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What is Protein Coffee AKA Proffee?
Health Hack or Another Fad?

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

As someone in their mid-30s, I’m a few months late to every major TikTok trend. I have to wait for it to filter through Instagram, like the millennial I am. But having finally seen a bunch of people talking about “Proffee”, I’ve been on a mission to work out what is protein coffee? And should I be drinking it?

Protein coffee (AKA proffee) is exactly what it sounds like. People are adding protein to their daily coffee in the form of protein powders (flavored or otherwise) and either stirring or blending them to make an iced coffee style drink. It’s an efficient way to consume both protein and caffeine.

There’s more to this trend than just gym bros looking for gainz. We’ve also seen lots of alleged health benefits being thrown around. So I had to look into it to see if I should be adding protein to my coffee or if it’s another trend I can pretend to be too cool for.

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Iced Protein Coffee
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What is Protein Coffee?

Protein coffee, or “proffee” is basically any combination of protein and coffee (imaginative, I know). This is usually found in 1 of 4 different ways:

  1. Packaged protein powder that is flavored like coffee (or mocha) and used as a regular shake
  2. Pre-packaged cold coffee drinks that are advertised as having “high protein”
  3. Instant coffee with added protein
  4. Homemade proffee recipes where protein powder is mixed with home brewed coffee (usually espresso)

Flavored protein powders and instant coffee have been around for a long time, so there’s nothing new there. Cold coffee drinks are having “a moment” right now and have arguably sparked the fourth wave coffee movement.

However, the most common method and the viral Proffee trend is adding protein powders to iced coffee at home to make custom specialty drinks. This usually includes fun flavors and aesthetically pleasing drinks because nothing goes viral if it looks ugly.

So when you see people talking about proffee or protein coffee, they almost always mean the fancy iced coffee drinks with added protein powder (flavored or unflavored).

Collage of the 4 definitions for what is protein coffee
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Why are People Adding Protein to Coffee?

The first question that came to mind when I heard about the protein coffee trend was: “But why?”

You may have noticed a “high protein” version of nearly everything these days. Milk, yogurt, soup, candy bars, chips, you name it – someone has a “high protein” version they want to sell you.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that “proffee” has become a thing. It was only a matter of time before the last of our daily pleasures, coffee, was hijacked by the fitness and wellness industry and pushed by “fitfluencers” on social media.

Yes, protein is an important macro-nutrient (alongside fat and carbohydrates).

It’s broken down into amino acids and used for lots of things like:

  • Healthy skin, hair, and nails
  • Muscle repair and building
  • Cell maintenance
  • Immune system support

It can also make us feel fuller faster and for longer. So the diet industry, sorry, wellness industry has gone hard on it for weight loss.

This is before we get to the gym lovers looking for any way to add more protein to their diet to build muscle faster.

So there’s a rising number of people looking to sell “easy hacks” to get more protein into your body under the guise of improving your health and fitness. And one of the easiest methods is by adding protein to something you’re already consuming – coffee.

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How Much Protein do you Need?

With the amount of protein marketing around right now, you’d think we’d need mountains of the stuff just to survive. Otherwise, we’re all walking around in a massive deficit.

As our skillset lies in drinking/making great coffee, not in nutrition, we’re taking the recommended protein intake from scientific experts. And the Mayo Clinic recommends the following quantities:

  • An average, sedentary adult needs 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight daily. So if you weigh 165 lbs (75kg), you should eat 60g of protein.
  • Those over the age of 40 should eat slightly more protein to prevent muscle loss: 1-1.2g per kilo per day. So the same 165lb person should eat 75-90g.
  • Those who exercise regularly need even more: anywhere from 1.1 to 1.5g of protein per kilo per day should do the trick. Or, if you’re doing endurance exercises like running or heavy-weight training, you’ll require a little more again: 1.2 to 1.7g per kilo per day. So, at 165lbs you should consume 90-128g of protein per day if you’re working out.

Regardless of what category you fall under, drinking a 30g protein coffee is a huge chunk of your daily protein needs. Which is great, right?

Well, maybe not.

The Mayo Clinic also advises spreading your protein consumption evenly throughout the day. Plus, they recommend having your protein with other foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than protein being an entire meal. So drinking 3 proffees a day to get your 90g maybe isn’t the best idea.

Protein coffee as part of a balanced meal with a smoothie bowl and salad
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Proffee as Pre-Workout

Taking caffeine before a workout is not a new idea.

Anyone who has ever tried “pre-workout” knows it’s stuffed full of caffeine, and God knows what else, to help you maximize your gym session. They’re also not regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration). So if you’re looking to move away from these unregulated and sometimes fairly insane concoctions, proffee may offer a good alternative.

It will almost certainly be a more pleasant experience than taking pre-workout in terms of flavor. But there’s no evidence to say either is better or worse.

It’s just a personal preference thing.

Or a show of wealth since a fancy iced proffee costs considerably more than a scoop of pre-workout and water.

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Alleged Benefits of Protein Coffee

With all the hype around protein coffee, it can be difficult to separate the influencer nonsense from the actual benefits.

At the end of the day, it’s the latest version of an iced coffee, frappe, or frappuccino. With some extra protein thrown into the mix. And we know that protein is important for building muscle, plus caffeine in coffee aids concentration and energy.

So there is something positive in there.

But the rest could just boil down to the social mediaverse doing its thing:

Protein Coffee Prevents Cravings

One of the big reasons that diet influencers push protein coffee is that it will “prevent unhealthy food cravings”.

Having protein for breakfast will help you feel full and make it less likely you’ll be reaching for the snacks before lunch. However, this is true of any protein source, it’s not a benefit exclusive to proffee. It’s also generally better to get protein from food sources like yogurt or eggs, than from a powder or isolate.

Cravings are complex and people get them for many reasons beyond “I didn’t have breakfast”. So this claim isn’t based on any science or data beyond “protein makes you feel full”.

Protein Coffee Gives You an Energy Boost

Caffeine is a nice way to get your brain and energy going in the morning. That’s why around 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every single day (source). Eating breakfast can also help increase energy levels.

So having coffee and protein together will certainly give you an energy boost over having nothing at all.

But then, so would consuming just about anything with your coffee: a sandwich, chocolate, pastry, burger, etc.

Protein is broken down more slowly so it may leave you feeling fuller and more energized for longer. But this is all very subjective.

So the hype isn’t wrong, but it’s not unique to protein coffee. Having some coffee and yogurt will have the same effect.

Proffee Aids Muscle Growth

Getting enough dietary protein is important if you’re trying to increase strength and build muscle. So adding an extra 30g in your coffee could help you reach your goals.

Except that adding an extra 30g of protein in any form could do that. So there’s no need to add protein powder to your coffee unless you want to.

Your muscles don’t function like your brain: they don’t work faster when fully caffeinated. Getting the right amount of protein in your diet for your training regime will help you reach your goals. Mixing it with coffee doesn’t help or hinder this effort.

You Might Also Like: Why Caffeine Doesn’t Affect Me

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Should you Drink Proffee?

We are not dieticians but we do know that everyone’s body processes food in different ways. So whether having a protein coffee is a good idea or not is an entirely individual choice.

Anyone who offers a blanket “yes or no” answer either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is deliberately misleading you to try and sell you something.

Bodies are complicated, nutrition is complicated. If you’re unsure about your dietary needs, you should take advice from a registered dietician, not from teenagers on TikTok or random coffee experts on the internet.

But if we’re looking solely at coffee flavor and quality then no, adding protein is unlikely to improve your coffee quality. But that’s not really the point, is it?

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How to Make Protein Coffee

If you’re keen to try a caffeinated protein shake, then I have good news: proffee is very simple to make at home. The easiest way to do it is to put the ingredients in a blender but you don’t even need that if you don’t want to.

One of the hallmarks of a TikTok coffee trend is that there’s no singular recipe. Instead, it’s infinitely flexible to your favorite flavor, brand, or coffee style. But the basic steps are always the same:

  1. Make your protein shake by adding protein powder to the liquid of your choice (milk or water) and shake until combined
  2. Brew your coffee (usually a double espresso)
  3. Add ice to the protein shaker
  4. Add coffee/espresso to the protein shake and mix. If you want to add any extra toppings, you can do this too

Incredibly simple.

Proffee iced latte made using Jura Z10 and MyProtein powder

We prefer to use espresso but that’s not a hard and fast rule. If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can also use pour over, cold brew, or Moka pot coffee instead.

I’d recommend sticking to milk though (dairy or not) to get a nice creamy protein coffee. Using water makes it very thin and not overly pleasant.

Using flavored protein will obviously completely change the flavor of your coffee which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. I quite like using chocolate-flavored whey protein with a double espresso and ice to make a nice iced mocha-type drink.

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Final Thoughts

Whilst trying to get to the bottom of the proffee trend and work out exactly what is protein coffee, we found ourselves down a “wellness” rabbit hole. Unfortunately, it’s just another fad designed to try and sell you stuff you don’t need.

There’s nothing wrong with drinking one pre-workout but it’s not a miracle drink and you definitely shouldn’t use it for your entire protein intake.

If you struggle to eat anything for breakfast then mixing some protein into an iced latte could be a good solution. But if you consume protein anyway, adding it to your coffee won’t achieve anything extra.

But maybe the protein/caffeine combo of a proffee is what you need to maximize your workout and hit your goals. So you do you.


Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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