Do Whey Protein Powders Cause Gas & Constipation?

whey protein concentrate powder
Some brands of protein powders may contain added calories, sugars and toxic chemicals, so read product labels carefully. (Image: Marek Uliasz/iStock/Getty Images)

You love your whey protein shake — it tastes like a milkshake, helps your muscles heal after a workout and has boosted your daily protein intake enough to help you build muscle. But it's causing some less-attractive digestive issues, like protein farts and bloating. You may experience a bout of protein powder constipation as well. Protein shakes can do that, but there are ways around it.

It might just be your brand of choice, or it could be your milk or your preparation method. But simple tweaks can fix the problem, and you probably won't have to give up your beloved shake. Talk to your doctor if you're still feeling uncomfortable after you've tweaked your shake.

Tip

If you're drinking whey protein shakes and are feeling gassy, bloated and constipated, it may be the whey.

Whey and Lactose

Whey is a milk protein. Specifically, it's 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 and lactose content.

If you're lactose-intolerant, choose a whey protein isolate, which has only 1 gram or less of lactose per 100-calorie serving. 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 properly digest the small amount of lactose.

Not Enough Fiber

Even if you're not lactose intolerant, certain whey protein powders can cause you to be constipated. So it's important to choose a protein shake that's high in fiber to help minimize the potential for constipation.

Examine labels before you choose your protein powder and look for one with high fiber content but without massive amounts of calories — many powders that contain carbohydrates are actually weight-gainer shakes and may contain a full day's worth of calories in a single serving.

It May Be the Milk

Most whey protein powders are meant to be mixed with milk. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, 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 gut for extended periods 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 directions on most whey protein powders, you likely throw the powder, milk and a few ice cubes in a blender. The problem is that the blender incorporates air into the mix, which can cause almost instant gas.

One solution is to 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 and creamy as the blended version, but you'll likely suffer less after drinking it.

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