There are a range of protein supplements on the market today and pea protein has become an increasingly popular alternative to milk and egg based products.
When trying a new protein powder, many people have concerns about possible side effects, including whether it can cause bloating. Generally, pea protein doesn’t cause bloating as it’s relatively low in fiber.
However, pea protein can cause bloating in some people, as I’ll go on to explain. If you do experience bloating, there’s a variety of different things you can do to prevent it.
From reading this article, you’ll learn:
- If pea protein causes bloating
- Why pea protein causes bloating for some people
- How to prevent bloating from pea protein
Does Pea Protein Cause Bloating?
Pea protein generally doesn’t cause bloating. Bloating is usually the result of foods that are high in fiber. As pea protein is relatively low in fiber it’s usually well tolerated and doesn’t cause gastrointestinal side effects.
Bloating is most often caused by fiber.
Foods that are high in fiber can be hard to digest and become fermented by bacteria in the digestive system. This process produces gas and this excess build up of gas leads to bloating.
There’s a misconception that pea protein causes bloating because peas can cause bloating – peas can cause excess gas and bloating as they are high in fiber.
In comparison, pea protein is made by isolating the protein from peas. This process removes a lot of the fiber content, making it easier for people to digest.
On average, there’s around 1 gram of fiber per 2 scoops of pea protein.
As it has a low fiber content, pea protein typically doesn’t cause side effects like bloating in most people.
Pea protein is also lactose free.
Lactose is common in popular protein powders like whey protein. However, it can cause bloating, as well as other digestive side effects, in those who are lactose intolerant.
As pea protein is lactose free, it’s usually well tolerated by most people.
Similarly, pea protein is (generally) considered safe for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS can cause symptoms like bloating depending on a person’s diet.
As pea protein is low FODMAP and considered low IBS trigger foods , it should be safe to consume if you have IBS.
However, pea protein can also cause bloating if you have an allergy or intolerance to one of the ingredients it contains.
Food intolerances are very common. Whilst pea protein doesn’t contain lactose, it can contain other ingredients that people experience an intolerance to.
As well as bloating, signs of a food intolerance include gas, abdominal cramps or pain, and diarrhea.
Allergies to pea protein are less common than intolerances, but more severe. Having an allergy to pea protein would usually also cause other symptoms such as skin rashes and breathing problems, not just bloating.
Those with an allergy or intolerance to pea protein should avoid using it.
Pea protein can also cause bloating as a result of the way you prepare it, or due to the sugar content, as I’ll explain in the next section.
How to Prevent Bloating From Pea Protein
Whilst pea protein is usually well-tolerated, some people do experience bloating when using it.
Bloating isn’t pleasant – it can make us feel uncomfortable and be distracting from a workout. The good news is that there are a range of things you can do to reduce bloating when using pea protein.
** However, this advice doesn’t apply if you’re experiencing bloating as a result of an intolerance or allergy.
If it’s a result of an intolerance or allergy then it’s best to change to another type of protein powder to avoid further bloating, as well as other potential side effects.
1. Don’t Use Too Much Pea Protein
Pea protein is relatively low in fiber which reduces the likelihood of digestive side effects. But consuming too much pea protein, meaning you have more than the recommended amount, increases this fiber content.
This higher fiber content can cause digestive problems like bloating, as well as put you at risk of other potentially serious side effects.
Using more protein powder also doesn’t guarantee better, or faster, results.
Therefore you should follow directions on the quantity and frequency of using pea protein to avoid bloating.
2. Eat/Drink More Slowly
Pea protein can be consumed in a variety of ways. It’s common for people to mix it into a shake or add it into foods like oatmeal.
When we eat or drink, we take in air which goes into our digestive system. Drinking or eating quickly increases the amount of air that you take in with your food or drink.
Taking in more air with foods/drinks pushes more air into the digestive system, which can result in bloating.
Pacing how quickly you’re eating and drinking can therefore help to prevent bloating by reducing the amount of extra air going into the digestive system.
3. Reduce Mixing Time
If you mix pea protein, for example as part of a shake, then this process can introduce extra air. Blenders and mixers whip air into shakes. You’ll notice this when you make a mix, as you’ll see air pockets in the drink.
However, over mixing can whip extra air into your shake. As you drink, this extra air goes into your digestive system which can cause bloating.
To avoid this, don’t over mix your shake.
If you’re using a blender or mixer then only mix for as long as it takes to incorporate your ingredients.
You could also hand mix your drink. Mixing by hand doesn’t introduce as much air as mixers do, which should reduce the likelihood of bloating.
4. Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar can cause bloating. Within the digestive system, sugar can draw water into the large intestine. It can also prevent water from being properly absorbed. This leads to bloating.
Products high in sugar can be added to pea protein to enhance flavor. People also add high sugar ingredients to their shakes or mixes to make them taste better.
However, this increased sugar content may be to blame for bloating.
To reduce bloating, it’s best to go for low sugar pea protein powder, and make sure you aren’t adding additional sugars when mixing pea protein.
5. Introduce Protein Powder Gradually
Fiber plays a critical role in the digestive system. Too much or too little fiber can lead to issues like constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
However, suddenly changing the amount of fiber you’re consuming can trigger digestive symptoms such as bloating. For this reason, it’s best to gradually introduce more fiber into your diet.
This can be done by starting with a lower amount of pea protein and gradually increasing it over the course of a couple of weeks. This way, you give your digestive system a chance to adjust to changes in your fiber intake which can help to reduce bloating.
You’d also need to consider the other food items you’re having alongside pea protein. For a few scoops of protein powder, it could be something that you’re consuming in larger quantities alongside this.
Oats, bread, leafy green veg and other high fiber foods could be the cause.
Therefore, introduce protein powder gradually but also test different combinations of food groups and food items to see what works best for your digestions.
Protein powder has a reputation for causing bloating (alongside a number of other inconvenient issues) and pea protein is one of the latest supplements that has ended up in the spotlight.
While it can’t be 100% ruled out, it’s unlikely that pea protein would cause bloating for most people. The fiber content is too low and it doesn’t contain any other bloat inducing ingredients like lactose.
Therefore, if you are experiencing bloating from pea protein it could be one of the following:
- Something you are mixing it with (like oats or milk)
- You may be allergic or have an intolerance
- You are not taking a recommended dosage (eg, taking too much)
- Something else is likely causing the bloating
We can’t say pea protein won’t cause some bloating as there are a lot of other factors to consider but when it comes to types of protein powder (or what you mix them with) pea protein is down the list for bloating causes.
If you’re interested in knowing more about different forms of protein powder or what might be more suitable for you, check out this video:
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