Protein Water: The New Whey To Hydration

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

The appeal of carbonated drinks is declining worldwide, leaving a gap for more nutritious functional drinks like protein water to take centre stage.

We’ve heard of protein shakes—a constant companion of gym-goers—but protein water is the trending functional drink of 2019. Protein water, as the name connotes, is a mixture of whey protein isolate and water. Unlike highly caloric protein shakes, a 500 ml bottle of protein water only contains approximately 90 calories and 15 to 20 grams of protein.

Protein water falls under the category of functional drinks, a market that is rapidly expanding, according to data produced by Grand View Research in 2018, which highlights that the global functional drinks market size is expected to reach USD 93.68 billion by 2019, progressing at a CAGR of 6.1 percent during the forecast period. This is, in part, due to the renewed focus on nutrition among the middle-class. Market research firm, Mintel, states: “One of the key ways in which consumers in Southeast Asia are looking to adopt a healthy and balanced diet is by consuming food and drink that is high in protein.” However, such functional food and drinks still need to be conveniently available and consumable on-the-go—this creates a demand for innovative offerings like protein water that fills the gap between convenient and functional.

Likewise, Jane Barnett, Head of Insights, South APAC, at Mintel notes: “Improving health and fitness is now a key focus of consumers across Southeast Asia, particularly through their diets and exercise. Consumers in the region show continuous interest in proteins and are incorporating more of them into their daily diets and eating regimes. Much of this growth in demand is attributable to consumer belief that protein aids in the pursuit or maintenance of a healthy physique, and provides them with energy and satiety.”

Does Protein Water Live Up To The Hype?


  • Muscle Recovery

Just like a protein shake, protein water can help muscle recovery after a strenuous workout. This is especially important in cases where athletes experience muscle/tissue tear.

  • Less Calories

In certain cases, consumers tend to grab protein shakes off shelves, regardless of whether they hit the gym that day. Sitting at a desk and polishing off a protein shake can have an adverse effect of fat gain due to the high amounts of sugar in flavoured protein shakes. An alternative to this is protein water—while the level of protein isn’t as high as what you would normally get in protein shakes, low levels of sucrose help to keep unwanted fat away on days not spent at the gym.


  • Artificial Sweeteners

This is one occasion where reading labels is important. Many protein water manufacturers mask the distinct flavour and texture of protein with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and stevia. Even naturally derived sweeteners have been connected to sugar cravings, which negate the effect of a workout and balanced diet.

  • Dairy Component

While most protein waters list ‘whey’ as a key ingredient, it should be made clear that whey isolates are derived from milk processing. When milk is processed to form yoghurt or curd, the liquid that remains is whey (Dairy Processing Handbook).Once considered an unusable by-product (Tunick, 2008), whey is now recognised as a fast-digesting protein that can be easily absorbed into the gut and used in various applications. That being said, if consumers are dairy sensitive, whey intake is unadvisable.

The appeal of carbonated drinks is declining worldwide, leaving a gap for more nutritious functional drinks to take centre stage. With health and hydration becoming key concerns for the ever-growing middle-class as well as millennials and Gen X-ers, the rise of functional beverages like protein-enriched water is inevitable.