The Big Lie About Protein Farts: How to Make Gains Without Gas
If there's one thing gym bros and doctors agree on, it's that a high-protein diet is essential to build muscle. When you start chugging protein shakes and chowing down on chicken every day, you might see some gains.
But there's a tradeoff for those gains—a very stinky one, indeed: protein farts.
Ripping diabolical protein farts is a rite of passage in the bodybuilding community. There are countless YouTube videos and lengthy online forums devoted to the phenomenon.
"How do you deal with protein farts?" asks one desperate Redditor. "It's honestly an issue for me…it smells literally like a decomposing body."
It's not your imagination. Protein farts are definitely a thing—but it's not for the reason you think.
What Causes Protein Farts?
Many people assume that eating a lot of protein is what causes their excess gas. But there's no evidence for that. It's actually the source of your protein that determines how often you pass gas (and how bad it smells).
Protein is a nutrient, and nutrients don't have much impact on flatulence. Instead, specific compounds in high-protein foods can make farts smell worse than usual.
The most common culprit of nasty farts is sulfur, which is found in most animal proteins like poultry, fish, beef, pork, and dairy products (including that protein powder in your pantry). Sulfur is generally harmless, but it makes your gas smell like rotten eggs.
Eating a lot of meat can also cause protein farts because it takes a long time to break down in your digestive tract. The more it ferments in your gut, the stinkier it gets when it comes out the other end.
In many cases, it's not the type of protein you're eating that gives you gas—it's the additives. Sugar alcohols like sorbitol, erythritol, glycerol, and xylitol can satisfy your sweet tooth without adding extra calories. But your large intestine can't break them down, which can cause bloating, cramping, and of course, flatulence.
3 Ways to Tame Your Protein Farts
Some trainers recommend eating one gram of protein per pound of body weight if you're going hard in the gym. Here are a few tips to increase your protein intake without increasing the intensity of your farts.
1. Switch Your Protein Products
Most of the protein powders on the market are made with whey protein, a by-product of cheese production. But not all protein powder is created equal.
Some whey protein is made from concentrates, which have high levels of lactose that can give you the rumbles. Alternatively, whey isolate protein powders have less lactose because they're made with a long filtration process. This might be easier on your gut.
This did the trick for one Redditor who claims he doesn't get protein farts: "I buy the isolate protein and mix it with unsweetened almond milk since I'm lactose intolerant."
If you're still gassy, try a powder with a non-dairy protein source like soy or pea protein.
Don't forget about your protein bars too. Many of those contain whey protein, plus they're loaded with artificial sweeteners—the perfect storm for room-clearing farts.
2. Eat More Fiber
Since some proteins (specifically meat) take more time for your body to break down, make sure you're eating enough fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Remember, the longer food stays in your gut, the smellier your gas gets.
Eating more fiber also relieves constipation, which is expected if you eat a ton of protein, but not much else. Men should aim for 30-38 grams of fiber per day, which you can get from fruits, veggies, and complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole grains.
3. Take a Probiotic
Probiotics are healthy bacteria in your gut that promote digestive health. Probiotic supplements can relieve tummy troubles like diarrhea, cramping, and excessive gas. Look for products that contain bifidobacterium and lactobacillus—the two strains that have been demonstrated to be the most helpful.
The key is to use probiotic supplements regularly, not just when you're farting up a storm. For example, you can take them with your post-workout shake to make a habit out of it.
Should You Ever Worry About Protein Farts?
Farting is totally normal and healthy. If it makes you feel any better, the average person farts 14 times per day (yes, that includes girls).
That said, if you're experiencing chronic abdominal pain or have trouble pooping, get in touch with your doctor to rule out GI issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
You can also talk to a dietitian or a nutritionist about a meal plan to get the nutrients you need without upsetting your stomach.
Make Gains Without the Gas
Building muscle and eating healthy is tough enough. The last thing you need is to be plagued by the stench of protein farts. Fortunately, you can get your fitness flatulence in check with some simple diet modifications.
Don't be the dude who crop-dusts the gym or office every day. Ditch the whey concentrate and add fiber and probiotics so you can get cut without cutting the cheese.