You might be noticing a trend on your social feeds right now – protein coffee. It’s everywhere, and it’s gaining in popularity, and it’s not hard to see why.
Everyone knows that one of the pillars of making serious gains is to keep your protein consumption higher than your carbs and fats.
Since many lifters and athletes rely on caffeine to help them power through a workout, it’s no wonder that this delicious combination was born.
Caffeine helps to boost metabolism and push through gruelling training sessions. Research shows that depending on your gender, age, and ethnicity, your body will process caffeine in a unique way. Before you begin supplementing with protein coffee drinks during your workout, make sure you know how your body responds to caffeine and coffee in general.
Some research suggests it even help you focus better during exercise.
Popular drinks from chain coffee shops can have as much as 70 g of sugar, making them a poor choice for a beverage during your workout. Instead of reaching for something that will offset your potential for gains, consider a ready-to-drink protein coffee instead.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
- Reflex Nutrition Café Latte
- The Protein Works Protein Coffee Coolers
- PRO 2GO Original Protein Coffee
- UFIT High 22 g Protein Shake
- Bodybuilding Warehouse Premium Protein Coffee Powder
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
What is Protein Coffee?
Protein coffee is as simple as it sounds. Protein powder is mixed with cold brew coffee that can be enjoyed pre, intra- or post-workout.
Drinking a protein coffee provides you with the nutritional benefits of protein powder and the stimulant effects of caffeine.
What Are the Benefits of Using Protein Coffee?
The caffeine in protein coffee can be of significant benefit to you during a long training session. Depending on what you’ve consumed prior to your lift, the coffee drink can help add the additional calories you need to push hard. Additionally, it can help increase heart health, as well as support weight loss efforts.
The increase in metabolic rate after consuming protein coffee means that this drink can help you overcome weight-loss plateaus.
Protein coffee helps improve and increase stamina during a lift. Much like other pre-workouts that have high concentrations of nitric oxide and other stimulants, the caffeine in protein coffee acts as a stimulant. The increase in heart rate and blood pressure helps provide more oxygen to muscles. In turn, this might help prevent DOMs and reduce inflammation.
Protein consumed intra-workout has been shown to prevent or reverse muscle mass loss in older athletes, making protein and coffee, and winning combination. This is especially true when used with whey protein. Whey has an abundance of leucine, which is a class of branch-chain amino acids that help with the production of ATP.
Dangers of Using Protein Coffee
The most pressing risk of using protein coffee relates to overall caffeine consumption and excessive use of powdered protein. Together, the main issue of mixing protein powder and coffee relates to temperature.
Whey protein is one of the most common protein supplements used by athletes and lifters. There are myriad other powders available on the market, including plant based, soy-based, and egg-based powders. Most ready to drink products available are made with whey protein, in part because it’s easily digestible.
Making protein coffee at home might seem like the smartest and most cost effective approach to jump on this fitness trend, but there’s a big issue with that – temperature.
Research shows that proteins and their amino acids become denatured or unfolded when introduced to high temperatures. Translation: if you plop a scoop of protein into your hot coffee in the morning, the result isn’t going to be what you want.
When a protein is denatured, it’s more difficult to absorb into the body. In short, you’re not going to get the benefits from drinking it. That’s not to say your body can’t process it. Just that if you want to make it easiest on your body, think about drinking your protein coffee chilled.
Secondly, consider your overall caffeine consumption. Experts recommend that up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is generally safe for most adults. That’s about four cups of coffee.
Protein consumption varies widely based on new expert recommendations. Currently the range is between 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training. Depending on your specific goals, you might require more protein.
Finally, consider your sugar consumption. Ready to drink protein coffee can have high amounts of sugar, added in part to make the drinks more palatable. While the sugar content of each drink might not be significant, if your diet is high in other ready-made protein foods, you might be added a lot of sugar without realising it. This is something to be mindful of if yu’re planning to consume them regularly.
A note on emulsifiers and stabilisers. Unless sold in powdered form, these protein coffee drinks will all contain some form of emulsifier or stabiliser. Some common emulsifiers have been linked to certain types of cancer. Others, like carrageenan, are derived from plants but are very high in polysaccharides. Research is still emerging about the effects of emulsifiers and stabilisers consumed over long periods of time. Early studies show that they might be linked to disruptive bacteria behaviour in the GI track along with an increased chance for gut permiabiliy.
A Detailed Look at the Best Protein Coffee
Easy on-the-go option to get protein and caffeine in one convenient place. Reflex has taken care to make sure the carb content on this protein coffee is low and uses grass-fed cows for its whey protein.
- 25g of protein per can
- Whey from grass-fed cows
- Fat-free, no added sugar
- 146 calories
- Canned milk has an aftertaste
- Product uses carrageenan, which can cause allergic reactions in some people
- Lumps of product sometimes collect at the bottom of the can
- Taste is very sweet and takes some getting used to
- Expensive price point
This protein coffee has a strong flavour that’s very distinct. It’s a good product that might be best suited for an early morning on the go, not necessarily something to drink during a heavy training session. The lumps in the bottom of the can are less than appetizing, and some people might have issues with carrageenan. Carrageenan is an additive that is used to preserve and emulsify ingredients and is high in polysaccharides.
Protein Works understands that not everyone wants canned milk as part of their protein coffee. This simple product combines quality whey and both dark and green beans with natural guarana. It’s the best way to incorporate more protein into your diet while keeping your protein macros high.
- Comes in powdered form to mix as needed – no stabilisers required
- Calories are low, and protein is high
- Nominal fat and carbs
- Only comes in one flavour – cappuccino
- Flavour is very intense and bitter at times
- Might not be the best to drink during a heavy workout
- Contains soy and milk ingredients so not allergy-safe
The concept is simple, and it’s a classic combination of basic ingredients. But the flavour of this protein coffee is very intense, making it almost unpalatable. It’s bitter at the end of the shaker cup, which is nothing anyone wants when they’re lifting.
Pro 2Go makes it easy to drink caffeine and protein on the go. The amount of caffeine in this ready to drink protein coffee is about the same as a cup of coffee, so it’s going to help you get energized and excited about your lift.
- Macro split is really good, especially for the calorie count
- 25mg of caffeine per 100ml, so 75g per serving
- Uses whey protein; no soy
- Uses carrageenan
- Price point is a bit high for what it delivers
- Taste is very strong and will take some getting used to
This is a pretty decent ready to drink protein coffee. It offers a good macro split, and the taste isn’t awful. It will take some getting used to the thickness and the flavour though. The use of carrageenan might make this unsuitable for those who are sensitive to polysaccharides. It might not be the ideal intra-workout drink if your lift is interval focused.
UFIT comes in several flavours, so there’s one that will suit your tastes. It’s simple to get your protein and your coffee all in one when you have one of these in your gym bag. Unlike other competitors, the flavour options really help set this product apart from all the rest.
- Very high caffeine content, so this is similar to other pre-workouts on the market
- Many different flavour options, making it suitable for both pre, intra-, and post workout
- Price point is decent
- 22 g of protein isn’t a lot compared to other ready to drink options
- Macro split isn’t the best – 173 kcals per serving and 13.5 g of carbs
- Carrageenan used as a stabiliser
This protein drink doesn’t have the best macro split, so it might not fit your needs if you’re on a specific diet. It’s pretty high in calories for a negligible protein return. That’s something to keep in mind. Added vitamins are a nice touch, but there’s no research to suggest they’re necessary or beneficial in ready to drink protein coffee.
Bodybuilding Warehouse has three flavour options to choose from, which is excellent for people concerned about the bitterness of freeze-dried coffee. This powdered form also makes it easy to transport and personalise based on taste.
- Three flavours to choose from
- Comes in powdered form so it can be mixed to personal taste
- Contains soy
- Doesn’t always mix very well
- 17 g of protein isn’t a lot compared to other options
This product contains soy, which makes it unsuitable for those who avoid soy in their diet. It also only offers 17 g of protein per serving, which is far less than the others on the market. The three flavour options are nice, but none of them mix very well.
These ready-made coffee protein drinks take the guess work out of creating delicious flavours that will help keep you energized and excited about your workout. They’re simple to integrate into any training approach, and with the wide variety available on the market today, it’s easy to find one that fits your macro needs.
Making gains is as much about training hard in the gym as crafting nutritious meals in your kitchen. When you don’t have access to cooking options or you’re on the go, protein coffee can offer a decent alternative.
Moderate amounts of caffeine have beneficial effects on your health, so it’s important to be mindful of your overall caffeine intake if you choose to incorporate protein coffee into your training program. The same goes for too much protein. Especially in powder form, excessive protein consumption can lead to serious GI issues. The key here is balance and finding the right amount of both protein and caffeine to suit your needs.