If you spend enough time around fitness enthusiasts, you will hear one question often asked: Can protein shakes cause constipation in adults?
You probably know someone who did experience digestive issues after consuming these dietary supplements.
So, it is only natural to wonder if you would experience the same thing once you take it too.
The good news is that we have done much of the legwork for you by gathering all the information you need.
Below are the possible situations where protein shakes might leave you feeling bloated or constipated.
We will also talk about the steps you can take to prevent them from happening to you.
- Can Protein Shakes Cause Constipation?
- How To Prevent Protein-Related Constipation Issues
- Make the Right Choice
Can Protein Shakes Cause Constipation?
The short answer to the question, “Can protein shakes cause constipation?” is yes. That said, it is contingent on a number of conditions.
It is important to understand what these circumstances are to know what steps you need to take.
Here are the reasons behind the digestive symptoms that some people feel because of these products:
Lack of Fiber
If you look at some people who experience chronic constipation because of protein shakes, it is not what’s in the drink causing it but what’s not in it.
To be more specific, those who are on a high-protein diet tend to neglect their fiber intake.
This is especially true if you use the consumption of protein shakes as a replacement for regular meals.
For reference, the average person needs around 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day.
The problem is that not all whey protein supplements and similar products have enough soluble fiber to meet your requirements.
There are even brands that do not contain any fiber at all because they are made mainly of protein isolates.
Basically, this means they have been stripped of all other key ingredients except for protein.
While this might be fine if you have a balanced diet, things are a bit more challenging fiber-wise if you don’t.
Excessive Protein Intake
The whole point of drinking whey protein shakes and other similar products is to boost your intake of protein.
People do this for several reasons, the most common being to build muscle mass, stimulate weight loss, and achieve other fitness goals.
However, it is possible for you to get large amounts of protein and exceed your dietary requirements.
When this happens, your kidneys have to work harder to filter the by-products of the protein metabolic process.
This would mean you would have to urinate more.
If you are unaware of the ongoing issue and fail to increase your water intake, your body will become dehydrated.
In turn, your gut will be forced to absorb more water from your stool, leaving you constipated.
Some people are lactose intolerant, which means they cannot digest lactose. It is a type of sugar in dairy and milk products, including most whey protein powders.
The problem is that some might have this digestive issue without even knowing it.
So, when they take out their shaker bottle and drink their protein supplement, there is a higher chance of constipation.
That is because they do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the milk sugars.
When the lactose reaches their gut, their bodies are not equipped to deal with it and react by slowing down the metabolic process.
While some are sensitive to lactose, others are gluten intolerant.
Gluten is a type of protein that occurs naturally in wheat, barley, rye, and other types of grain.
It acts like a binder that holds the food together, similar to how dough becomes stretchy.
People sensitive to gluten have an abnormal immune reaction to the protein.
In the process, the lining in their small intestine gets damaged, preventing them from absorbing some nutrients.
The same thing happens to people who have celiac disease. That is why gluten intolerance is also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Its symptoms are also a bit similar to wheat allergy.
Calcium Levels Too High
Calcium is a mineral closely linked to teeth and bone health. Aside from making the bones strong, calcium also plays a crucial role in blood clotting.
On top of all these, it helps with muscle contraction and normalizes the heartbeat and nerve functions.
However, we all know that too much of a good thing can be harmful, which applies to calcium too.
If your calcium levels are too high, the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract won’t contract properly, which could lead to constipation.
It is important to keep this in mind because most protein powders are derived from milk products. Naturally, they contain varying amounts of calcium, depending on the brand.
Additives in Protein Powder and Shake
Some protein powders have additives that serve different functions.
Some prolong the shelf life of your favorite protein powder, while others improve the taste or texture.
Ready-made whey protein shakes even have emulsifiers. These substances allow the different ingredients in protein shakes to combine.
With this long list of additives in your whey protein powder or similar supplements, you can just imagine what you are putting into your body.
They can accumulate over time since they are generally challenging for the body to digest. As they sit in your gut, you would feel bloated and constipated.
Sensitivity to Sugar Alcohol
If you are trying to maintain a healthy body weight, drinking protein can help you achieve your fitness goals.
Protein can boost your metabolism and curb hunger, allowing you to burn more calories than you consume.
What’s more, some protein powders have low-calorie content and are specifically designed to facilitate weight loss.
That said, you need to be wary of some of these products, as they might contain sugar alcohol.
Sugar alcohols cut the calorie content of the product but are able to maintain a certain level of sweetness that many people like.
It is important to pay attention to it because some people are sensitive to sugar alcohol.
If you happen to be one of them but do not know it, you are likely to experience some digestive issues if you drink our protein shake.
How To Prevent Protein-Related Constipation Issues
Happen to have food sensitivities or a sensitive stomach?
Regardless, it is no reason for you to miss out on the health benefits of protein shakes and powders.
There are ways to consume them safely without putting yourself at risk.
Just make sure you follow some of these simple tips and choose a higher-quality protein powder:
Avoid Dairy-Based Protein
If you suspect you are sensitive to lactose, the easiest thing to try is to switch to a lactose-free protein powder formula.
Plant-based products are your safest choice since they do not contain dairy or lactose.
If possible, ask for a sample first instead of buying an entire tub.
So, if it turns out that you were wrong, you won’t end up with a lot of protein powder that you still can’t drink.
They are a bit hard to find, and you might have to email the company directly if the sample is unavailable.
That said, exerting a little extra effort might save you a lot of money, making it worth your while.
Switch to Products With No Sugar Alcohols
If you tried a lactose-free protein powder and still experienced the same problem, try a brand with no sugar alcohol.
These are artificial sweeteners like xylitol, saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose.
Instead, look for a protein powder that uses stevia or even sugar. Better yet, try a brand that has no additives at all.
Your symptoms should go away if you are sensitive to sugar alcohol. Otherwise, your digestive issues might be caused by something else.
Look for Products With the Right Amounts of Fiber
Another possible reason you experience constipation when drinking protein shakes is that you are getting too little or too much fiber.
To rule this out, look for a product with only five grams of fiber per serving.
This approach would work better if the protein powder also contained digestive enzymes. Also, do not disregard the importance of drinking lots of water.
Make the Right Choice
There are a lot of protein supplements on the market today, and you will surely find one that fits you.
This is true whether you have a specific food sensitivity or just a particular preference.
You might have to spend a bit more time to find what works for you, but it will all be worth it in the end.