Ask Keri: What Is Protein Water, and Is It Healthy?
Keri Says: Yes, there’s a whole new category of beverage in town—protein water—which basically bottles protein powder in water, adds some sugar and flavoring, and sell itself as the newest fast protein solution. Whether or not it’s good for you depends on the brand and when and why you’re drinking it.
At the Natural Foods Expo East this year, it was clear this is a category lots of brands are jumping into, so it’ll likely grow, for at least a little while. (There’s even a sparkling version—Fizzique!) That’s why I’m weighing in on whether it should be part of your drink up routine.
What IS Protein Water?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Companies like Protein2O essentially mix protein powder into water and then add sugar and flavors for taste. Most use whey protein isolate, although there are plant-based options like Drink Apres, which uses a blend of pea, chia, and hemp protein.
The question of what it is gets a little more philosophical, though, when you start to think about what it’s for. Do you really need protein when you’re hydrating? When exactly would you need your protein and water to be combined? Which brings me to…
Is Protein Water Healthy?
Most brands are using whey protein isolate as the protein source, and while whey isn’t necessarily bad if you’re okay with dairy, none of these give any indication as to where the whey comes from. In other words, it’s not coming from happy grass-fed cows roaming on organic pastures. The plant-based option is cleaner: Drink Apres uses an all-organic plant protein blend.
These “waters” also all contain five or six grams of added sugar. That’s not a ton, but why involve sugar in your hydration routine, at all, when you’re trying to eat as little as possible? I’d say save sugar for your conscious indulgences.
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Finally, they all contain “natural flavors,” which is a way of saying “an ingredient we have no idea about.” Maybe they’re harmless, but again, why introduce them into your water when you could just drink…water (or water with fresh fruit!)?
One last important point: The vast majority of Americans get enough, or too much, protein. So unless you’re on a restricted diet or are an athlete, you likely don’t need more than what you’re getting from food. Protein-rich smoothies are generally used as a meal (or large snack!) replacement, but you’re not going to treat water as a meal or a big snack, you’re likely going to still want to eat.
RELATED: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
The Bottom Line
Overall, while protein water may not be harmful, it mostly feels like a gimmicky product you don’t need to spend your hard-earned food dollars on. If you need functional protein after a workout, I’d rather you grab a little snack or make a smoothie, since the ideal post-workout fuel includes both protein AND healthy fats AND some carbs (and yes, water, but it won’t be hard to find that! Just turn on the tap!). Plus, then you’ll be getting all of the extra beneficial nutrients the foods you include naturally contain, instead of “natural flavors” and added sugar you don’t need.