Is a Pumpkin Spice Latte a Good Post-Workout Recovery Drink?
Ever since coming across a comment by a Starbucks barista on the coffee chain's subreddit stating that a standard PSL (a 16-ounce grande made with two percent milk) does, in fact, have more protein than the brand's two new protein-blended cold brew drinks (Almond and Cacao), we've been wondering how all three beverages stack up. The good news: that barista wasn't wrong! The bad news: incorporating pumpkin spice lattes into your workout routine isn't, like, the best idea. But it's also not the worst. Here's the breakdown.
Both the Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew and the Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew start with a base of cold brew concentrate, ice, and a date-and-banana blend, as well as a plant protein supplement made from rice and peas. The former also includes almond milk and almond butter, giving it 12 grams of protein per 16-ounce serving, while the latter features coconut milk and a scoop of cacao powder, bringing its protein count to 10 grams. All of the ingredients in both drinks are certified vegan—a first for Starbucks—and any sweetness comes from those dates and bananas (as opposed to added sugar).
Meanwhile, a PSL of the same size contains 14 grams of protein—most of it from milk—and 50 grams of sugar (about double the Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew's 22 grams, or the Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew's 26). While this extra sweetness should—despite the pumpkin spice latte's two-gram protein advantage— knock it out of the running for Starbucks Drink That Is Pretty OK to Have After a Workout, let us not forget the rebranding of chocolate milk.
Once relegated to kids' lunchboxes, nutritionists have recently been touting chocolate milk as an effective post-exercise snack, thanks to its high carbohydrate and protein content (perfect for replenishing tired muscles). And, as Fitness Magazine points out, sodium and sugar (of which chocolate milk has plenty) help recovering athletes retain water and regain energy.
Of course, it depends on what kind of workout we're talking. A PSL is 380 calories, so if you haven't worked at least that many off, you'll be adding more calories than you burned. You wouldn't want to use it to "recover" from, say, a 20-minute power walk. If you're looking to find out how many calories you burned on a run, for instance, Runner's World has a handy calculator.
But when you think about it, really, what is a pumpkin spice latte if not seasonal hot chocolate, and what is hot chocolate, if not chocolate milk, warmed up? To recap: A Starbucks PSL has more protein than an Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew or a Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew, that's all we know for sure, and, also, we need to lie down.