How can I continue to bulk up when my supplement gives me flatulence from hell?
April 9, 2007 8:20 AM   Subscribe

How can I continue to bulk up when my supplement gives me flatulence from hell?

I am a skinny guy, who used to be 6' and 150 pounds. I've been trying to bulk up and get more muscular for a while now, but I don't gain weight easily at all. I eat a LOT - more than almost anyone I know - but it doesn't stick. My weight inched up to 160 pounds over a few years but nothing really seemed to work until I started mixing whey protein powder into drinks. I saw a difference in a month or two.

Unfortunately, after that time I also found myself experiencing the worst gas ever. I would silently release sulfuric fumes every five minutes or so - I'm not exaggerating. On a long distance car trip with my mother, we had to keep the window open even though we were driving through Vermont and snow was falling. Apparently whey protein does this to people sometimes.

Protein supplements have been discussed on AskMe many times before. The consensus, such as it is, seems to be that "hard gainers" need to take in a LOT of protein, and eat a lot, in order to gain mass, and whey protein generally seems to be the supplement of choice. I'm wary of switching to soy protein because of the objections raised in the other threads. Is there anything else I should be considering? Is there some way to make my body tolerate the whey protein without releasing the toxic fumes?

I'm 23 years old, male, I currently weight 165, and I work out 3 or 4 times a week.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by notsnot at 8:37 AM on April 9, 2007

Not all whey isolates are the same - have you tried switching brands? I have a preference for the Animal Pak range.

Also, try and get more dietary protein too - nuts, cottage cheese, ovaltine, lean meat etc.
posted by the cuban at 8:42 AM on April 9, 2007

yogurt, & other dairy products with several active cultures, always make my digestive sys happier when it's complaining. kefir by lifeways is the best, but if you can't find that greek yogurt or danon activa are good. (note: no experience using whey supplements, just a finicky digestive system.)
posted by ejaned8 at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2007

I would definitely try a different brand. You might try the clear protein supplements if you've been having trouble with the more shake-style ones. Isopure makes a clear fruit-flavored protein you can get at GNC. I like IDS New Whey protein vials too - they come in 25g and 42g formulations. They are still whey protein but maybe different enough to not cause problems.

Also, are you mixing with water or milk? If you mix with milk is there any chance you could be lactose-intolerant?
posted by cabingirl at 8:51 AM on April 9, 2007

Fish oil has this effect on people too - I don't know if you're including that in your regimen, but if so, cut back or switch to flaxseed oil.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:58 AM on April 9, 2007

What is your source of whey protein? Does it contain sugar alcohols? Because if it does, there's your answer.
posted by The Straightener at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2007

Whey is mostly lactose, and bad, sulfuric gas can be a symptom of lactose intolerance. The easiest way to test this theory would be to try taking some Lactaid with your supplement and see if it makes a difference.
posted by ourobouros at 9:04 AM on April 9, 2007

You can buy bottles of "digestive" enzymes at most health food and grocery stores. Whenever I start taking a lot of protein, I have the same problem, but the pills solve it.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:13 AM on April 9, 2007

As well as everything mentioned above, you might try egg protein powder instead of the whey as it has no lactose present which is often the culprit in cases like these.
posted by Durin's Bane at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2007

ourobouros has it. I have digestive distress from dairy products, and Lactaid makes it all better. It just gives you the enzyme you need to properly digest milk/whey/whatever.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2007

You could also try soy protein. I use it, and it's never given me any problems. People prefer whey protein because it promotes water retention and makes the muscles look bigger--it doesn't actually promote strength gain any better than a soy protein supplement.
posted by Anonymous at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2007

I've had that problem with whey powders before also. One brand I've used recently that has not caused the same problem is "Muscle Milk."
posted by dnash at 10:31 AM on April 9, 2007

I'm 24, 5'11, 175lbs. I started at 5'11 120lbs.

Just eat more food. Eating "more than almost anyone you know" really means nothing, because no one you know is trying to gain weight with your genetics, so you can't compare your diet to the diet of an average person. How regular people eat and how you used to eat is a joke compared to how you need to eat.

There is nothing special about protein powder. It's just a drinkable version of chicken or tuna fish. It has no magic weight gain qualities to it that a high protein whole food doesn't have. It's just a little more convenient.

So, if it gives you gas (for the record, I've never heard of anyone being on any kind of weight gain diet and NOT complaining about terrible gas) then just eat more whole food instead.

It comes down to this... your body needs X amount of calories per day to stay at the weight you are currently at. Eat less than X and you lose weight. Eat more than X and you gain weight. That's it. No supplements needed.
posted by creative at 10:49 AM on April 9, 2007

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posted by Roger Dodger at 11:01 AM on April 9, 2007

Best answer: i am in a similar boat. i'm a "hard-gainer" and tend to drink 2-3 shakes a day. for the folks suggesting the poster eat more 'regular' food, this is probably not such an option.

if youre trying to gain weight, and youre a hard-gainer, you would have to eat like its a full-time job in order to do so with traditional foods. with the protein shakes, you can eat a steak's worth of protein after eating a steak, but you couldnt probably stomach just eating two steaks.

the damn things give me gas, too. which i'll get on occasion from drinking milk anyway. lactaid and beano do help (lactaid for whey, beano for soy) but they can only do so much, especially if your whey powder is already lactose free (most are, in my experience). it might be the added milk giving you that problem.

also you might try eating smaller shakes more often, giving your body a chance to properly absorb the protein you're eating. you could also try buying fruit-flavored or vanilla whey and mixing it with juice, or if you can stomach it, just mix it with water (eew). try different shakes too. and dont forget to eat some carbs with your shake so you can refil the glycogen stores in your muscles.

spreading my meals out and exercising properly with ample rest time allowed me to gain 25 pounds in a few months. (went from 145 pounds, at 17% body fat to 170 pounds with 15% fat in two seasons). i had to deal with the farting too, but it was worth it to be as strong and healthy as I am now.

also, the book 'from scrawny to brawny' was a big help.
posted by kneelconqueso at 11:20 AM on April 9, 2007

I'm not a hardgainer, fortunately, but I do supplement with Whey protein first thing in the morning and right after my workouts. The stuff is much, much cheaper than consuming the same amount of protein in "real" food.

I use the Optimum brand. They claim, "ON's 100% Whey Gold Standard now contains lactase and Aminogen digestive enzymes to further enhance absorption and make this product even more friendly to lactose intolerant individuals." I've never had any problems with it, and I like the way it tastes.

Good call on staying away from soy. The data so far seems to indicate that moderate amounts of soy don't have a significant effect on hormone levels, but if you're supplementing with the stuff.... Anyway, why take any chances?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2007

Indians use asafoetida not primarily as a spice, but apparently more in order to control the gas that would otherwise result from a diet heavy in pulses.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:51 PM on April 9, 2007

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