What are the ingredients to avoid in protein powder?

Wondering what ingredients to avoid in protein powder? In this article, I will cover the top protein powder ingredients to avoid. Many protein powders contain ingredients that cause painful side effects and long-term health problems.

The top 3 ingredients in protein powder to avoid.

Written by Jack Schrupp & endorsed by Baylee Reller, RDN

1. Food additives

Food additives are one of the top 3 protein powder ingredients to avoid. Even in small amounts, additives can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain.

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

These side effects occur because food additives looking nothing like real food, which makes them hard to digest. As a result, additives linger in your digestive tract, feeding your gut bacteria. Gut bacteria release has as they eat, so more time to eat means more gas, which is behind side effects such as bloating, flatulence, and stomach pain. Excessive gas production can also impede colonic transit – the time it takes food to move through the colon – causing constipation.

Over time, regularly eating food additives can also disturb regulatory pathways in your intestines, leading to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other systemic inflammatory disorders. Certain additives, namely artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, can also disrupt your gut microbiome – the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food.

2. Dairy-based proteins

Dairy-based proteins also rank among the top protein powder ingredients to avoid. Many protein powders use whey and casein, which are byproducts of the production of cheese and yogurt. These ingredients are notorious for causing digestive complications, particularly for individuals with lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance impairs your ability to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products. As you have just learned, when food is only partially digested, it feeds bacteria in your gut, leading to uncomfortable side effects.

3. Protein concentrates & isolates

Protein concentrates and isolates are another one of the top ingredients to avoid in protein powder. The majority of protein powders are made with one or both of these ingredients, which are essentially food stripped of everything but the protein.

Making protein concentrates and isolates involves intensive mechanical and chemical processing, at times using solvents like hexane. For this reason, protein concentrates and isolates look nothing like real food, which is problem because your digestive system is meant to handle minimally or unprocessed real foods.

It follows that research indicates that regularly eating processed foods like protein isolates can alter the composition of your gut microbiome, which does a lot more than help you digest food. Your gut microbiome also protects you against pathogens, educates your immune system, and influences many physiologic processes. An unhealthy gut microbiome is, unsurprisingly, a leading driver of inflammation, and shown to cause several chronic diseases.

Why drink wholesome?

Our protein powders are free from the top 3 protein powder ingredients to avoid – we do not use food additives, dairy-based proteins, or protein concentrates/isolates. Instead, we rely on a short short list of simple, real foods.

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

Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we use egg whites and almonds. Minimally-processed protein sources like these are gut-friendly alternatives to protein concentrates and isolates, in part because they contain enzymes which facilitate their digestion. Protein concentrate and isolates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids.

Egg whites possess also several special gut health advantages: they are low in fiber, low in FODMAPs, alkaline (supporting healthy gut pH levels), and bioactive (encouraging the growth of healthy gut bacteria). Our satisfied customers have always reported fewer digestive issues with our egg white protein powder than with any other protein supplement.

For individuals who are unable to consume eggs, our vegan almond protein powder is the best plant-based protein alternative. Almonds offer prebiotic benefits, enhancing your gut microbiome’s diversity. They also promote regular, healthy bowel movements. In summary, by making our protein powders with simple ingredients, we allow you to boost your protein intake without harming your gut. 


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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.