Protein bars have become ubiquitous in the fitness and health industry, offering a convenient and seemingly nutritious option for those on the go. Packed with protein, they promise to help build muscle, satisfy hunger, and support weight management.
However, protein bars are often also responsible for another, less glamorous side effect: bloating and excessive flatulence.
The Gut Microbiome
To understand why protein bars may cause digestive discomfort, we need to delve into the world of the gut microbiome. The human digestive system is home to trillions of microorganisms that play a vital role in our overall health. These microbes help break down food, extract nutrients, and maintain a balanced gut environment. When the balance of gut bacteria is disrupted, digestive issues, including bloating and gas, can occur.
One significant factor contributing to the digestive discomfort associated with protein bars is the use of ultra-processed ingredients. Artificial thickeners, fillers, preservatives, colours, flavours, sweeteners and seed oils are all terrible for your gut health. Here's what to look out for:
Vegetable and seed oils including anything labeled as “vegetable oils” or “hydrogenated”, Canola oil, Corn oil, Cottonseed oil, Soy oil, Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Grapeseed oil and Ricebran oil.
Thickeners, fillers and preservatives like Calcium Carbonate, Carrageenan, Cornstarch, Glycerin, Magnesium Silicate, Magnesium Stearate, Maltodextrin, Methylcellulose, added Nitrates and Nitrites, Potassium Sorbate, Potassium Carbonate, Shellac, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Benzoate, Soy Lecithin, Soybean Oil, Sulfites & Titanium Dioxide.
Sweeteners and Sugar alcohols like Aspartame, Sucralose, Sorbitol, Maltitol, Mannitol and Erythritol. These ingredients can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and lead to gas and bloating. Additionally, they can cause diarrhoea and other digestive issues in sensitive individuals. Erythritol, a sugar alcohol commonly found in protein bars, is known for its laxative effect. While it's considered safe for most people when consumed in moderation, excessive consumption of erythritol can lead to gastrointestinal upset, including gas and bloating.
- Artificial colours and flavours that are listed as a number, like E129. A heads up that companies can claim that their products contain no artificial colours and flavours, as long as they have the same DNA as natural sources, but they’re not sourced from nature.
Protein Powders: Whey vs Plant vs Collagen
Whey protein, derived from milk, is a popular choice in protein bars due to its high biological value and complete amino acid profile. However, some people may experience digestive distress when consuming whey protein, especially if they are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy products.
Plant-based protein powders, such as pea, rice, or soy protein, are also commonly used in protein bars. While they are suitable alternatives for those with dairy sensitivities, they can still lead to digestive discomfort in some individuals, particularly if the protein source is poorly tolerated.
Collagen protein, like we use in our Collagen Protein Bars, actively supports gut health.
Insufficient Fibre Content
Another reason why protein bars may cause bloating is their typically low fibre content. Fibre is important for maintaining a healthy digestive system, as it aids in regular bowel movements and promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. The lack of sufficient fibre in protein bars can slow down digestion and contribute to bloating.
Our Collagen Protein Bars have a great serve of fibre.
Overconsumption and Portion Control
One common mistake people make with protein bars is overconsumption. These bars are often marketed as healthy snacks, but they can be calorie-dense. Eating too many at once can overwhelm your digestive system, leading to bloating and gas.
Our Collagen Protein Bars are nutrient dense and will fill you up fast so you won't feel like overeating!
Protein bars may offer a convenient source of nutrition and protein for those with busy lifestyles, but they can also come with the unwanted side effect of bloating and excessive flatulence. The culprits often include the use of ultra-processed ingredients like erythritol, as well as protein powders like whey or plant-based alternatives. Additionally, artificial sweeteners and low fibre content can further contribute to digestive discomfort.
To minimise these issues, it's essential to choose protein bars wisely, paying attention to ingredient lists, portion sizes, and your own digestive sensitivities. Ultimately, maintaining a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods will not only support your fitness goals but also promote better gut health and reduce the risk of digestive discomfort associated with protein bars.
This is why we created our Collagen Protein Bars - high protein, low carb, gut friendly and won't make you fart ;)