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Can protein powders promote flatulence?

Farts are a taboo subject. But why is that? Because farting is completely normal. Without them, our digestion would not function properly. Everyone usually lets out a fart 10-20 times a day. In this context, the topic often arises that athletes and bodybuilders who consume a lot of protein have to fart more often and that the gases smell particularly bad (affectionately known in fitness circles as protein farts). But what is the truth of this statement?

Table of contents
  • Why do we fart
  • ? When do farts stink
  • Why protein powder can cause flatulence
  • What to do about flatulence caused by protein powder

Why do we fart

Farting is a natural and healthy process in our body. Gases are produced in three different places as a kind of exhaust gas: firstly in the oesophagus when air is swallowed, in the small intestine when fats are digested and stomach acid is neutralized and secondly in the large intestine when indigestible carbohydrates (fibre) are metabolized by intestinal bacteria. The majority of gases are exhaled via the lungs, with only around a fifth being transported by the large intestine towards the bottom.

If we have to fart excessively often during the day, this is known as flatulence.

When do farts smell?

Most gases are odorless. Farts only start to stink when the intestines digest a lot of food containing fiber and sulfur. This produces hydrogen sulphide, which causes the foul-smelling odor. Sulphur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and methionine are particularly responsible for this.

Why protein powder can lead to bloating

1. you eat too little fiber

An insufficient intake of fiber can also lead to "bloating". The reason behind this: Dietary fiber has a positive effect on digestion. They help to move food through the intestines more quickly.

In general, the longer it takes the body to break down food components, the more putrefactive gases are produced - and the more severe the bloating. This also applies to proteins: the longer proteins remain in the intestine, the more bacteria can use them as food and thus promote foul-smelling gas production.

Sufficient fiber should therefore be consumed daily to speed up intestinal transit. The German Nutrition Society recommends a daily intake of 30 g. However, it is better to increase the amount of fiber slowly, as larger amounts can also lead to bloating. Legumes and various cabbage vegetables in particular are known for their flatulent effect. However, as the intestinal flora is constantly adapting, it is flexible and can get used to the higher intake of fiber. It just needs a little time to do so.

Remember: Fiber leads to increased gas formation. However, this can be reduced as much as possible through regular daily intake.

2. you have the wrong protein powder

There are many different protein sources that are part of protein powders. Whey protein in particular, which is most commonly used in sports, often leads to bloating. The lactose contained in whey protein powder can lead to digestive problems in the event of intolerance. The lactose cannot be broken down properly in the small intestine due to the lack of the enzyme lactase and thus enters the large intestine. There the sugar is broken down by the intestinal bacteria, which in turn leads to flatulence and diarrhea. Around 15% of Germans are affected by lactose intolerance. In this case, we recommend switching to a vegan protein powder.

Note: If you are lactose intolerant, you should of course not mix your protein shake with cow's milk either, but use plant-based drinks instead.

But it's not just whey protein that can lead to bloating; wheat or soy protein can also cause digestive problems. If you have an intolerance to soy or gluten, for example, these protein sources should be avoided. In such cases, hypoallergenic protein sources can be used, such as pea protein, rice protein or a combination of both (as in our pea and rice protein powder).

You can find out how much protein you need per day in our blog post: Do BCAAs help you lose weight?

3. you swallow too much air when drinking

Most athletes want a protein shake that is very creamy and foams up nicely. The only catch is that mixing the protein powder in a shaker or blender creates an emulsion with protein structures and air pockets. This means that more air enters the gastrointestinal tract through the protein shake than through other foods. This air can increase farts.

If you also swallow the shake quickly, the effect is even greater. You should therefore drink protein shakes slowly to prevent excessive air swallowing.

4. you are consuming too many sugar substitutes

As you are probably already aware, excessive consumption of sugar substitutes can lead to gastrointestinal complaints. This is because sugar substitutes have a hygroscopic (water-attracting) effect. This means that they liquefy the stool and cause diarrhea and flatulence. Sorbitol, erythritol or xylitol, for example, can have a laxative effect in high quantities.

If you frequently suffer from gastrointestinal complaints, you should avoid protein powder with the sugar substitutes mentioned above.

What to do about flatulence caused by protein powder

  1. Eat more fiber
  2. Slowly increase the amount of protein
  3. Eat more spices such as ginger, turmeric, fennel, aniseed, caraway and peppermint, as these have a positive effect on digestion. Our vent contains all of these spices in just one product.
  4. Switch to hypoallergenic protein powders, such as our pea rice protein or our organic pea protein
  5. Drink your shake slowly and take it easy

Note: If you suffer from bloating over a longer period of time and have symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramps, constipation, nausea or vomiting, you should definitely have your symptoms checked out by your doctor.