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Do Whey Protein Powders Cause Gas & Constipation?

author image Angela Brady
Angela Brady has been writing since 1997. Currently transitioning to a research career in oncolytic virology, she has won awards for her work related to genomics, proteomics, and biotechnology. She is also an authority on sustainable design, having studied, practiced and written extensively on the subject.
Do Whey Protein Powders Cause Gas & Constipation?
Spoonful of whey protein powder Photo Credit Marek Uliasz/iStock/Getty Images

You love your whey protein shake -- it tastes like a milkshake, it helps your muscles heal after a workout and it has boosted your daily protein intake enough to help you build muscle. But it's causing some much less-attractive digestive issues. Protein shakes can do that, but there are ways around it. It might just be your brand of choice, and it could be your milk or your preparation method -- but simple tweaks can fix the problem, and you won't have to give up your beloved shake.

Whey and Lactose

Whey is a milk protein -- it is the liquid left over during the cheese-making process, so it contains some lactose. Those who are lactose intolerant may experience a variety of digestive issues if the lactose concentration is too high. There are two kinds of whey protein -- concentrate and isolate -- that differ in terms of processing. If you are lactose-intolerant, choose a whey protein isolate, which has only 0.1 g of lactose per tablespoon. Whey protein concentrates may be higher in lactose because more remains after processing. Another alternative is to take an over-the-counter lactase supplement before drinking the shake, to help your body digest the small amount of lactose properly.

Fiber Content

Even if you're not lactose intolerant, certain whey protein powders can cause constipation. According to Dr. Ladd McNamara, a physician and researcher specializing in nutritional supplementation, it is important to choose a protein shake that is high in fiber to help minimize constipation.Examine labels before you choose your protein powder, and look for one with a high fiber content but without massive amounts of calories -- many powders that contain carbohydrates are actually weight gainer shakes and can contain a full day's worth of calories in a single serving.


Most whey protein powders are meant to be mixed with milk. If you are lactose-intolerant, this can cause both gas and constipation. Even if you're not, using whole milk may add too much fat to the protein in your shake -- both fat and protein digest slowly, and allowing both to sit in your stomach for extended periods of time can wreak havoc on your digestive system. If you're not lactose-intolerant, simply switch to skim milk. If you are, try soy, almond or rice milk instead, or mix your powder with juice or water.

Too Much Air

If you follow the mixing direction on most whey protein powders, you likely throw the powder, milk and a few ice cubes in the blender. The problem is that the blender incorporates air into the mix, which can cause almost instant gas. Invest in a leak-proof shaker bottle instead and mix your shakes by hand. Simply add the ingredients to the bottle and shake until blended. The finished product won't be as thick as the blended version, but you won't suffer nearly as much after drinking it.

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