Are you struggling with gas after chugging down that protein shake? Well, you're not alone! The question on everyone's mind is - Why does protein make you fart?
Although it's a common issue that many gym-goers face, it can be downright embarrassing. Imagine being in the middle of an intense workout, and suddenly, you let out a loud fart! Not exactly a confidence booster, is it?
I will tell you more about the science behind why protein powder makes you fart and what you can do to minimize gas and discomfort. So, grab a protein shake, sit back, and let's get started!
What Causes Protein Farts? (Reasons Why Explained)
There are a few reasons protein shakes can make you pass gas.
First, let's get one thing straight - farting is a natural bodily function. It's nothing to be ashamed of! In fact, did you know that the average person passes gas more than 10 times every day?
So, if you're letting out a few extra toots after consuming protein powder, it's not necessarily a cause for concern.
Now, to answer the burning question - Why does protein powder and other protein sources make you fart? The simple answer is that protein supplements contain a lot of lactose, which can be difficult for your body to digest.
Yes, the most popular type of protein - whey contains lactose, although the amount varies. Lactose is a sugar that many people have difficulty digesting, especially if they are lactose intolerant.
Protein farts may suggest that you can’t fully digest lactose. Switching to a lactose-free protein powder is a good option.
The same goes for fiber, especially in certain types of plant-based protein powders. When your gut microbiome can't digest these substances properly, bacteria in your gut produces gas as a byproduct, which leads to farting.
Think of it like this - when you eat a high-fiber meal, you may feel more gassy than usual.
This is because fiber is not easily digestible and ferments in your gut, producing gas.
The presence of sulfur is another common reason, although no evidence exists that a protein causes increased gas.
Be aware of additives. If you see artificial sweeteners, thickeners, and other food additives on the key ingredient list, know that that product has a greater chance of upsetting your stomach than those with a shorter label.
Check for certain sugars and cysteine as well. Certain proteins contain cysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid. Research suggests (and anecdotal evidence) it can produce very smelly farts- hydrogen sulfide.
Also, don't immediately blame the protein products. Consider whether you have added something new to your diet or started a new eating regime. Any change can disturb the gastrointestinal tract until it gets used to it.
How Long Does Whey Protein Make You Bloated?
Some of my clients have complained that protein shakes make them feel bloated and they can't pass gas, but usually, that feeling will last only a few hours until most of the digestion process is finished.
It rarely happens to last all day. I know that sensation is very unpleasant, and I have also experienced it several times with protein powders that did not suit me, but you have to be patient.
If bloating lasts longer, you have severe cramps or have to run to the toilet after consuming it. Pay attention to other symptoms and digestive conditions.
Due to unhealthy food and pollution, diseases such as ulcerative colitis are on the rise, so you should not ignore the symptoms and expect them to go away on their own.
As for getting used to protein powder and stopping gas and bloating, it is very individual. I once read that our digestive system changes every few weeks or even days.
Therefore, the duration of adaptation will vary significantly between individuals. If the situation is not better even after a month, another underlying problem may exist.
8 Ways To Help Prevent Gas From Protein
Luckily, you don't have to choose between passing the wind constantly and giving up protein shakes.
Now that you've increased your protein intake, you need to take some (or all) of the following steps to get rid of protein farts.
Be patient since this problem probably won't go away overnight, but eventually, you will notice improvement.
1. Increase Fiber Intake
A high-fiber diet can increase gas but also help you eliminate that problem. Since many people do not consume the required amount of fiber daily, this affects digestion.
It is desirable to consume at least 30 grams of fiber per day through high-quality sources such as avocados, broccoli, fruits (bananas, raspberries, apples), carrots, nuts, chickpeas, and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, oats.)
In this way, you will make sure that food does not remain in the gut for too long, affecting excess gas and smell.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Do you drink an ounce of water for each pound of body weight? Most people don't do that, so they are mildly dehydrated throughout the day.
It would take me a separate article to explain all the far-reaching consequences of insufficient water intake.
But now, I will focus only on the digestive tract. Water has a direct impact on breaking down and processing food in the small and large intestine.
If you don't drink enough water, you will be constipated and fart much more often than average.
3. Consider Probiotics
Probiotic supplements are life-savers whenever we have diarrhea and cramping. However, we should not forget to take supplements when everything is OK.
From time to time, you should use probiotic supplements and thus support healthy digestion. Take the probiotic about half an hour before the protein shake, and you may not experience protein farts.
4. Limit Certain Foods
Many tasty foods like beans, onions, cabbage, and corn can wreak havoc in your stomach. If you consume them regularly, it is possible that the protein powder is not to blame for "room-clearing farts."
I'm not saying you should eliminate those foods from your diet, but limit their intake. When you eat such food, chew even more.
Chewing is the first part of digestion, and that's how you make it easier for your digestive system.
5. Take Digestive Enzymes
Protein supplement manufacturers tend to add digestive enzymes, but of course, it cannot be as effective (because of the amount) as when you take the digestive enzyme separately.
Digestive enzymes will help you break down protein more efficiently and, at the same time, take most of it while preventing gas.
Since the body produces the best digestive enzymes, you should not rely solely on supplements.
6. Adjust Protein Intake
I know it's very tempting to chase your bodybuilding and fitness goals. Once you start to build muscle mass, you will constantly want to eat more protein (egg whites, meat) and more carbs, and do at least one set more at the gym.
I've been there, done that, and there is nothing wrong with a high-protein diet.
However, you should be moderate because our kidneys and the rest of the body will not be happy if they are burdened with too much protein (and other food).
7. Add More Herbs to Your Diet
We often forget that certain herbs (nature) offer us a solution to many problems. Different types of teas and spices can do wonders.
I often drink peppermint tea and add a piece of ginger. In addition to being delicious, it is very beneficial for digestion. You can add powdered ginger to food for a similar effect.
8. OTC medicines
Over-the-counter medicines are a quick and effective solution to relieve excess gas when farting becomes unbearable or you have an important event.
You can go with charcoal or choose one of the substances that mechanically break down gas bubbles to ease flatulence. Read the instruction to learn when and whether you can use it several days in a row.
Does The Type Of Protein Powder Affect Protein Farts?
The type of protein powder can undoubtedly affect the intensity and frequency of protein farts due to food intolerances.
For example, if you have no problem digesting milk and dairy products, whey protein will probably be pleasant to you and vice versa (lactose intolerance.)
Isolate protein is a good option for lactose intolerance since it contains less lactose after a long filtration process.
The same applies to plant-based protein powders. If your diet is primarily based on vegetables and fruits, the gut bacteria is used to digest fiber, and the occurrence of gas will be reduced.
However, pea protein, for example, can cause problems if you rarely consume legumes.
All this implies that if one protein shake causes you terrible flatulence, it does not automatically mean that some other type will too. Experiment until you find the ideal one since not all whey protein is created equal.
Pay attention to the manufacturers because the additives are different, and often sugar alcohols and other cause protein farts rather than the protein itself.
Protein Farts Frequently Asked Questions
In most cases, the sulfur contained in most animal proteins is the culprit for a particularly disgusting smell. Disturbed gut microbiota can also be the cause, so if this phenomenon continues, consult a gastroenterologist.
Protein farts are not good or bad per se. Usually, passing gas does not indicate anything bad regarding digestive health; they are just a side effect of protein digestion. If you suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or lactose intolerance, the problems can be more than inconvenient.
It's hard to say how much protein is exactly "too much" since bodybuilders can consume close to 300 grams daily, while for regular adults, between 100 and 150 grams is just right. However, your stomach will be a good indicator of too-high-amounts since you will experience bloating, excess gas, dehydration, nausea, and diarrhea if you eat too much. And not just the stomach, but your skin can have issues, too.
Consuming smaller doses of most protein powders can certainly contribute to preventing protein farts or at least make you less gassy from protein. So, eat smaller meals and drink half a scoop of protein powder. Yet, that doesn't always have to be the case. For people who are sensitive to some of the ingredients of protein supplements, even a small dose can cause increased flatulence.
It is totally normal to experience protein farts after consuming many protein powders, so you don't have to worry if there are no accompanying symptoms. Try another product or brand if you feel significant discomfort and digestive problems after drinking the post-workout shake. If that doesn't help either, talk to a doctor.
I understand how frustrating it can be to deal with excessive gas after consuming protein powder.
With the proper knowledge and a few simple tweaks to your diet, you can find the perfect balance of protein and other nutrients to support your fitness goals without the annoying side effects.
Remember, farting is a perfectly normal and natural bodily function. The average person farts often, so don't be too hard on yourself!