What are the pros and cons of protein powder?

Learn more the pros and cons of protein powder. Protein powder is an easy way to boost your protein intake, but not all protein powders are created equal. 


vanilla protein powder

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vegan chocolate protein powder

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The pros and cons of protein powder. 

Proteins are the building blocks of life. They are found in every cell in the human body and play an essential role in muscle growth and repair. Protein itself is composed of amino acids, some of which are made by the body and some of which come from food. The latter are called essential amino acids, and are found in animal sources like eggs and meat, as well as in plant sources like legumes and nuts.

Most people can get more than enough protein by eating a balanced diet, but others – athletes, pregnant women, people dietary restrictions, etc.– may need to supplement. This is where protein powder comes in. Protein powder can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake and ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs. That said, there is a lot of misinformation about what protein powder is and what it can do for you. Now without further ado, here are some of the pros and cons of protein supplements. 

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


Protein powder is convenient. In just a few minutes and with minimal cleanup, you can consume 20 + grams of protein. Try cooking quinoa that fast. Plus, if you have a shaker bottle, you can bring your protein powder with you wherever you go. This is a blessing for athletes looking to start the recovery process immediately after a workout. 


Compared to other sources of protein, protein powder is expensive. The protein in chicken, for example, can cost less than 2 cents per gram whereas the protein in your average protein powder costs over 4 times that much.  


Protein powder is versatile. The most popular way to consume protein powder is in a shake or smoothie, but protein powder can be added to many different recipes. Have you ever had protein powder popovers? They are delicious. 


Many protein powders tastes bad. One of the biggest issues people have with protein powders is the chalky aftertaste. Protein powders tend to have a chalky aftertaste because they are made with protein concentrates and isolates, foods chemically or mechanically stripped of everything but the protein. Protein concentrates and isolates are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas. Unlike real foods, they are missing the nutrients that make food taste good.

Protein powders can also taste bad because they are made with artificial sweeteners or stevia. These sugar substitutes are either way too sweet, or have bitter bitter aftertaste because they activate bitter taste receptors in addition to sweet taste receptors. This bitterness, which many say reminds them of licking aluminum foil, can linger in your mouth for hours. 


Protein powder has a long shelf life. Most protein powders will last anywhere from 12-18 months in your cupboard. How would eggs taste after that long? 

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


Dairy-based protein powders like whey and casein can 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 in your skin. This matters because acne is an inflammatory disease, that is, clinical evidence shows that inflammation occurs at all stages of acne development.


Protein powder offers an easy way to measure your protein intake. How much protein is in a cup of chickpeas? You could figure it out, but it would take a minute. How much protein is in a scoop of protein powder? Just read the Nutrition Facts.


Many protein powders can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. If you are want a protein powder that will not upset your stomach, avoid the following:

Avoid food additives.

Most protein powders are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are, generally speaking, hard to digest. They 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, which causes 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.

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. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems and widespread inflammation. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria) and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. 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 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 for sensitive stomachs, 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 and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, 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. 

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. 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 isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food. The problem with ingredients that look nothing like real food is that they are hard to digest; your gut always prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation.


Protein powder will boost your protein intake. At the end of the day, 20 grams of protein is 20 grams of protein. Just be sure that you are not scooping a bunch of food additives along with your protein.

There you have the pros and cons of protein powder. Remember, protein powder is easy way to boost your protein intake, but not all protein powders are created equal. 

The pros and cons of protein powder.


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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.