Can meal replacement shakes cause constipation?

Do meal replacement shakes cause constipation? Keep reading to learn about meal replacement shake constipation and what to do if your meal replacement shake makes you constipated.


Meal replacement shakes can cause constipation.

Written by Jack Schrupp & endorsed by Baylee Reller, RDN

Do meal replacement shakes make you constipated?

Although a common side effect of meal replacement shakes is diarrhea, many people report that meal replacements also cause constipation. Constipation occurs when you have fewer than three bowel movements a week and your poop is hard and difficult to pass. Common symptoms include bloating and stomach pain.

If your meal replacement causes constipation, you have come to the right place. In this article, I will explain why many meal replacements cause constipation.

Why do meal replacement shakes cause constipation?

Meal replacement shakes cause constipation because they are hard to digest. One look at the ingredients in the average meal replacement shake should explain why. Most meal replacements are made with gums, lecithins, sweeteners, and flavors that look nothing like real food. Ingredients like these are hard to break down, and spend more time in your digestive tract than food is supposed to. This can make you constipated. Keep reading to learn more. 


Why drink wholesome

drink wholesome is additive-free.

The main reason why our meal replacements do not cause constipation is that they do not contain food additives. Most other protein powders. on the contrary, are full of additives.

Here is a list of the most common food additives in meal replacement powder:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

As you now know, food additives spend extra time in your gut because they are hard to digest. This gives your hungry gut bacteria extra time to eat, and to produce gas.

Intestinal gas, specifically methane gas, slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. Exactly why this occurs is still a mystery, but researchers believe that intestinal gas may reduce motility (spontaneous muscle movement), thereby slowing the passage of food.

the alternative:


drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why our meal replacements do not cause constipation is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein are hard to break down, especially for the millions of adults with lactose intolerance.

If you have lactose intolerance, you lack the enzymes needed to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. You can guess what happens next – partially digested lactose feeds the bacteria living in your gut, causing extra gas production, and, ultimately, constipation. 

vanilla meal replacement powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate meal replacement powder lifestyle image 2

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why our meal replacements do not cause constipation is that we do not use protein concentrates or isolates. Almost all other meal replacements contain one or both of these protein sources. 

The problem with protein concentrates and isolates is that they undergo extensive mechanical and chemical processing, often involving solvents like hexane. They therefore look very little like real food. 

Your digestive system is built to process minimally processed or whole foods, rather than protein concentrates or isolates. Research suggests, it follows, that the frequent consumption of refined ingredients like these can disturb your gut microbiome. An unhealthy gut has a hard time breaking down the food you eat, which is certainly not going to help with constipation.

chocolate meal replacement powder serving suggestion 1
vanilla meal replacement powder serving suggestion 2

Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we make the meal replacements with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Minimally processed protein sources like these are a digestion-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.

Unlike protein isolates and concentrates, egg whites and almonds arrive in your digestive system armed with enzymes and digestive aids, making their breakdown easy. Moreover, egg whites are low FODMAP, alkaline (helping you achieve optimal pH levels in your gut, and bioactive (stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria).

Almonds, on the other hand, emerge as a valuable asset to your gastrointestinal well-being. With their prebiotic qualities, they contribute to the diversification of your gut microbiome. They also play a role in ensuring regular and healthy bowel movements thanks to their fiber content. One serving of our vegan protein powder has up to 8 grams of fiber per serving. This much fiber can provide protein shake constipation relief without upsetting your stomach.


no stomach issues

“Best most digestible meal replacement powder I have ever had.” – Jennifer

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2 meal replacement powder samples


This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


Understanding the Link Between Meal Replacement Shakes and Constipation

In the fast-paced world we live in, meal replacement shakes have gained popularity as a convenient and efficient way to get the nutrition we need on the go. These shakes come in various flavors and formulations, offering a quick and easy solution for those with busy lifestyles or specific dietary goals. However, there’s a lesser-known side effect that can accompany the consumption of meal replacement shakes: constipation.

In this extensive blog post, we will delve into the reasons why meal replacement shakes can potentially cause constipation. It’s essential to understand this connection to make informed choices about your dietary habits and ensure your overall well-being.

The Basics of Meal Replacement Shakes

Before we explore the constipation factor, let’s briefly review what meal replacement shakes are and why they have become so popular.

Meal replacement shakes are liquid formulations designed to provide a balanced and convenient substitute for a traditional meal. They typically contain a combination of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, aiming to offer a complete and nutritious option for those who may not have time for a sit-down meal or prefer a quick and easy alternative.

These shakes come in various forms, including ready-to-drink bottles, powders that you mix with liquid, or single-serving packets. They are marketed as a way to manage weight, improve fitness, or simply ensure you’re getting essential nutrients when you’re on the move.

The Constipation Concern

Now, let’s address the crux of the matter: why can meal replacement shakes lead to constipation?

  1. Lack of Fiber: One of the primary culprits is often the insufficient fiber content in many meal replacement shakes. Fiber plays a crucial role in promoting regular bowel movements by adding bulk to stool and facilitating its passage through the digestive tract. When shakes lack adequate fiber, it can result in stools that are hard, dry, and difficult to pass, leading to constipation.
  2. Inadequate Hydration: Some individuals may not consume enough fluids when replacing a meal with a shake. Proper hydration is essential for healthy digestion, as it helps keep the stool soft and easy to pass. When people don’t drink enough water alongside their shakes, it can contribute to dehydration, a common trigger for constipation.
  3. Imbalance of Macronutrients: Meal replacement shakes often aim to provide a balanced combination of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats). However, some formulations may have an excessive amount of protein while lacking in carbohydrates and fats. An overly protein-heavy diet can lead to constipation, as the body may require additional water to metabolize excess protein, potentially leading to dehydration.
  4. Artificial Sweeteners: Some meal replacement shakes use artificial sweeteners to enhance flavor without adding calories. While these sweeteners are generally considered safe, they can have a laxative effect when consumed in excess. This can lead to diarrhea initially, but over time, it may result in constipation as the body adjusts.
  5. Reduced Chewing and Saliva Production: A significant aspect of digestion begins in the mouth, where chewing and mixing food with saliva initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates. When meal replacement shakes are consumed quickly and without the need for chewing, it can disrupt this initial digestive process and potentially lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, including constipation.

Tips for Preventing Constipation with Meal Replacement Shakes

Now that we’ve explored the potential causes of constipation associated with meal replacement shakes, let’s discuss some strategies to help mitigate this issue:

  1. Choose Shakes with Adequate Fiber: When selecting meal replacement shakes, opt for those that contain a reasonable amount of dietary fiber. Look for products with a fiber content of at least 3-5 grams per serving. Fiber helps promote regular bowel movements and prevents constipation.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Ensure you consume an adequate amount of water throughout the day, especially when replacing meals with shakes. Proper hydration is crucial for healthy digestion and can help prevent constipation.
  3. Balance Macronutrients: Look for shakes that offer a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Avoid shakes that are overly protein-heavy, as excessive protein intake can contribute to constipation.
  4. Limit Artificial Sweeteners: If you’re sensitive to artificial sweeteners or notice they affect your digestion negatively, consider choosing shakes with natural sweeteners or flavorings instead.
  5. Chew Gum or Eat a Small Snack: If you tend to consume meal replacement shakes quickly, try chewing sugar-free gum or eating a small, fiber-rich snack alongside your shake to stimulate saliva production and maintain a more natural pace of digestion.
  6. Regular Physical Activity: Engage in regular physical activity, as exercise can help promote healthy digestion and alleviate constipation.

When to Seek Medical Advice

While occasional constipation may be a side effect of consuming meal replacement shakes, persistent or severe constipation should not be ignored. If you experience prolonged discomfort or have concerns about your digestive health, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional. They can help identify any underlying issues and provide guidance on managing constipation effectively.


Meal replacement shakes offer a convenient and efficient way to meet your nutritional needs in today’s busy world. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential for constipation associated with these shakes and take steps to prevent it. By choosing shakes with adequate fiber, staying hydrated, balancing macronutrients, and paying attention to artificial sweeteners, you can enjoy the benefits of meal replacement shakes while maintaining healthy digestion. If you experience persistent constipation or digestive discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice to ensure your well-being.