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HEALTH NEWS

Proffee (Protein & Coffee): The New Health Trend Brewing on TikTok

Written by Beth Ann Mayer on August 11, 2022 — Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell

The drink “Proffee” (protein powder mixed with coffee) has been gaining popularity on social media platforms like TikTok, with people claiming it can provide a healthy energy boost and aid with weight loss. Lauren Lee/Stocksy United

Proffee, a blend of coffee and protein, is a recent TikTok trend causing a stir among experts.

Some dietitians and nutritionists say there are better ways to add caffeine and protein to your diet.

Experts also believe there are ways to make proffee healthier but that it’s typically fine in moderation.

There’s a new trend brewing on TikTok. It’s called “proffee” and the hashtag #proffee has already received nearly 10 million views on the social media platform.

“In the TikTok world, where proffee has taken off, this usually means a protein shake poured over a cold brew or iced coffee, but in actuality, it can be any type of coffee with protein added,” says Carolyn Cohen, an integrative nutritionist, functional medicine health coach, and host of the podcast Wellness While Walking.

The dramatic slow-motion videos, which end with a creamy beverage in a glass jar, make it look fun and delicious. And some TikTok users are swearing by its benefits, including weight loss. But do the health claims really shake out?

Experts spilled on what you need to know before trying this made-for-social-media beverage.

Why are people drinking proffee?

Some of the most popular purported benefits of proffee swirling around include:

improved energy, focus, and performance

added protein

weight loss assistance

But experts offer mixed reviews on these claims.

Energy, focus, and performance

Noah Quezada, RDN, says that proffee can be energizing and improve focus and performance because of the caffeine content.

A small 2017 studyTrusted Source of seven males who underwent a cycling-based exercise test suggested that caffeine increased time to exhaustion by 12 percent. Another studyTrusted Source from 2016 of 12 males indicated that moderate caffeine consumption before and during a round of golf improved subjective energy levels and performance while lowering fatigue.

That said, it’s important to note that these studies were not done on proffee itself.

Dan Gallagher, a registered dietitian with Aegle Nutrition, says there are better ways to get a jolt.

“Healthier sources of caffeine would be black or green tea or simply a cup of coffee,” Gallagher says.

The benefits of added protein

A 2019 studyTrusted Source suggested that protein intake could boost metabolic health and longevity.

Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN of Hackensack Meridian Health notes that the recommended dietary intake is 0.8g/kg of body weight per day. In other words, a 150-pound person would need about 54 grams of protein per day. For context, one piece of chickenTrusted Source weighing 174 grams (6.13 oz.) contains about 55 grams of protein.

Kolesa says the protein in shakes can contribute to this protein intake but notes that most people can get enough protein from food. And Gallagher says food is a better protein source.

“Protein is healthiest when it’s sourced from whole ingredients like seafood, lean beef, beans, eggs, or milk,” Gallagher says. “Maintaining a balanced diet will give all the advertised benefits and more.”

Part of the issue is that protein shakes can have added sugars or low quality, processed proteins that don’t measure up to the natural proteins found in foods.

“Any health benefits of adding protein to coffee can be quickly undone by the window-dressing — the devil is in the details when it comes to proffee,” Cohen says.

Can proffee aid with weight loss?

Weight loss is one of the most commonly discussed benefits of proffee. Quezada encourages people to proceed with caution.

“Proffee is not a miracle weight-loss drink,” Quezada says.

That said, Quezada notes that some evidence suggests that caffeine and protein can aid some people in weight management.

For example, a 2019 meta-analysisTrusted Source of 12 studies indicated that drinking coffee reduced body fat, especially in male participants. A 2020 studyTrusted Source suggested it could lower body fat in women.

Another 2020 studyTrusted Source indicated that adhering to a high protein diet could be an effective way to lose weight and prevent obesity.

But Kolesa stresses that there are no studies on proffee itself.

“It is not a guarantee that the protein coffee itself will help someone lose weight,” she says.

And she adds pouring in high fat milk, creamers and sugary syrups can negate any benefits from the beverage’s protein and caffeine.

Drawbacks of drinking proffee 

Ultimately, Quezada stresses that meeting weekly exercise requirements and following a nutritious diet of lean animal and plant-based protein, produce, and complex carbohydrates are more proven ways for individuals to get the benefits of proffee.

Kolesa says going this route can help people avoid some cons of drinking proffee, including:

jitters

increased risk for certain populations

sleep disturbance

allergic reactions

gastrointestinal tract issues

The exact number of cups of coffee a person can handle isn’t an exact science — it will vary based on the individual. If you notice you are jittery or having trouble sleeping, consider reducing the amount.

But Kolesa says the FDA reportsTrusted Source that most healthy adults can consume 400 mg. of caffeine daily or four to five cups of coffee. However, she says pregnant and lactating people should consume less.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests individuals limit caffeine intake to 200 mg., or one 12-oz. cup of coffee, per day during pregnancy.

The CDC notesTrusted Source that a small amount of caffeine passes through breastmilk but says adverse effects, such as poor sleep and irritability, are not typically seen if the lactating person consumes 300 mg. of caffeine, or two to three cups of coffee, daily.

The syrups and high fat milk and creamers some TikTokers are putting in their beverages may not be best for people with diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart conditions.

“You could try using low sugar syrups or protein shakes/powders,” Kolesa suggests. “You can also try low fat creamers and milk.”

An older 2013 study suggested that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime could disrupt sleep.

Kolesa also suggests reading the labels of protein shakes to ensure you are not allergic to any ingredients. Other ingredients may not trigger allergic reactions but could lead to GI issues, like stomach aches. If you notice you’re having those issues, stop using the shake.

The bottom line

Gallagher says proffee isn’t off the table, but it shouldn’t be considered a meal replacement or your primary source of protein or caffeine.

“If you’re looking for something tasty, this is probably worth drinking, but I would look at it essentially as a blended drink from Starbucks,” Gallagher says. “It’s probably not something to have daily.”

And he stresses it’s essential to rely on advice from healthcare providers and peer-reviewed studies, not TikTokers, for dietary advice.

“I would approach nutrition and wellness trends on TikTok with a healthy dose of skepticism,” Gallagher says. “Research, but be wary of what sites are advertising benefits. It’s good to question what biases sites might have, and when in doubt, research scientific studies or medical organizations specifically.”

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