Is Your Protein Making You Bloated?

September 25, 2020 4 min read

Is Your Protein Making You Bloated?

When trying to follow a healthy lifestyle, we’re told that protein is essential - and it’s true!  We even have talked about it multiple times in past blogs, including our blog aboutThe Importance of Eating Adequate Protein.  Protein helps to keep us satiated, protect our hard-earned muscle, supports building new muscle if we are starting to lift and it also aids with weight loss!  

With that being said, how many times have you tried to have your whey protein shake after a tough workout only to end up bloated minutes later?  The worst, right?!  

Personally, having now been in the workout scene for over a decade, I’ve tried my fair share of protein shakes, and let’s just say, there is a reason some tubs of protein cost $19.99 and other’s cost more.  The quality of protein relies greatly on it’s ingredients and the process which it goes through to be created. 

So what causes the ‘protein bloat’ that we may have so often experienced trying to find the right ‘shake’ to implement post-workout? 


When you see a recommendation made for what to consume post-workout, or in the matter of a day even, a lot of those recommendations are assuming you are actually absorbing all of those nutrients from the food (source).  Sadly, malabsorption rates can range anywhere from 10-90%!  Or in other words, if you are drinking a protein shake with 30g of protein, you may only be absorbing a portion of that 30g of protein!  

This is much more prevalent in individuals with digestive stress including IBS, auto-immune conditions or leaky gut syndrome, to name a few.  Even if you aren’t specifically diagnosed with one of these conditions, yet you frequently experience bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, or heartburn, it is likely you have some gut stress going on.  

When our gut is stressed, it impairs our absorption of foods and drinks.  We often feel the effect of this malabsorption with the symptoms we listed above.  So how do you improve it?  There are some great absorption enhancing foods such as ginger, black pepper, pineapple, and ginseng (source).  This is why we include Astragin in our whey protein!  Astragin is ginseng, paired with astragalus, which helps reduce inflammation in the intestinal wall (where we absorb lots of our nutrients!), it helps increase amino acid and vitamin absorption, and itup-regulates the transcription for key transport proteins.  

Lactose Sensitivity 

About 65% of the human population struggles to properly digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products.  Whey protein utilizes milk protein, if it is a whey protein concentrate, it is going to contain a higher concentration of lactose and minerals from milk than other types of whey, like whey protein isolate.  

The reason many of us struggle to tolerate high amounts of dairy, or lactose, is because we don’t produce enough lactate, which is the enzyme needed to break down and digest lactose.  This is why we also include lactase enzymes in ourwhey protein formula, to help with any potential lactose intolerance issues you may deal with!  Our body produces digestive enzymes, but sometimes what our body produces just isn’t enough, so having the help of supplemental digestive enzymes can make a world of a difference in how we feel. 

Protein Powder Creation Process 

There are two main components to focus on when choosing a whey protein that will digest and absorb in the most efficient and comfortable way for your body: 

1. Type of Whey Protein - 

There are two main types, which we touched on prior.  You will usually find a whey protein isolate or a whey protein concentrate.  Whey isolate is the purest form of whey protein and it has a higher protein per serving ratio than whey concentrate and it also removes virtually any lactose or fat.  So to remove the belly bloat, you first want to make sure you are getting a whey isolate form.  

2. Filtering Process - 

After you have the whey isolate, there are two main types of filtering the whey can go through to result in the powder form.  There is an ion-exchange process, and a cross-flow cold microfiltration process.  The ion-exchange process uses what is called an ion exchange column, which separates proteins based on their electrical charge.  The problem with this is that it actually alters the pH level of the protein.  This results in damage or removal of certain amino acids, which we all know are the important pieces we need from the protein to help repair and build our muscle mass!  Lastly, the ion-exchange also strips out calcium and magnesium ions, and replaces them with sodium ions, which throws off our electrolyte balance and impacts our metabolism.  

These alterations to the protein ultimately result in impacts to muscle growth, protein digestibility, protein quality and mineral bioavailability.  This type of protein powder tends to be denser in nature and somewhat sand or grain-like.  

The cross-flow cold micro-filtration (CFM) process is quite different.  It uses specific filters to separate out undesirable fat, lactose, and other components based on molecular size and shape.  The cold-temperature helps isolate the protein at its natural pH level, which preserves its biological activity and immune-boosting components.  This process, although more expensive, produces a superior amino acid profile, more calcium, less sodium and a fluffier, tastier powder.  It does without saying that this form of processing also improves the digestion and bioavailability of the protein.  

This is obviously why we utilize this CFM method with our ownwhey protein at Top Notch - because we want nothing but the best for our supplements and our clients.  


We understand that the aisles at GNC can be overwhelming with about 1000 different protein powder options.  There is a reason the $19.99, five-pound tub of protein likely isn’t the best option.  If you have ever experienced the bloating and constipation that can come with a low-quality protein shake, you don’t want to deal with that day in and day out.  So before you make your next protein purchase, make sure you do your research and check out the ingredient list and the filtration process before committing!  

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