Can you live off protein shakes? 

Can you live off protein shakes? Although you could live off protein shakes, it is not a good idea.

EGG WHITE PROTEIN POWDERS

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You could almost live off our protein shakes.

What is a protein shake? 

A protein shake is a drinkable dietary supplement designed to help you increase your protein intake. There are two types of protein shakes: (store-bought) ready-to-drink protein shakes and shakes made with protein powder. I recommend that you make your own protein shakes with protein powder because all store-bought protein shakes contain food additives. I will explain why this matters later. 

Protein powder is a powdered form of high-protein foods like eggs, peas, and milk. It can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods for an easy protein boost. Millions of Americans use protein powder every day to reach their protein goals. 

Convenience aside, protein powder is just food. It is in no way nutritionally superior to any other form of dietary protein. This is important to understand if you are considering adding protein powder to your diet. 

Can you live off of protein shakes? 

Theoretically, you could subsist on protein shakes alone. That said, I do not recommend that you do so for a number of reasons. First of all, most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and isolates, foods chemically or mechanically stripped of everything but the protein. Protein concentrates and isolates are listed as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas.” 

If you were to only drink protein shakes, you would not be getting enough healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, etc. In the long term, this could lead to malnutrition and serious health problems. You could add other ingredients (oats, peanut butter, etc.) to your protein shakes to give them a more balanced nutrition profile, but you would still risk not getting enough of certain nutrients like iron and vitamin A. 

Another reason why you should not try to live off of protein shakes alone is that most protein powders contain food additives. Although they are not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, food additives can add up quickly, especially if you drink a protein shake every day. At higher quantities, food additives can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects.

Many food additives are hard to digest. As a result, they sit in your gut for longer than they should. This gives the bacteria that live in your gut more time to eat the partially digested food. As they eat, these gut bacteria produce gas, which can cause bloating, cramps, and nausea. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount time it takes food to travel through the colon), and can lead to constipation. Moreover, in the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

One of the top food additives to avoid is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can alter the composition of our gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food), which can lead to serious GI problems and widespread inflammation. Artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, can also cause diarrhea because they draw water into your gut. Finally, artificial sweeteners are poorly absorbed by the gut. This means that they ferment (feed your hungry gut bacteria), and cause bloating, cramps, and nausea. 

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein 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

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce.

Read the ingredient label.

If you can get your hands on an additive-free protein powder, and are willing to add other ingredients to your protein shake to balance the nutrition profile, you might be able to subsist on protein shakes alone. I still do not recommend that you do so, however. Protein shakes are supposed to supplement our diets, not replace them. Replacing a one or two meals with protein shakes is not a bad idea, but relying on protein shakes for 100% of your nutritional needs is risky.

If you absolutely must get all of your nutrition from protein powder, read the ingredient label, twice. Avoid food additives at all costs and err on the side of simplicity. When it comes to ingredients, fewer is better. Here are two more ingredients to avoid when buying protein powder.

Avoid food additives.

Most protein powders are full of food additives. Although they are not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, food additives can add up quickly, especially if you drink a protein shake every day. At higher quantities, food additives can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects.

Many food additives are hard to digest and sit in your gut for longer than they should. This gives your gut bacteria more time to ferment (eat), and as they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating, cramps, and nausea.

In the short term, gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

Keep an eye out for artificial sweeteners too. Artificial sweeteners are poorly absorbed by the gut, which means that they feed your hungry gut bacteria. They also alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious GI problems and widespread inflammation.

Finally, artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, can cause diarrhea because they draw water into your gut. Now you might finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom. 

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein 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

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

our ingredients: 

egg whites, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

Avoid dairy. 

Dairy-based proteins like whey can casein are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production. They are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas. 

vegan chocolate protein powder serving suggestion
chocolate protein powder lifestyle image 1

Avoid protein concentrates and isolates.

Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder is hard. Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder made with real foods is next to impossible. Why? Most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas.”

We will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to separate the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food. 

The potential problem here is that your gut might not know what to do with ingredients like these. Your gut prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation, so protein concentrates and isolates might be hard to digest for people with sensitive stomachs.

vegan chocolate protein powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate protein powder serving suggestion

Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we use egg whites and chickpeas. Egg whites are simply broken, pasteurized, and dried before becoming protein powder. Chickpeas are just dried and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are easy to digest and a stomach-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.  

Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for people with sensitive stomachs. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. 

If you cannot eat eggs, try our chickpea protein powder. We like chickpeas because, compared to other plant protein sources, they are high in soluble fiber. Unlike insoluble fiber, which can have a laxative effect, soluble fiber increases in size as it moves through your digestive tract. This can help make your bowel movements easier and more regular

★★★★★

“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”

-Julio

Again, if you are looking for a nutritious protein powder to make protein shakes with, try drink wholesome. It is made with stomach-friendly real foods. Order samples to see for yourself.

You could almost live off our protein shakes.


Hi, my name is Jack. I created drink wholesome because I was sick of protein powders that upset my stomach. drink wholesome is handmade in Plymouth, MA. 

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.