Can you live off protein shakes? 

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

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protein powder for beginners

Don’t try to live off protein shakes.

What is a protein shake? 

Can you live off protein shakes? 

Why drink wholesome?

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: ready-to-drink protein shakes and shakes made with protein powder.

Protein powder is a powdered form of high-protein foods like eggs, peas, and milk. It can be used to make shakes, or 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. 

not all supplements are created equal

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 stripped of everything but the protein. 

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 shakes and powders contain food additives. Additives may improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but they can also cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. Basically, because they look nothing like real food, food additives are hard to digest. They therefore sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, causing bloating and stomach pain.

Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. Over time, food additives can add up (especially if you drink a protein drink every day), and disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine. Eventually, this can lead to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

One additive to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota. This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. 

Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are poorly absorbed by the gut, meaning they feed your hungry gut bacteria. They can also cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestines. Now you 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 supplements:

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 supplements, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

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, the fewer is better. 

Why drink wholesome


Our protein powders are not only additive-free, but they are also made with real foods, not protein concentrates and/or isolates. Instead we use egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed to remove some of the oil, and ground. Real foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.

vegan vanilla protein powder serving suggestion
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Real foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

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“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse

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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.

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