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I’m guessing you arrived here for one of two reasons. Either you saw the title and asked yourself—what the heck are protein farts?
Or you’re currently suffering from these bouts of flatulence and want to know—how to stop protein farts?
This article is going to use the word “farts” a lot. We could skirt around the issue and call them butt dumplings, Heiney hiccups or trouser trumpets—but we’re all adults so I will be calling them exactly what they are—farts. Get any of the giggling out of the way now!
Down to business.
Whether you’ve experienced protein farts as a third party, or are the main proponent at your gym—protein farts are the scourge of the bodybuilding and fitness community. They’re distinctive by their powerful odor and otherworldly ability to hang around for an unfeasibly long period of time.
At best, they’re an annoyance—at worst, they’re highly embarrassing. There’s nothing worse than being spotted by the guy or girl you’re trying to impress and letting out a fart that’s probably illegal under the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention (1).
I know what it’s like. Hence, I have put together this article to solve the problem once and for all—finally answering the question, how to get rid of protein farts? while still allowing you to chug back the protein.
Why Does Protein Make You Fart so Much?
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to know about protein farts. The commonly held belief that high-protein foods—such as beans—cause flatulence is true. This is mainly due to the fact that they contain raffinose, a carbohydrate that the body cannot digest (2).
While it remains sat within the digestive tract, the body’s acids have little effect on it other than allowing it to ferment—and, as any home-moonshine makers will know, fermentation produces a lot of gas. So, in order to prevent bloating and pain, these gases are expelled (3).
Additionally, protein farts can be caused by the type of protein being ingested. Some proteins, such as casein, are particularly slow digesting. Found in milk and animal meat, these steady-burning proteins are ideal for the bodybuilder as they remain in the system for a long period of time and therefore provide extended muscle-building effects.
However, this aspect makes them particularly conducive for protein farts. Slow digesting proteins make their way to the colon, where the body breaks them down with enzymes. As they remain there for many hours, it’s a hell of a lot of chemical reactions with one flatulence-particular result—they produce hydrogen sulfide (4, 5).
This (literally) toxic gas is so potent, it can be smelt in concentrations of 0.0005 to 0.3 parts per million. If too much is inhaled, it can provide eye and throat irritation, cause breathing difficulties and in extreme circumstances make you pass out. But, in general farting terms—the main issue is that it smells damn awful, like really bad rotting eggs.
But, there is one further way that protein farts occur—and this is due to the common form they are ingested by bodybuilders—protein shakes.
Why Do Protein Shakes Cause Gas?
This is mainly down to one reason—lactose. The most popular protein supplements are whey powders—made from milk. While there are some with a low lactose content, others are packed full of this annoying sugar.
Here’s the truth. A massive 65 percent of the worldwide population has issues digesting lactose, up to a shocking 90 percent in those of East Asian heritage (6).
Studies have shown that this intolerance leads to gas being produced during the digestive process, mainly hydrogen and methane. So, mix those together with the hydrogen sulfide that I already mentioned and that’s one powerfully unpleasant protein fart recipe (7).
Are Protein Farts Good or Bad?
Let’s start with the good.
If you’re witnessing a rapid increase in your protein fart production—take it as a positive. This means your body is becoming loaded with protein—one of the most essential macronutrients for the bodybuilder. This is due to their ability to:
- Build muscle (8).
- Shed fat through thermogenesis and reduce the production of the hunger causing hormone ghrelin (9, 10).
- Provide the same amount of energy as carbohydrates (11).
- Improve the transport of minerals and oxygen to muscles (12).
However, if you or your gym-buddies are on the receiving end of these protein farts, that can only be bad. It does little for your reputation. Although I guess that one enormous fart, expelled in the right direction, could be used to free up a particular piece of gym equipment and reduce your waiting time.
Also, they can ruin your performance. If you’re feeling bloated and uncomfortable, it can prevent you from concentrating on performing to your limit, reducing your bodybuilding results.
So, that still leaves us with the question, how to get rid of protein farts?
How to Stop Protein Farts
Well, the obvious way is to cut back on the protein intake. While this may be acceptable for the average Joe/Josephine on the street, it’s not ideal if you are looking to make impressive muscle gains.
So, I have put together what I consider the best ways to cut back on the protein farts while keeping intake of this nutrient at optimum levels.
1. Watch Out for Sugar Alcohols
Often when supplementing or watching the diet, we are inadvertently increasing our intake of sugar alcohols. These substances, such as sorbitol or xylitol, are regularly included as a low-fat alternative to sugar in protein shakes and bars (13).
However, the body cannot easily digest these sugars, and like lactose, they are a source of intolerance in many people. Studies have indicated that sugar alcohols can be a cause of intestinal distress—causing diarrhea, bloating, and excessive gas production (14).
Hence, look for products that either omit these compounds entirely or include low doses.
- Stevia is an excellent alternative to sugar, that’s easily digestible.
2. Consume Fiber
One of the main mantras associated with bodybuilding diets is—high protein, low carbohydrate. While effective for building muscle and reducing fat accumulation, this creates the perfect storm for protein fart production.
We have already seen how protein intake causes flatulence, but this is exacerbated by low carb intake. Many carbohydrate-rich foods are high in fiber (bread, potatoes, and oats for example)—the lack of this nutrient can worsen gas symptoms.
Fiber is essential for digestion, encouraging waste products to pass through the digestive tract and then be expelled. A lack of this nutrient often leads to constipation (15).
If bodily waste is allowed to remain in the system, it continues to ferment and therefore produces more gas in addition to that already being created by the protein. So, in order to alleviate this situation, consume more fiber (16).
- Don’t assume that by consuming carbohydrates you’re going to ruin your lean physique—carbs are essential for energy; without them, the body will consume proteins which can lead to muscle loss (17).
- Introduce fiber slowly—too much at once can have the opposite effect and cause flatulence (18).
3. Take Probiotics Alongside Your Protein
Your body needs all the help it can to increase protein digestion—one of the most effective ways is to use probiotics.
These supplements increase the number of healthy bacteria within the gut—boosting its overall efficiency and reducing the likelihood of protein powder farts (19).
Containing live strains of benefit-specific bacteria, they provide a more potent dose than that provided through dietary methods, such as consuming yogurt or kefir.
When selecting your probiotic, look for those that contain the fart-diffusing Bifidobacterium bifidum, lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium longum. Here’s a short video, explaining how probiotics work.
- For the probiotics to be effective, they have to be alive and remain that way as they travel through the digestive tract—choose probiotics that have a long shelf life and have an enteric coating to protect them from digestive juices.
4. Choose a Lifestyle That Doesn’t Promote Gas
The more gas you have, the more likely you are to fart—offsetting the effects of protein is only half of the battle. Reducing other flatulence-causing aspects of your lifestyle can reduce abdominal gas to the minimum.
Firstly, if you smoke—stop, or at least cut down. Not only is it damaging to the health and can impair the building of muscle, but it has also been shown to increase the volume of air and carbon dioxide in your body (20).
Secondly, drop the carbonated sodas. Packed full of gas, all they are going to do is bloat you and increase your chances of releasing a protein filled bomb as you knock out that final rep. What’s more, they’re packed full of sugar and will do little to enhance your physique.
Thirdly, forget about the chewing gum. It may freshen your breath but it can cause your butt to stink. The process of chewing while breathing means a lot of the time you are simply swallowing air—boosting your gut gas.
How to Prevent Gas From Protein Shakes
As the source of most protein farts is the shakes and powders commonly used to increase intake of this nutrient, they deserve some special attention on their own.
These supplements provide ways to raise protein consumption to levels that may be difficult with diet alone—as such, they are a useful weapon in many bodybuilders’ arsenals. If chosen and consumed correctly, their unwanted gas-causing effects can be minimized.
1. Choose the Correct Whey Protein
Whey protein farts can be dramatically reduced if the right type of whey is consumed—they’re not all the same.
Generally, they come in two forms—concentrate and isolate. The former is the least modified of all the wheys, making it the cheapest, but not the best. With most of the milk ingredient unchanged, it’s usually high in fat and carbohydrates.
Whey isolate is the ideal supplement to consume if you are looking at reducing your whey protein farts. As the name suggests, the protein has been isolated, with the majority of lactose and fat removed (21).
What’s more, whey isolate has the benefits of not piling on excess weight (as the fat is eliminated) and being the most powerful muscle builder. It contains more of the essential amino acid, leucine—the protein which kick-starts muscle growth (22).
- Don’t be tempted by the expensive and highly manipulated hydrolyzed whey—while fast absorbing, it has been shown to cause spikes in insulin levels which can lead to fat accumulation (23, 24).
2. Carefully Select Your Mixing Drink
If you mix your protein powder with milk, you might want to have a re-think.
It’s somewhat counterproductive choosing the lactose-free whey isolate only then to mix it with lactose heavy cow’s milk—which will then result in protein shake farts. Instead, choose to dissolve it in an alternative such as water, almond, or soy milk—which do not include this sugar (25).
3. Take Care How You Mix Your Shake
It’s tempting to throw your protein powder into an electric blender to get that perfectly smooth texture—but this could be contributing to your protein shake farts.
The more vigorously the drink is mixed, the more air it will contain—which will make its way into your digestive tract and increase the amount of abdominal gas (26).
Instead, manually mix the drink slowly with a spoon or small whisk, or gently combine the ingredients with a hand shaker.
- If you are intent on using a blender—put it on its lowest setting and allow it to mix for longer than you normally would.
If we want to be successful in creating massive muscle through our weight training, we need protein. Without it, they simply will not rebuild, repair or grow. Yet, protein powder farts, or those from high-protein food ingestion, are unwanted.
When you push hard at the gym it’s important you are comfortable—neither suffering from the bloated feeling that flatulence provides, nor experiencing the embarrassment of a loud and potent fart.
How to get rid of protein farts? Well, following the steps above will help you achieve your bodybuilding goals, without being known as the smelliest guy or girl down at the gym.
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