Protein farts: do protein powder and shakes cause flatulence?

Picture this: you’re on the gym floor, you’ve done the right thing by your body and your gains by drinking your daily protein shake, you’re getting ready to smash a personal best on your deadlift and.... Oops, you’ve managed to let out a silent but violent fart you’re pretty sure the guy next to you can smell. 

According to research, most people fart around 14 times a day - but this may increase if you’re supplementing with protein. Although a high protein diet itself isn’t linked to increased flatulence, the protein shakes you’re consuming might just be the culprit (you can learn more about potential the side effects of protein powder here). Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon them altogether, as it’s actually the type of protein you’re ingesting rather than the amount (or the fact that it’s in supplement form).

What causes protein farts?

There are lots of reasons why you might be flatulating more than normal, and this usually comes down to bad digestion - although what can trigger bad digestion varies from person to person. 

For a lot of people, however, consuming whey-based supplements, the most common type of protein added to powders, can lead to gassiness or bloating. Whey contains a high amount of lactose, which can cause you to fart if you don’t do well digesting it. There are alternatives to whey which are less likely to cause you issues: protein sources like pea, hemp or brown rice tend to be easier to digest. 

And it’s not just whey that can cause bad farts. Many protein powders also contain artificial ingredients, additives and sweeteners to improve the flavour - but wreak havoc on your digestive system. Recent research has shown that artificial ingredients can change the balance of bacteria in your gut, and while the effects may vary from person to person, they’re probably best avoided.

How do I avoid protein farts?

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to avoid flatulence caused by your protein shakes. You can use protein powders to help you reach your fitness goals without clearing the gym floor. 

Whey is a key ingredient in many protein products, but many people find it hard to digest, finding that it triggers flatulence, bloating, diarrhoea, cramping and other stomach/gut issues. The best way to avoid this is to opt for a plant-based protein powder. Although beans, grains and legumes can also make you fart, you’re less likely to be sensitive to plant-based ingredients (after all, around 60% of the population have trouble digesting lactose, whilst far fewer people have issues with pea or hemp, for example). 

The majority of protein shakes also contain artificial ingredients to improve taste, which you definitely want to avoid. Choose a less processed protein shake with natural sweeteners like stevia, which is easier on the stomach than other sweeteners. You can also opt for a protein powder with digestive enzymes, which will help your body absorb the protein. Our plant-based protein powder PERFORM is made with gently fermented yellow pea protein for superior digestion and also contains a herbal digestive enzyme complex to support healthy digestion and faster absorption. Check out our What’s In Your Protein Powder guide for more on this. 

If you have a particularly sensitive stomach, you might also want to consider adding certain herbs to your diet. Herbs such as ginger and peppermint can help relieve excess gas, cramping and bloating, so it may be worth sipping on a ginger or peppermint tea to help soothe your stomach. 

And if, after these tips, you’re still experiencing significantly more farts than the average 14 a day, you might want to go back to basics and look at how quickly you’re drinking your protein shake. Yes, your Banana & Cinnamon shake might be delicious (or you might be downing it in a rush), but drinking it too quickly can make you swallow excess air, creating more gas. Make sure you sip your shake slowly, and you can also take over the counter remedies such as activated charcoal to help ease flatulence. 

Protein farts can be annoying, but they’re rarely dangerous. A lot of people find that their protein powder makes them fart when they first start taking protein supplements, but the chances are lower when you opt for a non-whey based snack. If, however, you continue to have issues with intestinal gas, always consult a doctor, so that they can rule out other digestive conditions.