The smelly science behind protein farts
There’s one thing that both Reddit scientists and nutrition professionals can agree on: protein makes gains. Hard-boiled eggs and strip steaks help build muscle, but they also have the unintended side effect of making protein farts stink worse than your armpits after a workout.
According to this article, protein by itself does not appear to cause gas, according to Mike Shea, founder of Hierarchy Nutrition. It can, however, make your farts stink. What then causes the protein to induce a fart? How can you avoid farting after consuming a protein shake?
Certain proteins include sulfur, which when digested and metabolized produces an eye-watering gas. Others ferment in your stomach and release gases.
Eating the proper proteins that contain the right compounds in the right proportions is the greatest strategy to prevent episodes of gassiness that occur too frequently. Different compounds found in plant and animal protein sources may influence how frequently you experience gas and the stench that follows.
Meats and eggs
Sulfur is a mineral found in turkey, beef, eggs, and chicken. It is required for the synthesis of insulin as well as collagen and keratin, a protein that forms and strengthens skin, hair, and nails.
Additionally, sulfur is necessary for the synthesis and recycling of glutathione, a vital antioxidant that may help lower inflammation and stop oxidative stress-related cell damage.
According to Shea, the sulfurous smell of rotting eggs is caused by the breakdown and metabolism of animal proteins. This process can also lead to the formation of gas.
Sulfur is also present in some essential amino acids, such as methionine, which is found in animal protein, according to Shea. These amino acids’ sulfur content also plays a part in the generation of gas.
Lactose, a sugar present in milk, can also be found in yogurt, and certain dairy-based protein powders, such as some brands of whey concentrate and casein.
Lactose is transferred to your large intestine, where bacteria ferment the sugars, causing gas and bloating when your small intestine is unable to produce enough lactase, the digestive enzyme needed for your body to absorb lactose.
Animal-based protein powders and bars with flavors have a double gas punch since sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol are frequently used to sweeten them and your gut won’t easily digest these taste enhancers that are low in calories.
Short-chain carbs are found in plant protein sources such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas. They can go through your stomach and the small intestine may not absorb them well. The gut bacteria in your large intestine ferment these when they get there in order to use them as fuel, which results in the production of gasses like carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. Certain gases are recycled by bacteria, some are released through breathing, others are absorbed, and some are forced out of your body through expulsion.
Plant foods like oats include soluble fiber, which is a type of fiber that dissolves in water to create a gel-like substance that slows down digestion and may cause an increase in gas because it is more fermentable.
Because the soluble fiber has been removed during processing, plant-based protein powders are less likely to produce gas than whole food plant sources, according to Shea.
However, Shea notes that if your plant-based powder has sugar alcohols added for flavoring, it may cause protein flatulence.
Change your protein powder
Whey isolate is the better option if you enjoy whey protein.
“Whey isolate protein contains less lactose, carbohydrates, and fat than whey concentrate”, Shea says.
That could be a huge help if you have trouble digesting lactose. A whey isolate is frequently tolerated by certain individuals who are lactose intolerant, according to Shea.
Try a lactose-free plant-based protein powder like pea protein if dairy doesn’t sit well with you. An added benefit: you won’t consume less protein. Up to 20 grams of protein for every 100 calories can be found in one scoop of pea protein isolate powder, which is comparable to the quantity found in most whey isolate powders.
Certain herbs could calm and control your upset stomach. An increasing amount of research has shown that peppermint relieves indigestion, gas, and calms stomach muscles. Ginger may help with digestion, preventing food from fermenting and making you feel bloated in your stomach.
According to Shea, psyllium husk—a fiber that keeps you regular by soaking up water in your stomach—may lessen flatulence.
Psyllium decreased inulin-related gas generation in 19 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a small study published in the journal Gut, but it did not directly slow down fermentation.
Eliminate gas-inducing carbs
There are other factors than a high protein diet that can cause foul-smelling farts. Certain carbohydrates include sugars like fructose, which can be found in some whole wheat and oat morning cereals, and raffinose, which is mostly found in beans but is also present in smaller amounts in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. You may become bloated and gassy if your digestive enzymes aren’t working well enough to break down these sugars.
Don’t eat quickly
If you breathe in more air when you swallow your meal or drink your protein shake all at once, there’s only one way this can come out if you’re not burping it out.
“Eat slowly and close your mouth while you chew. This reduces how much air you take in and decreases your chances of flatulence”, Shea says.
The right protein dose
People frequently overindulge in protein, especially protein powders, when they alter their diet or workout regimen, according to Shea.
Protein powders are frequently overeaten, and if you ingest more protein than your body requires, you may get protein farts. Eating one gram of protein for every pound of body weight each day is a typical guideline.
If you want to increase muscle mass while reducing gas, divide your daily protein consumption into four to six smaller, more regular meals.
For gym gains, “you want a steady intake of amino acids periodically throughout your day”, says Shea. “Leucine is in all animal proteins and catalyzes muscle protein synthesis which signals growth and muscle repair”.
Because plant-based proteins generally include fewer essential amino acids, animal proteins have higher levels of leucine than proteins from plants. Leucine supplements may aid in optimizing muscle building if you’ve gone vegan or switched to a plant-based powder.
Protein farts are not so much a health issue as they are an embarrassing annoyance. Your flatulence might disappear if you switch up your protein powder, incorporate herbs into your diet, eat mindfully, and keep an eye on how much protein you consume.
See your doctor or speak with a gastroenterologist if you continue to get protein farts along with symptoms like diarrhea, cramping, bloating, or abdominal pain, advises Shea. You may have an intestine disorder like lactose intolerance or IBS, which calls for further medical guidance.