It was more than a decade ago during my time as a personal trainer that my friend and fellow trainer Rudy issued a legendary response to me when I asked him why he didn’t stir his protein powder into milk. “I like Jack Daniels and I like Coke, but when you mix them together, you ruin them both,” he replied.
It was an impossible sentiment to argue against precisely because it included a respect for the purity of the original products, coupled with an allusion to the sanctity of personal preference. Rudy preferred milk and protein in their unadulterated forms, and he believed that mixing them together transformed them into an abominable concoction that meted out a misdemeanor upon his mouth. I disagreed with his assertion, but I couldn’t help but to respect it.
It’s with this ancient exchange in mind that I approach the phenomenon of people adding protein powder to their morning coffee.
Why on earth would people add protein powder to their coffee?
That’s an excellent question incapable of being adequately answered both quickly and fairly. With respect to the disclosure of personal biases in mind, I’ll get this out of the way: I wouldn’t be caught dead with a mixed mug of coffee and protein in my hand. It sounds thoroughly off-putting, and I can think of countless fashions in which I’d rather consume protein powder and coffee that don’t involve combining them.
Personal judgments aside, apparently there are thousands of people with at least a passing interest in the idea of regularly and intentionally blending coffee together with protein in an effort to improve the taste of both, or simply to save time. One YouTuber in particular said she did it to get her coffee to taste more like Starbucks, which would certainly make her coffee a bargain compared with the price of a Starbucks coffee. Her simple blending method is to first stir the protein powder into cold water to create a substance with the look and consistency of pancake batter, and then to add hot coffee and zero-calorie sweetener to that mixture.
Calgary Barbell, another YouTuber, echoes the opinion that protein powder is capable of permeating hot coffee with a Starbucks-level of frothiness. His recipe calls for the addition of flavored protein to skim milk before pre-blending those two ingredients together. To that he adds freshly brewed coffee, and he mixes it all together in a shaker cup. The freshly shaken and now foamy mixture can then be poured into a coffee mug for your enjoyment. Other folks have mixing methods that are mildly more elaborate.
But I heard somewhere that heating protein damages it and makes it indigestible.
You heard wrong, but I can see where certain facts could become lost in translation.
What happens to protein is that it becomes denatured once it’s heated. As far as we’re concerned, this doesn’t mean much; your body heats and denatures protein by itself when it’s in the process of digesting it. Scientifically speaking, there’s no fundamental difference between the heating of powdered protein and the cooking of a juicy steak, and I’m not aware of anyone who has ever suggested that the protein of a steak is devalued once it’s heated. For the record, I also haven’t personally encountered anyone who would prefer to consume a steak raw either, but I know those folks are out there.
Mixing protein and coffee together still sounds like a lot of work.
I’ll concede that the total preparation process debatably creates more work than consuming each item separately, but to each his own. I’m far more concerned with ensuring that the folks looking to build and maintain muscle tissue are receiving adequate quantities of protein, period. So if you’d prefer to lace your morning coffee with a sprinkling of vanilla Muscle Milk powder, knock yourself out. From where I’m sitting, the physical consequences of that combination beats a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino any day of the week.