What is the best protein powder for depression?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

drink wholesome is the best protein powder for depression. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for people looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. Order samples to see if our protein powder is right for you. 

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drink wholesome is the best protein powder for depression.

Can protein powder make you depressed?

What is the best protein powder for depression?

Why drink wholesome?

Can protein powder make you depressed?


You may have read that protein powder can cause depression. My advice is to stop reading. There is no clinical evidence that supports an association between protein powder and depression, so what you have read is little more than hearsay.  

Almost everyone who claims that protein powder can make you depressed cites the same study conducted by the University of Sydney and published in Nature Metabolism. In this study, researchers examined the relationship between dietary branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and overall health. They found that long-term dietary BCAA manipulation influences healthspan and lifespan in mice.

Yes, that was not a typo; this study involved three hundred and twelve male and female mice, not humans. The notion that protein powder can cause depression in humans is therefore an extrapolation of animal data to humans. Generally speaking, the assessment of human response from animal data is significantly limited, so using this study to make claims about human health is an overstatement. 

In order to really understand why it is a fallacy to use this study to argue that protein powder causes depression in humans, however, you first have to understand what BCAAs are. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of 3 amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. In case you forgot, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 of them, 9 of which are deemed essential.

Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and must come from food like beef, chickpeas, and eggs. The point here is that BCAAs are in most of the foods that we eat, not just in protein powders. To say that protein powder, because it contains BCAAs, causes depression is therefore absurd. If BCAAs were really the issue, then all dietary protein sources would make us depressed.

The third reason why it is absurd to use this study to talk about human depression is that the study in question mentions depression only once – “Indeed, reduced plasma ratios of Trp relative to the other large neutral amino acids (Trp ratio) have been associated with depression and obesity.”

Here, the researchers are referring to existing literature on the association between low levels of Tryptophan (Trp), an amino acid, and depression in humans. They are not referring to their own findings. Although they did find that increased ingestion of BCAAs lowers brain Trp uptake in mice, they are talking about mice, not humans. Using this quotation, which is only an afterthought, as evidence that protein powder causes depression in humans is therefore absurd. 

In conclusion, protein powder does NOT make you depressed. There is absolutely no evidence that suggests otherwise.

not all supplements are created equal

What is the best protein powder for depression?


Any type of protein powder can help you boost your protein intake, but not all protein powder are good for you. The average protein powder is full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these may improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but they can also cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage.

This is worrisome because more and more research shows that disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food) can affect your mental health. Specifically, dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression. This is all possible thanks to a bidirectional pathway called the gut-brain axis that allows gut microbes to communicate with the brain.

Given the link between gut health and mental health, I recommend that you use a simple protein powder like drink wholesome. Keep reading to learn more. 

Why drink wholesome


drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best protein powder for depression is that we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are full of food additives.

Food 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 shake 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.

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

When buying protein powder, 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 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, additives are ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to avoid when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

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.

drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best protein powder for depression is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many protein powders are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues. This is especially true 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. 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 and cause side effects. 

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make the best protein powder for depression is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein powders, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They appear on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.”

I 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.

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to your gut microbiome.

Your gut does more than just help you to digest food; it protects against pathogens, educates your immune system, and affects directly or indirectly most of your physiologic functions. Disruptions to the gut microbiome have therefore been linked to the development of anxiety and depression. Given this association, it is in your best interest to avoid protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates. 

vegan chocolate protein powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate protein powder 14 servings serving suggestion

Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best protein powder for depression with whole foods like 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. Whole foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.

Whole 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.

Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, 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 powder than with any other type of protein powder. If you cannot eat eggs, try our vegan almond protein powder. We prefer almonds to other plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties that can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.

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easy to digest

“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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drink wholesome is the best protein powder for depression.

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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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