A novel trend has hit TikTok just in time for the upcoming summer season: the advent of frosted protein lemonade. Internet content creators are revolutionizing their protein shakes by substituting lemonade and ice for fresh fruit and yogurt. The outcome is a chilled, delectable smoothie that many assert is a more wholesome approach to savoring a frozen treat during the summer months.
The popularity of protein lemonade initially skyrocketed when TikTokers began concocting imitations of Chick-fil-A’s Frosted Lemonade. Their objective was to devise methods for reducing the beverage’s calorie and sugar content while increasing its protein content. The original Chick-fil-A version comprises whole milkfat, nonfat dry milk, sugar, water, lemon juice, as well as various preservatives and stabilizers. From a nutritional standpoint, it contains 65 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fat.
The resultant copycat TikTok recipes typically involve blending lemonade and ice together with vanilla-flavored protein powder. Some individuals even opt to include vanilla extract. Although the protein lemonade trend has garnered its fair share of detractors, dietitians concur that as long as it is consumed in moderation, the beverage can serve as an alternative way to enjoy a protein shake.
“It’s not much different than a standard protein shake that you’d mix up,” explained Jamie Nadeau, RD, founder of The Balanced Nutritionist, during an interview with Health. “But if you’re not a fan of protein powder, it can be a great protein shake alternative.”
Here’s what experts had to say about the health benefits of protein lemonade and what individuals should bear in mind before jumping on the trend.
“Is Protein Lemonade Really Healthy?”
Upon scouring TikTok and perusing bloggers’ protein lemonade recipes, one would find an astonishing array of ingredients in the reimagined versions. Recipes include sugar-free lemonade, lemon juice, cottage cheese, almond milk, vanilla protein powder, and even powdered vanilla pudding mix.
While online enthusiasts experiment with diverse ingredients in their homemade protein lemonade, many prefer to opt for specific types of lemonade to maximize the drink’s healthiness. “The lemonade most often used in this TikTok trend is Light or Zero Sugar lemonade that has no added sugar but is instead sweetened with artificial sugars like aspartame,” explained Blair Persyn, RD, LDN, CNSC, founder of Bites With Blair, to Health.
When purchasing lemonade at the grocery store, brands labeled as “freshly squeezed” are indicative of top-tier options. However, if someone prefers lemonade with traditional sugars such as cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, it is crucial to monitor their sugar intake carefully. On average, a 12-ounce serving of lemonade contains approximately six teaspoons of sugar, and adults should not exceed a daily intake of 12 teaspoons of added sugar.
For those who prefer a low or no-sugar variety, it is essential to be aware that it may contain artificial sweeteners that can potentially cause stomach discomfort. Some recipes also call for fresh-squeezed lemon juice combined with honey, agave, or maple syrup to enhance the drink’s sweetness.
“Both sugar and artificial sugar have their drawbacks,” Persyn remarked. “But I believe most things are fine in moderation.”
In terms of protein content, the TikTok version of Frosted Lemonade provides 15 to 30 grams of protein per serving, surpassing the amount found in Chick-fil-A’s original version.
Based on current evidence, the body can absorb approximately 20 to 25 grams of protein per meal, and protein intake should be distributed across meals and snacks throughout the day. When using protein powder, it is recommended to consume no more than 20 to 40 grams per day.
“Protein powders can help people meet their protein needs,” Persyn explained. “Older adults, vegans, and athletes, in particular, have higher protein requirements, so this frozen protein lemonade can be a fun way to incorporate extra protein into their diets.”
When it comes to protein powders, the market offers a wide range of options. Selecting the right one ultimately depends on personal preference. Some protein powders are derived from whey protein, while others are made from vegan sources like soy or pea.
Most protein lemonade recipes call for vanilla-flavored protein powder to impart a creamy taste that complements the tanginess of the lemonade.
However, while protein lemonade may have its merits, it is crucial to keep safety and overall nutrition in mind before embracing the trend wholeheartedly. Here are some important considerations to bear in mind before giving protein lemonade a try.
Consuming excessive amounts of protein powder may lead to an inadequate intake of protein from whole food sources. It is essential to obtain protein from other sources such as chicken, beef, eggs, tofu, nuts, and beans, as they also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that the body requires.
Additionally, if a protein powder contains additional vitamins, minerals, or herbs, it is crucial not to exceed the recommended daily intake. Consulting a registered dietitian can help address any questions or concerns regarding protein powder usage.
Given that protein powders are not regulated by the FDA to the same extent as food and drugs, it is advisable to choose a product that undergoes third-party testing to ensure label accuracy and adherence to safety standards. Organizations like NSF International Certified for Sport conduct comprehensive third-party testing of nutritional supplements for sports purposes.
However, it is worth noting that protein powders, due to their less stringent regulation, may occasionally contain undisclosed ingredients like heavy metals and contaminants. Therefore, it is advisable for children to avoid protein lemonade altogether, as recommended by Persyn.
While protein shakes, including protein lemonade, can certainly be part of a healthy diet, it is crucial to ensure a well-rounded approach by consuming an adequate amount of whole food proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Experts unanimously agree that making protein lemonade can be an excellent opportunity to incorporate additional nutrients into one’s diet. Adding fresh or frozen fruits to protein lemonade variations can further enhance its nutritional value.
Ultimately, protein lemonade can serve as a delightful and nutritious addition to one’s summer beverage rotation. However, moderation and balance remain key principles to ensure a healthy and sustainable dietary approach. Whether it’s for boosting protein intake or seeking a healthier alternative to Frosted Lemonade and other indulgences, protein lemonade offers a refreshing twist worth considering.