Can You Live Off Protein Shakes?

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. Looking to get most of your nutrition from protein powder? Try Drink Wholesome. It is made with 100% real foods. Ingredients like these are not only better for you, but also better tasting. Order samples to see for yourself.

You could almost live off our protein powders.

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 food additives are not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, they can add up quickly, especially if you drink a protein shake every day. At higher quantities, food additives can cause nasty side effects.

First of all, because food additives are heavily processed and look nothing like real foods, we can have trouble digesting them. As a result, they sit in our guts for longer and ferment. Fermentation produces gas, which can cause bloating, cramps, and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit and can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and cause the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

What exactly are food additives?

As a rule of thumb, food additives are ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Not sure what to look for? Here is a list of the most food common 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 *Natural flavors are NOT natural

You may have noticed that this list includes several artificial sweeteners. Some artificial sweeteners may be bad for the stomach because they alter the composition of our gut microbiota, the collection of microorganisms that help us digest food. This can lead to serious stomach pain and widespread inflammation. Other artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, can cause diarrhea because they draw water into the gut. Avoid artificial sweeteners whenever possible.

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 of your nutrition from protein powder, my advice is to read the ingredient label twice. Avoid protein concentrates and isolates, food additives, and dairy. This last one matters more for some people than others, but is worth mentioning nonetheless. Dairy-based protein powders can cause side effects like bloating, constipation, cramps, diarrhea, gas, and nausea, especially for people with lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Common dairy-based proteins include casein and whey, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production.

Casein and whey protein can also cause acne. Dairy indirectly stimulates insulin production, which regulates sebum production. Sebum, an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands, can clog your pores and cause pimples. Dairy can also hinder your ability to process blood sugar efficiently, which can cause inflammation, especially in your skin. 

chocolate protein powder supplement
vegan chocolate protein powder supplement

“This egg white protein powder is anti-bloat, anti-blood sugar dips, anti-artificial tasting. Seriously the best protein powder I’ve EVER tried (I’ve tried literally every brand on the US market, all types of protein powder too). The product is amazing, period.” – Elizabeth 

Look for real foods. 

Choose a protein powder made with real foods, foods close to nature. Real foods consist of one ingredient and have undergone little to no processing. The main real food ingredients in our protein powders are egg whites and chickpeas. Egg whites are simply broken, pasteurized, and dried before becoming protein powder. Chickpeas are just dried and ground. Ingredients like these are going to give you a protein powder with a balanced nutrition profile, and no side-effects. 

Real foods like egg whites and chickpeas also taste great. Protein concentrates and isolates, on the other hand, are missing the nutrients that make food taste good. If you have ever had a protein shake with a chalky aftertaste, you know exactly what I am talking about. The egg whites that we use are particularly delicious because they were broken, pasteurized, and dried less than twenty four hours from when they were laid. The result is a flavor without the saltiness or sulfur “eggy” notes typical of eggs.

Protein powder should taste good. Remember, it is just food. If you find yourself choking down your protein shake, you are missing out. Life is too short for protein powders with a chalky aftertaste. Moreover, if consuming protein powder is a chore, it is not sustainable in the long term. A diet is not a six-week affair, it is for life. Think twice before spending your hard-earned dollars on a supplement that tastes bad.

Again, if you are looking to get most of your nutrition from protein powder, try Drink Wholesome. It is made with 100% real foods. Our vegan vanilla protein powder, for example, is made with chickpeas, coconut, vanilla, and monk fruit. Ingredients like these are not only better for you, but also better tasting. Order samples to see for yourself.

You could almost live off our protein powders.


You are reading a post by Drink Wholesome, a small business from New Hampshire. Drink Wholesome has taken a fundamentally better approach to protein powder by using 100% real food ingredients. Ingredients like these are not only better for you, but also better tasting. Sick of protein powders that upset your stomach? Sick of protein powders with a terrible aftertaste? Order samples to see if Drink Wholesome is right for you. 

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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