Can Protein Powder Cause Digestive Problems?
Protein powder is a quick and effective way to nourish your body, which is why so many people use it for various reasons. From building muscle mass, losing weight, improving sports performance, to enhancing overall wellness, protein powder is a great solution!
However, not all protein powders are created equal.
Some can cause digestive problems like stomach cramps, bloating, and frequent trips to the bathroom. So if your protein powder is causing stomach problems, it’s worth paying attention to it. You might be drinking it too soon after a workout, it may contain lactose, sugar, or sweeteners.
So here’s a few things to pay attention to if you want to use protein powder without side-effects:
What’s in Your Protein Powder?
The way your protein shake is processed could make a difference between whether it’s easily digestible or not.
If you’re experiencing gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea, it could be because you’re lactose intolerant. If this is the case, your body will be struggling to digest your shake’s milk protein properly. Primary lactose intolerance is the most common type. It occurs when your small intestine produces insufficient lactase (a digestive enzyme) to digest lactose. If you’re experiencing side effects from your protein shakes, try a non-dairy protein alternative or a whey protein isolate.
If lactose intolerance is not your problem, it could be the artificial sweeteners in your protein powder that are making you sick. Many popular protein powders contain artificial sweeteners to lower their calorie content and make them more palatable.
Unfortunately, they’re not as healthy as you may think. Some artificial sweeteners can upset the balance of your gut bacteria and cause nausea and other digestive problems.
When and How to Use Your Protein Powder
If you drink your protein shake after a workout, there’s no need to be in a hurry.
Recent research shows that your anabolic window is much longer than 30 minutes. In fact, it may make little difference whether you drink your shake before, during, or after exercise; you can still reap the same benefits.
If you drink your protein shakes too quickly, they can cause nausea, and particularly after a workout. This is because, during exercise, your blood is pumping into your muscles rather than your digestive tract. So drinking your shake too soon after a workout or too quickly can upset your stomach.
Give yourself time and sip it slowly instead.
Choosing the Right Protein Powder
If you want to get all the benefits from protein shakes without the pain, the solution is Low-FODMAP protein powder.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are sugars that are not easily absorbed by the small intestine (causing cramps, diarrhea, and other stomach problems).
A low-FODMAP protein powder doesn’t contain these sugars, making it much easier to digest. For example:
- Whey protein isolate
- Sprouted brown rice protein
- Pea protein
- Soy protein
- Egg protein
- Hemp protein
- Sacha Inchi protein
- Sunflower protein
Casa de Sante low FODMAP certified protein powders are lab tested and scientifically shown no to cause gas, bloating or digestive distress. They are low carb, all natural, gluten free, lactose free and soy free, without artificial sweeteners.
Frequently Asked Questions About Protein Powder
How much protein do you need every day?
For the average sedentary man the recommended daily protein intake is 56 grams, and 46 grams for the average sedentary woman.
However, the optimum amount for you depends on your health, diet, and lifestyle. If you eat lean meat, fish, eggs, and dairy foods, you’re probably getting enough daily protein.
But if you’re working out and want to gain muscle (or you’re vegetarian/vegan), you might need additional protein supplements like protein powder shakes.
Is it okay to drink protein shakes every day?
Drinking protein shakes daily can be beneficial if you are trying to promote muscle growth or as a meal replacement if you're trying to lose weight.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, protein shakes can also help increase your daily protein intake.
How much protein do I need to grow muscle?
When it comes to determining how much protein is needed for muscle growth, studies usually evaluate daily protein intake per kilograms/pounds of body weight. Although there is some slight divergence in recommendations, the most common suggestion for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per 2.2 kilograms/1 pound of body weight.
Can too much protein cause kidney damage?
No. This is a myth.
However, people with kidney disease should avoid a high-protein diet as it can worsen the disease (the body has to deal with the excess waste from protein metabolism).
How much protein powder should I use?
Typically, you will use between 20-40 grams of protein powder each day. That usually amounts to 1-2 scoops. If you are trying to gain muscle, you might want to increase your protein powder intake to 50-80 grams per day.
Whichever your case, your intake should not exceed 80 grams per day.
Will increasing my protein intake help me build muscle faster?
It will, but only to a degree.
Not all the protein you eat gets synthesized; some of it gets used for energy.
Pushing your protein intake above 35 percent of your daily calorific intakes won’t increase muscle build. What it will do is decrease your carbohydrate and fat intake, and this can hinder your progress.
A protein powder supplement can help you meet your protein goals if you are bodybuilding, trying to lose weight, recovering from illness, or have a restricted diet. You may have to experiment a little before you find the right one.
The best way to find out which is right for you is to try one for two weeks and take note of any changes in the way it makes you feel.
For example, do you have more energy than before, has your appetite changed, are you experiencing any digestive issues?
Once you find one that works for you, stick to it and enjoy the benefits.
- Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD, founder, Casa de Sante