I’ve tried dozens of vegan protein powders, and in general, they give me far less gas than before I was vegan and drank whey shakes.
Avoiding the dairy in the protein powder, plus not mixing it with milk reduces gas for most.
But still, I’ve seem many vegans still struggle with the dreaded “protein farts,” even when using plant-based powders.
There are 5 main reasons that you still might be having stomach problems.
1. You Need to Give it Time
Whenever you make a big change in your diet, it takes your body time to adapt.
If you’ve just recently started drinking protein shakes, or increased the amount you drink, your body may just be in an adjusting period.
Give is 2-3 weeks, and if you’re still having issues, it’s likely one of the other reasons.
2. You’re Not Spreading Out Your Protein Intake
Protein can be digested by your body in 2 ways.
The preferable one, that accounts for the vast majority of digestion, is to have your small intestine break down the protein into amino acids, which can then be absorbed.
But if you’re consuming a lot of protein in a short period of time (say 100+ grams in just a few hours), only a portion can be broken down by the small intestine.
The rest of the protein goes to the colon (part of the large intestine), where it’s digested by microbes. These produce hydrogen sulfide gas that smells terrible, and which you have to expel somehow (i.e. by farting).
The solution? Spread out your protein intake as much as possible. Start as early as possible, and end as late as possible. Certain diets like intermittent fasting limit your ability to do this, but do your best.
3. It Could Be the Rest of Your Diet
If you’re consuming protein shakes and relatively unhealthy/non-nutritious food, the gas is likely to be even worse.
In particular, getting enough fiber can be helpful as will compete for digestion resources in the large intestine, limiting how fast gas is produced by any protein that made it that far.
4. You Could Be Sensitive to the Ingredients
When we think of food giving us gas, we typically think of things like dairy as the obvious ones.
But some people are sensitive to ingredients they never even thought of, and it doesn’t become clear until they eat them in a concentrated dose.
A certain type of plant protein (e.g. soy, brown rice, pea, quinoa, etc.) could be giving you issues. You can try a different plant-based powder if this is the issue.
The more common food sensitivity is sugar alcohols. These are the sweeteners that are often added to protein powders, like erythritol (they all end in “ol). See if your powder has any that could be giving you issues.
And while it’s not common, some people do have issues with stevia, which is in most vegan protein powders. An unflavored alternative is your best bet if you think this is the case.
5. None of the Above: It Could Be an Unrelated Condition
It’s possible that you’ve had an issue that contributes to flatulence long before you started drinking protein shakes.
But because you’ve heard of “protein farts” before, now you’re paying a little more attention to them.
Or, they could truly be worse, but it’s not just the protein powder, the shakes are just exacerbating an underlying issue like IBS or other food sensitivities.
You can experiment with your diet yourself if you’d like and it’s not a huge issue, but this is probably the point where you should go see your doctor and try to figure out if there is any other issue that could be causing your stomach problems.