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Expert Advice: ‘Why Do Protein Bars Make Me Bloated, and How Do I Stop It?’

Certain ingredients cause problems in most people.

If you exercise often and want to build muscle, boosting your protein intake is crucial. Sometimes, it’s hard to reach your daily goal — especially if you’re on the go — so many fitness experts recommend adding a clean protein powder or protein bars to your routine. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done if you have a sensitive digestive tract. Many protein bars can leave you feeling gassy and bloated, and that bloat takes a long time to diminish. Why does this happen, and are there ways to eat alternative proteins like bars without getting that bloat? When one of our readers reached out with this question, we turned to Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD for answers.

Meet our expert panel.

Nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, are leading authorities on nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. They are also the bestselling authors of Rebuild Your Bones: The 12-Week Osteoporosis Protocol (available on Amazon). To ask them a question, send an email to

Why Protein Bars Cause Bloat

Q: I’m trying to cut back on unhealthy snacks, so I’ve started eating a protein bar when I get hungry after lunch. But it’s making me bloated and gassy. What gives?

A: The culprit is most likely sugar alcohols. These sweeteners are used in packaged foods like protein bars to add sweetness with fewer calories and have less of an impact on blood sugar than regular sugar does. The problem? They often cause digestive issues, including bloat and diarrhea.

To find out if a product contains these sweeteners, you need to read the packaging carefully. If the bar contains more than one “sugar alcohol,” you’ll see that term on the nutrition facts panel. But if the product has just one sugar alcohol, the nutrition facts may list it by name. Sugar alcohols typically end in -ol, so look there and in the ingredients list for words like glycerol, mannitol, sorbitol, or xylitol.

For a bar that won’t cause GI upset, opt for one sweetened with honey, stevia, or monk fruit. One we like: NuGo Protein Bar (available in most supermarkets).

FIRST Note: Whey protein can also cause bloat. To be on the safe side, opt for protein bars that contain whey protein isolate — this is a more refined version of whey that tends to cause fewer issues.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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