Skip to Content

Does Protein Powder Contain Caffeine?

does protein powder contain caffeine

You might be wondering if your daily protein shake is secretly doubling as an energy drink. The answer? It depends. 

Most protein powders are made from one or more of the following protein sources: whey, pea, rice, hemp, pumpkin seed, chia seed, quinoa, egg white, casein, or bone broth. 

On their own, these ingredients are caffeine-free. However, some protein powders may contain added caffeine or ingredients that naturally contain caffeine.

When Do Protein Powders Contain Caffeine?

Protein Powder with Caffeine Benefits

While pure protein sources are caffeine-free, some ingredients often added to protein powders may naturally contain caffeine. For instance, certain protein powders marketed for weight loss or as pre-workout supplements may contain added caffeine. 

These include cocoa powder, coffee bean, matcha, green tea extract, or guarana. For instance, two of my favorite protein powders–Truvani Protein Powder in Matcha Green Tea and Garden of Life Raw Fit in Coffee–have around 20 mg and 10 mg of caffeine per serving respectively.

These two examples are on the light end of the spectrum. Some caffeinated protein powders can pack quite a punch, with some containing as much caffeine as a cup of coffee per scoop. 

So, if you’re sensitive to caffeine or trying to limit your intake, it’s important to read the ingredient list carefully and look out for these sneaky sources of caffeine.

Benefits of Caffeine in Protein Powder

does protein powder contain caffeine benefits for working out

Utilizing caffeine in protein powder has become popular among athletes seeking an extra edge in their training performance. Here are some of the reasons why this combination can be beneficial.

Improved Exercise Performance

Especially if you consume a protein shake before versus after a workout, caffeine in protein powder can be advantageous in improving your performance output during training. 

On a more scientific level, caffeine has been shown to enhance exercise performance by antagonizing adenosine receptors (ARs) in the brain, preventing the decrease in neuronal activity and allowing for increased muscle fiber recruitment.[1]

Caffeine can also open ion channels called ryanodine receptors (RyRs) in muscles and myocytes, releasing additional calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum and improving muscle speed and strength.

Studies suggest a link between moderate consumption of coffee and improved muscular endurance. So in addition to power output, there are some endurance gains to be had with moderate caffeine consumption.[2]

Enhances Metabolism

Incorporating caffeine into your protein supplement can also aid in weight management by stimulating thermogenesis – the body’s process of heat production. 

Thermogenesis increases calorie burn without additional physical activity, potentially supporting fat loss goals alongside regular exercise and a balanced diet. Research demonstrates how caffeine intake correlates with increased metabolic rate.[3]

Increased Alertness and Focus

Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, sensory neurons, and brain, providing an energy boost and increased alertness. It blocks the A1 receptor, preventing sleepiness, and raises dopamine and epinephrine levels by blocking the A2 receptor, which can enhance focus and power during exercise.[4]

Replenishes Glycogen Stores

Perhaps the most fascinating and beneficial finding about caffeine and exercise is its effects on post-workout recovery. 

An older study from 2008 found that athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrates had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrates alone.[5]

A more recent review by the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that caffeine may potentiate glycogen resynthesis when high dosages are consumed during the recovery phase of exercise.[6]

While this science focuses more on carbohydrate and caffeine intake, typically protein is an integral part of the equation. The interesting takeaway is that caffeine appears to accelerate faster recovery.

Improved Cognitive Function

Caffeine has been shown to improve various aspects of cognitive function, including memory, mood, vigilance, and reaction time. It can act as a nootropic, stimulating the brain and sensory neurons.[7]

However, it’s important to note that the effects of caffeine on cognitive function may vary depending on the individual’s tolerance and sensitivity. For some, the caffeine crash is very real, so it’s crucial to figure out an optimal balance that works for you.

Reasons to Avoid Caffeine in Protein Powder

does protein powder have caffeine in it

While caffeine can provide benefits like improved exercise performance and increased alertness, overconsumption can lead to negative side effects in terms of optimal rest and recovery.

Consuming too much caffeine from multiple sources like coffee, energy drinks, and caffeine-containing protein powder can cause jitteriness, headaches, insomnia, and digestive issues. It’s important to be mindful of total daily caffeine intake from all sources.

Digestive Discomfort

Caffeine can stimulate the digestive system and may cause discomfort in some individuals, especially those with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux.

Consuming caffeine-containing protein powder may worsen symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea in susceptible individuals.

Disrupted Sleep and Recovery

Caffeine is a stimulant that can disrupt sleep quality and quantity if consumed too close to bedtime. Adequate sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and growth.

It can take 4-6 hours for the body to metabolize half of what is consumed, so caffeine late in the day may keep you awake at bedtime.[8]

Consuming caffeine-containing protein powder too late in the day may make it harder to fall asleep at night, impairing the body’s ability to recover from exercise.

Potential Interactions with Medications

Caffeine can interact with certain medications, including stimulants, antibiotics, asthma medications, and heart medications. For individuals taking prescription drugs, consuming caffeine from protein powder may exacerbate side effects or alter the effectiveness of their medications.

Bottom Line

caffeine-free protein powder

Not all protein powder contains caffeine. In fact, most protein powders are caffeine-free. Only certain products that contain cocoa powder, coffee bean, matcha, or green tea extract have caffeine, and the amount per serving is generally labeled appropriately.

While some protein powders containing caffeine are designed to stimulate metabolism and promote weight loss, others are simply naturally occurring, like matcha protein powder.

At the end of the day, while protein powder containing caffeine may have benefits, it can also have drawbacks for some people and uses. Make sure to read labels to be well aware of how much caffeine, if any, is in each scoop.

You Might Also Like

About the Author

tyler tafelsky vegan protein powder review editor

This article was written by Tyler Tafelsky, the lead editor here at VeganProteinPowder.reviews. Tyler is an experienced writer in the health and athletic space who has tried hundreds of different plant-based nutritional products and writes about his favorites here on this blog. Learn more about Tyler by viewing his full author bio or by following him on social platforms like LinkedInTwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram. You can also visit his personal site TylerTafelsky.com to learn more about what he’s up to.

Scientific References

  1. Rodak K, Kokot I, Kratz EM. Caffeine as a Factor Influencing the Functioning of the Human Body-Friend or Foe? Nutrients. 2021 Sep 2;13(9):3088. doi: 10.3390/nu13093088. PMID: 34578966; PMCID: PMC8467199.
  2. Higgins S, Straight CR, Lewis RD. The Effects of Preexercise Caffeinated Coffee Ingestion on Endurance Performance: An Evidence-Based Review. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2016 Jun;26(3):221-39. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0147. Epub 2015 Nov 16. PMID: 26568580.
  3. Acheson KJ, Zahorska-Markiewicz B, Pittet P, Anantharaman K, Jéquier E. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 May;33(5):989-97. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/33.5.989. PMID: 7369170.
  4. SEvans J, Richards JR, Battisti AS. Caffeine. [Updated 2023 Jun 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/
  5. American Physiological Society. “Post-exercise Caffeine Helps Muscles Refuel.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 July 2008. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080701083456.htm
  6. Guest, N.S., VanDusseldorp, T.A., Nelson, M.T. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4
  7. Kim, H., Kang, S.H., Kim, S.H. et al. Drinking coffee enhances neurocognitive function by reorganizing brain functional connectivity. Sci Rep 11, 14381 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-93849-7
  8. Temple JL, Bernard C, Lipshultz SE, Czachor JD, Westphal JA, Mestre MA. The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review. Front Psychiatry. 2017 May 26;8:80. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00080. PMID: 28603504; PMCID: PMC5445139.