein intake is a winner in my book.

Which protein coffee is best?

One of the biggest issues when combining protein with, well, just about anything, is that it can be difficult to find a balance between healthy and tasty. If you’ve ever eaten protein pancakes, you know exactly what I’m talking about…

Finding a protein coffee that tastes great and has a great consistency has been difficult in the past.  Few brands have taken the chance on such a novel product and none have quite hit the mark – until now.

Personally, the new coffee range from Complete Nutrition is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.  With three great flavours in Mocha Latte, Caramel Frappe and Iced Coffee, it’s hard to get bored. Each serving comes with 15g of protein and the equivalent of 2 shots of espresso.  With this winning combination, Complete Nutrition has only hit on the perfect balance. With no added sugar, it’s a sub-100-calorie coffee dream.

However, if I’m all out of fancy protein coffee on the go – Starbucks is my go-to with a surprisingly good alternative to the fitness-focused java.

When to have protein coffee

You can have protein coffee at any time during the day, but it’s especially recommended for drinking in the morning with breakfast.

I tend to drink my protein coffee as soon as I wake up, along with multivitamins, so that I can get caffeinated and motivated before sitting down to a few hours of emails and articles. After breakfast, I head to the gym.  Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll have another protein coffee before heading out the door as a pre-workout boost.

For me, just twice a day is plenty.  I tend to avoid caffeine after 2PM. Any coffee after this tends to affect my sleep. But, if you’re a night owl or tend to crave the brown nectar all day long, there’s nothing to stop you sipping away.

What’s the verdict?

Ultimately, protein coffee is good for you – providing it is consumed alongside a well-balanced diet. The stimulation of the caffeine in coffee, mixed with the muscle growth and increased strength provided by the protein, makes for a great combination.

However, not all brands are created equal.  Shopping around for the best will definitely pay off – we all know someone who has had a bad first protein experience.  Don’t fall into the trap of cheap supplements!

Having protein coffee first thing in the morning or consuming it just before a workout is by far my favourite use of the coffee.  Try it yourself and see how it works best for you!

Happy sipping!