Vegan protein powder headache?
Can protein powder give you a headache?
Some people get headaches when they consume protein powder. Symptoms range from dizziness to severe migraines. Here is one popular theory as to why protein powder is messing with your head.
Artificial sweeteners may be to blame.
Protein powders may give people headaches because they contain artificial sweeteners, synthetic sugar substitutes. Artificial sweeteners are popular because of their intense sweetness. A pinch of sucralose, for example, can be used to achieve the same amount of sweetness as several tablespoons of sugar. This allows food manufacturers to reduce both calories and sugar.
Despite their obvious benefits, artificial sweeteners have a number of drawbacks, one of which is that they are associated with headaches. Although there is little scientific evidence that proves artificial sweeteners cause headaches – a number of studies have examined the link, but only a handful have found a positive correlation – anecdotal evidence has linked artificial sweeteners to headache, Many people also swear that they cause migraines.
What to avoid?
If you experience migraines or headaches often, play it safe and choose a protein powder without artificial sweeteners. Not sure what to look for? Here is list of the most common artificial sweeteners used in protein powders:
acesulfame potassium, aspartame, erythritol, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, xylitol
Why artificial sweeteners might cause headaches is unknown, but we do know why artificial sweeteners cause other side effects. For instance artificial sweeteners can cause serious stomach pain and widespread inflammation because they alter the composition of our gut microbiota, the collection of microorganisms that help us digest food. It is therefore possible that we have simply not yet discovered why artificial sweeteners mess with our heads.
Instead of artificial sweeteners, we use monk fruit.
Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, is a small, melon-like round fruit native to Southeast Asia. Monk fruit sweetener is made by removing the seeds and skin, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice, which is then dried into a powder. The compounds that give monk fruit its sweetness are called mogrosides. Unlike sugar, mogrosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. One serving of monk fruit sweetener therefore contains virtually zero calories per serving.
If monk fruit is so great, however, then why do so few protein powders use monk fruit? The answer is price. Monk fruit is expensive, far more expensive than sugar, artificial sweeteners, or natural sweeteners like stevia.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
What about stevia?
Stevia does not taste good, and it might not be good for you. Although it is sweet, stevia has a bitter aftertaste because it activates bitter taste receptors in addition to sweet taste receptors. Many protein protein powder companies work like mad to mask the bitterness, and it is causing them quite the headache ;).
Moreover, stevia is extracted from the stevia rebaudiana plant using chemicals like ethanol and methyl alcohol. This, one could argue, makes it barely more natural the the artificial sweeteners that it seeks to replace. In fact, a recent class action lawsuit filed in California reached a $6.1 million settlement because it was ruled that the company in question falsely labeled and advertised its stevia sweeteners as natural.
Protein powder headache? Switch to drink wholesome.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.