First came bone broth, then came moon milk, and then the wellness world feverishly got into celery juice. Now the health drinks invading your Instagram feed, grocery store aisle, and subconscious are Owyn Protein Shakes. The bottled drinks aren't all that fancy — in fact, the ingredients are pretty pared down as far as protein products usually go — but they've attracted a cult following among wellness influencers. So, is Owyn really that great or is it just the next trendy drink to come and go?
Owyn protein drinks are made from plant-based protein sources, including peas, organic pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed. The drinks also contain a few veggies — including kale, spinach, and broccoli — for added fiber. But what's more unique about Owyn is what's not inside the drinks. They're marketed as "allergen-free," which means they don't contain the top eight food allergens, explains Mark Olivieri, CEO of Owyn. The allergens they test for are: dairy, gluten, soy, egg, peanut, nuts, fish, and shellfish. Owyn first tests the raw ingredients for allergens, then tests the final product to check for cross-contamination, he says.
Owyn is an acronym that stands for "only what you need," which refers to the ingredients in the drink, Olivieri says. "We really wanted people to know that its made from ingredients that you need and without any fillers or chemicals that you don't," he adds. Certainly, this gels with millennial consumers who are attracted to minimalist products. From a nutrition perspective, however, determining what people "need" is a little more complicated.
We know that the amount of protein you need to eat in a day depends on various lifestyle factors, like how much you exercise or whether or not you're breastfeeding. Broadly speaking, it's recommended that you eat about 0.36 grams of protein a day for each pound you weigh. Some fitness aficionados up their protein intake using shakes like these because they believe it'll help them build muscle faster. While it's true that protein helps repair small muscle tears that occur during exercise, more is not always better.
An Owyn protein drink has 20 grams of protein in it, and Olivieri suggests drinking it as "quick fuel" between meals or after a workout. Technically, the human body can only utilize up to 20-30 grams of protein at one time, meaning each meal or every few hours, says Melissa Bailey, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian in Philadelphia told Refinery29. Excess protein gets converted in your body and stored for energy, or is turned into fat, she said. So, drinking an Owyn in addition to your usual meals isn't necessarily going to boost your health in any significant way.
Obviously, Owyn didn't invent the protein drink, but it did re-brand it. Their flavors — such as cold brew, dark chocolate, and turmeric golden mylk — are certainly on-trend. Even with the chic flavors, they taste like protein drinks: milky, slightly medicinal, and like you're drinking protein. Still, people on social media seem to love them. "We got really lucky with the influencers," Olivieri says.
Ultimately, what sets Owyn apart from similar products, such as Soylent or Vital Proteins, is its ingredients. Many protein bars and drinks tend to be packed with a lot of excess ingredients that you really don't need, Amanda Kruse, RD, CDN, told Refinery29. We know that plant-based protein products made from peas tend to be better for you than, say, highly processed soy. As more people are switching to a plant-based diet, or looking for something that complies with their food allergies and intolerances, it makes sense that there's a market for protein drinks like Owyn. Even though Owyn drinks might be adequate from a nutrition perspective, and seemingly the hottest item in wellness, they might not be satisfying the way a meal is.