Do You Need To Add Protein Powder To Your Coffee?

Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
This winter, Kylie Jenner took to her Instagram story to address a question only her most dedicated fans could have been pondering: How does she take her coffee? The answer was as trendy and product-placement-heavy as the rest of her lifestyle. As Delish reported, Jenner drinks her morning cup of joe with a vanilla, coconut milk-based collagen protein creamer from Vital Proteins. The creamer is said to support healthy skin, hair, and nails, as well as joint support.
Jenner isn't the only one adding a dash of protein to her coffee. If you’ve been on Instagram recently, you’ve probably seen influencers such as fitness guru Amanda Kloots pouring proteins of different varieties (whey, collagen, soy) into their brews. The trend is gaining ground. Starbucks has a host of high-protein drinks, and even the Whey Protein Institute has an explainer on how to add powder to your coffee.
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But just because something is trendy, does not mean it’s necessary.
LesLee K. Funderburk, Ph.D., RD, and an assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at Baylor University, says adding protein to your coffee can be a good way to increase your intake if you’re not getting enough of the nutrient. For the record, the National Institutes of Health has a daily recommended dose: They say you should be consuming 0.36 grams of protein per pound you weigh. You need more than that if you’re super active. Funderburk says that although that it’s ideal to get your protein from foods such as eggs, meats, and even dairy, this hack will do.
"If you’re already a coffee drinker, that’s about 10 grams of protein you can tack onto your day,” Funderburk says. “If you have no trouble getting in protein through whole foods, then this probably isn't for you — but if you skip breakfast and you know you’re routinely not getting in enough protein, this would be a nice little boost to your day.”
That said, Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., RDN, says that most people do get enough protein. But she's still on board with the trend. “I love the idea,”she says. “Research is strong that protein at breakfast helps in blood sugar and insulin control... and satiety."
But not every dietitian is on board with the idea.
“My initial thought on adding protein powder to coffee is ‘ew,’” says Ashley Lytwyn, M.S., RDN, LDN, and founder of Nutrition Unveiled. She says that most American women are consuming more protein than they need, so the addition of protein powder in coffee is “unnecessary.”
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“We have a cultural obsession with adding protein powder to already beautiful, whole foods and coffee is becoming part of this trend,” Lytwyn says. “Let coffee be what it is: A caffeinated warm (or cold!) beverage. Let’s stop trying to change what coffee was intended to be [and] turn it into a high-protein supplement drink.”
No matter how you perceive this trend, one thing is true. Like so many facets of the wellness industry, this is not about a total health overhaul — it's about making small, one-percent gains in your every day life.
"Small changes tend to be easier to implement and make part of a daily habit to improve our nutritional intake," Funderburk says. "Once an individual incorporates additional protein into their diet (if, in fact, that is what was lacking), then they could move on to the next improvement, such as a higher fiber intake or an increase their daily water consumption."
We'll drink to that.
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