A variety of people use meal replacement shakes. Whether bought ready-made or in powder form, they are a convenient way to monitor calorie and nutrient intake. Unfortunately, there are some potential side effects to consider, such as excessive flatulence.
Meal replacement shakes can cause gas for several reasons. Quickly drinking your shake after a work-out, artificial sugar, and lactose content can all be factors to an increase in gas. When choosing a shake, it is important to consider its ingredients and their effect on your digestive health.
In this article, we will take a look at what goes into meal replacement shakes and how they can cause gas, along with other causes, and how to prevent it in the future.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are designed as a way of substituting solid foods. They can be used as a weight-loss aid, given the low-calorie content, but they are also popular with body-builders who are looking to gain weight.
They are fast and easy to digest; they make eating 6-8 meals a day more manageable.
However, not all shakes are created equal:
- Many contain stabilizers that are used to prolong shelf-life. A lot of the products you see on the shelf are designed to be kept at room temperature for months at a time. This can only be achieved by adding preservatives.
- Many shakes are high in sugar and use artificial flavorings and sweeteners. Men and women should consume no more than 36g and 25g of sugar per day, respectively. BOOST High Protein Balanced Nutritional Drink boasts a high protein content, but also contains 15g of sugar per serving. Similarly, many shakes are given to added flavorings to make them more appealing which can be natural or artificial.
- Nutrients can often be synthetic, and therefore not as effective. It is believed that these synthetic nutrients provide little to no health benefits.
It is important to look closely at the label before purchasing, in order to ensure you are getting a balanced and natural product.
Make sure you are getting enough calories since these are designed to replace meals rather than supplement them. Regardless of your intended use (weight loss or weight gain), make sure you are selecting a product with all-natural ingredients and plenty of nutrients.
Pre-made meal replacement shakes can be found everywhere and require little to no effort. No mixing or shaking, just open and go. Their convenience is a driving factor in their popularity.
You will likely recognize quite a few brands. Slimfast has been offering such shakes for years, along with other low-calorie snacks. Most often used to help with weight loss, these types of shakes come in a variety of flavors and often boast a high number of nutrients per serving.
Powdered meal replacement shakes have become quite popular in recent years. They often come with a scoop and guide and need to be mixed with either water or milk. This lightweight option is great for people who don’t want to carry heavier pre-made shakes.
An advantage to the powders is the ability to mix with extra ingredients. It is easy to add the powder to a smoothie that’s full of fruits and vegetables.
Why Do Meal Replacement Shakes Cause Gas?
Not to be confused with protein shakes, meal replacement shakes are designed to be more filling and contain higher levels of fiber and carbohydrates. However, both can contain soy and/or whey and are consumed in the same way.
They Are High in Fiber
Fiber is important to our digestive health because it helps our bowel movements to stay regular. However, during the digestion of fiber, gas is produced in the colon, and in high fiber diets, you may see an increase in flatulence.
Since meal replacements shakes are high in fiber, it is not uncommon to experience gas as a side effect.
They Have High Levels of Sweeteners and Added Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, when broken down in the body, become sugars. Sugar alcohols are a kind of carbohydrate that is typically used to sweeten food and drinks.
A benefit of using this type of sugar is that it does not fully absorbed during digestion. That means it has less of an effect on your blood glucose levels.
However, as the sugar alcohols ferment in your intestines, they can create pockets of gas. By using meal replacements, you will be ingesting more sugar alcohol due to the higher levels of sweeteners and added carbohydrates.
They Contain Whey or Soy
Many meal replacements will contain whey or soy, and both are difficult to digest.
- Whey’s main source of carbohydrates comes from lactose. The number of lactose-intolerant people is quite high, but even those of us who aren’t can have trouble digesting it. By increasing your intake with meal replacement shakes, you might find that your body simply cannot process it.
- Soy contains carbohydrates, which some of us have trouble digesting. Unlike whey, soy contains no lactose and can be a good alternative for the lactose intolerant. But it does contain certain enzymes that make it very difficult to digest and can be the cause of gastric distress.
Drinking Your Shake Too Fast
According to Mayo Clinic, “gas in your stomach is primarily caused by swallowing air when you eat or drink.” If you consume your shake too quickly, you will likely be inhaling some air along the way, which can increase the gas in your stomach.
Similarly, if you are drinking too many shakes too quickly, you will find that your body is overloaded with protein, sugars, and lactose. In this case, your intestines won’t be able to digest everything, causing you to feel bloated and gassy.
How to Prevent Excessive Flatulence
It is possible that your shake is not to blame. Flatulence is common and can be caused by a change in diet, stress, over-eating, or food intolerance.
However, if you are looking at meal replacements, there are a few things you can do to prevent excessive flatulence:
- Look for alternatives. There are plenty of vegan, gluten-free products available. These will cut down on the levels of lactose and make them a little easier to digest. Similarly, check the labels and look for products with low sugar content.
- Don’t overmix your shake. Whether you are shaking your powder or blending it with some fruit, you are adding air to that mix. As discussed, drinking your shake too fast will increase the gasses in your stomach. This is similar and can be helped by low mixing and letting it settle before drinking.
- Take small sips or use a straw. Though they are designed for speed and convenience, try not to gulp down your shake. Use a straw or take small sips to control how much air you are taking in as you drink.
- Consider herbal teas. Adding certain herbal teas to your diet can help with bloating and gas issues. For example, ginger is known to help relieve digestive issues, such as cramping, bloating, and gas. Chamomile is used in a similar way to treat indigestion, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.
Meal replacement shakes can cause gas due to high fiber and carbohydrate contents, along with the inclusion of whey and/or soy, which some people find difficult to digest.
In order to prevent or reduce this gassy feeling, try different shakes with different ingredients to see how your body reacts.
You may find that you cannot properly digest whey, but are ok with soy. Otherwise, vegan and gluten-free options are available both online and in stores.
If you have issues with digestion in general, you may want to consider the following article: 8 Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Gastroparesis
My #1 Recommendation is the Beachbody Shakeology Shake (Order Shakeology Here)
Because it’s nutrient dense and contains the following core ingredients:
- Superfruits & Antioxidants
- Prebiotics & Probiotics
- Digestive Enzymes
- Supergreens & Phytonutrients
- Vitamins & Minerals
No other shake on the market currently offers as much nutrition as Shakeology. Several Shakeology reviews have stated improved digestive and overall health.
Best of all, Shakeology offers the following:
- NO Artificial Sweeteners
- NO Artificial Colors
- NO Artificial Flavors
- NO Artificial Preservatives
- They Do Offer Dairy-Free Options
- And Shakeology Is Certified to Have a Low-Glycemic Index
- Wikipedia: Lactose
- Wikipedia: Meal Replacement
- Healthline: Slimfast
- NutriBuddy: 10 Dubious Meal Replacement Shake Ingredients to Avoid
- GreenBelly: Meal Replacement Powders, Drinks, Mixes, and Shakes
- I Am Herbalife Nutrition: Meal Replacements or Protein Shakes? Choose What’s Right for You
- SoyLent: Meal Replacement Shake vs. Protein Shake | What’s the Difference?
- Diabetes: Sugar Alcohols
- Healthline: Does Too Much Whey Protein Cause Side Effects?
- Eat This: 14 Side Effects of Soy
- Healthline: Teas for Bloating
- NHS: Flatulence
- Mayo Clinic: Gas and gas pains