The Vegan Bodybuilder's Guide to Farting and Bloating
Somehow, some way and somewhere along my arduous journey to becoming a (self-proclaimed) LEGENDARY vegan bodybuilder, I established myself as a vibrant and vivacious, fun-loving, vegan blogger babe who farts… a LOT.
Okay, who am I kidding? It was totally this post about the disgusting side of being a vegan bikini competitor in my early days of competing that put me on the map as a crass and brutally honest fit chick with a good sense of humour and a great ass (again, self-proclaimed.) 😉
I certainly don’t hide the fact that as a vegan bikini competitor turned pro, obviously I eat a LOT of plant-based protein and fibrous, farty foods to create my plant-built physique. But apparently because I am both fit & attractive, it is an unwritten rule that hot girls don’t fart. And apparently I should be keeping my bodily functions to myself.
Well screw that! I am a REAL person and I’m getting REAL tired of having to respond to every single one of my clients who ask what they can do about the bloating and farting they’re experiencing since switching over to a vegan diet.
It’s time for me to finally write an insightful blog post explaining WHY we meatless meatheads fart so damn much and WHY we can wake up with a flat stomach every morning but look six months pregnant by 6pm every evening.
Sound familiar? Trust me, my bloated vegan brethren, you are not alone!
I actually hear this complaint from clients all the time. They love their customized vegan meal plans. And they’re destroying their workouts every day. They feel great, sleep great, have glowing skin BUT for whatever reason, they are farting up a serious stink storm and feeling like a bloated whale as each day goes on.
So what gives, Coach Shorkey?! Do we just have to accept that to be a vegan bodybuilder is to be forever farty and bloated?!
Well vegan fit crew, today I’m gonna break it all down for you. I bet you can hardly contain your excitement! Or are you just holding in a fart? 😉
Before we begin, let me first explain what exactly a fart is. Most of us can gather that a “fart” is pretty much just air that is trapped inside of us. But most peeps don’t know what exactly causes us to hold in that air and more importantly, why we vegan bodybuilders seem more farty and bloated than our animal-eating counterparts.
Believe it or not, there are many fart-causing culprits. A lot of new vegans especially notice their increasing fart expenditure upon making the switch from a standard American diet. And it’s worth noting that this is usually thanks to the increase in veggie intake.
Veggies are jam-packed full of fiber which is, of course, jam-packed full of nutrients so whether you’re farty or not, you should still include a TON of green veggies in your daily diet. I always specify “green” veggies because I personally consider them to be “free foods.” Green veggies are so low in calories and high in nutrition that if there’s anything you’re going to eat in excess, make it them greens, yo!
And remember, a diet high in fiber (i.e. vegan) ensures your digestive system is chugging along smoothly AND bonus for those of us trying to lean down: fiber keeps us feeling full for longer so green veggies really are the perfect food for anyone on a diet.
That being said, a huge serving of fibrous green veggies IS hard for your body to digest. So if you’re finding that your incessant farting and basketball-sized, protruding stomach is just way too outta control, here are a few tricks to allow for high vegetable consumption with minimal discomfort.
Drink a glass of water with every fiber-heavy meal.
- Water helps move fiber along your digestive track, making it more easily digestible therefore causing less bloat.
Opt for cooked veggies over raw.
- If you’re going to binge on an entire bag of pre-washed baby carrots dipped in Sriracha mixed with Dijon mustard (a prep diet dipping MUST), just know that steamed IS easier on digestion than raw. Celery, carrots, cucumber & bell pepper are typically fine eaten raw. It’s the raw cruciferous veggies that you wanna watch out for.
- ALWAYS cook the fartiest veggies aka the cruciferous fart makers.
- Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, collards etc. Love ’em all but best to eat late at night when you’re by yourself and can fart in peace. 🙂
- Cruciferous veggies are bad for gas because they’re high in a sugar called “raffinose” which we lack the necessary enzyme needed to break that shit down. So when raffinose passes through our digestive tract in “whole” form, it ferments in the lower intestine, causing all kinds of uncomfortable farty, bloated times! And FYI – it’s not just cruciferous veggies that contain raffinose. Yams and sweet potatoes also rock out at Fart-a-Palooza.
- And all farting and bloating aside, the main reason you HAVE to cook cruciferous veggies is because we have to kill the “goitrogens” in them. When we consume broccoli raw for instance, we consume these “goitrogens” which have been found to suppress thyroid gland function and even create an enlarged thyroid.
- Sometimes I’ll take the Vitacost.com brand of alpha-galactosidease which is basically a vegan version of Beano (containing the enzyme that breaks down raffinose.)
- And if you’re really dying for a giant bowl of broccoli, whip up my “Broccoli to Kill a Salty Craving With” which calls for cooking AND is made with apple cider vinegar which helps to break down food as I discuss later in this post 🙂
- I still eat cauliflower like a mo-fo but when I blend it or put it into my food processor, I find that I don’t get nearly as bloated because the blending process breaks down its cellulose (another sugar we don’t naturally produce the enzyme needed to break down.) And remember, blending cauliflower still doesn’t kill the goitrogens. So turn that shit into cauliflower oats or rice and enjoy fart-free 🙂
Another HUGE reason for excessive farting and bloating and this is a BIG one for me personally: chewing sugar-free gum.
Sugar-free gum sounds like a dieter’s God save. And it is, don’t get me wrong. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t chew sugar-free gum ALL DAY LONG especially when I’m in hardcore competition prep mode. In fact, I’m chewing some whilst I write this post.
Chewing gum busies my hungry mouth, strengthens my jaw muscles, is a welcoming burst of flavour from an otherwise bland & boring, vegan bikini competitor food plan. And it acts as a dessert when I finish my meal but still want more food or something sweet to cleanse my bland & boring palate.
The downside of chewing sugar-free gum is that it’s made with a crap load of sugar alcohols. Yes, these added “sweeteners” can be natural like stevia or xylitol or totally unnatural like aspartame or sucralose. But whether you go full-out chemical sweetener style or not, they can ALL wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal tract AND cause not only bloating and farting, but explosive diarrhea if consumed in excess. Not speaking from experience or anything… **nervous laugh**
Any kind of sugar alcohol is REALLY hard for our bodies to break down but what makes the fart/bloat situation even worse for gum chewers is that the mere act of chewing causes us to swallow more air. It’s a double whammy!
And something to consider next time you’re on a hot date and tell yourself that “fresh breath” is of higher concern than having to hold in your farts. It’s NOT. Trust me.
While you “Netflix & chill” with your love interest, my suggestion is to drink copious amounts of water with a teaspoon of mint chlorophyll added to it (a natural deodorizer and breath freshener) so that he won’t hear your stomach growling AND the constant pee breaks will allow you to release those farts if and when they do arise. 🙂
Next thing to consider is a probiotic and digestive enzyme supplement.
Anyone who has ever worked with me as their vegan coach knows that I’m a huge advocate for supplementing with both. I’ve detailed the importance of probiotics for bodybuilders in THIS POST but the Cole’s Notes version is this:
As vegan bodybuilders, we tend to eat a lot of protein. Not only is protein difficult for our bodies to break down, but when we’re eating more protein than we require, our bodies will actually convert most of those calories to sugar and then fat. And with increased blood sugar levels, you could possibly end up feeding bacteria and yeast, aka the “bad” kind of bacteria such as Candida. Additionally, when you’re eating copious amounts of protein (especially animal-based), digestion slows and your body struggles to perform its breaking down and assimilating processes. Plus many of us actually lack sufficient stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to perform these basic functions– creating even more digestive upset.
Protein digestion (and digestion in general) is super energy intensive. And I’ve always believed that consuming a hefty dose of probiotics + digestive enzymes every morning greatly helps my body’s “eliminative processes” to function both quickly and more efficiently, allowing for better protein assimilation and an overall happy gut.
I regularly switch up the brand of probiotics I take because I never want my gut to get used to the bacterial strains I give it. I usually alternate between a more expensive one that contains a higher dose of CFUs in the 25 - 50 billion range with a cheaper, lower dose option.
I take one probiotic and one digestive enzyme every morning without fail (on an empty stomach) downed with a big-ass glass of lemon/chlorophyll water.
Digestive enzymes also keep digestion moving smoothly and quickly mostly because they really help your body to metabolize the fats and carbs you’re eating. If I had a nickel for every client who has thanked me for getting them onto the digestive enzyme train, I’d be rich. I like the Organika brand Full Spectrum Plant Enzymes.
I love my little morning lemon water ritual because lemon is a natural detoxifier and helps kick-start my digestion first thing in the morning. Plus you get that little dose of vitamin C which is known to reduce swelling and water retention.
I often get asked if it’s all the soy we vegans eat that make us so farty and bloated. To this, I say: let us acknowledge the obvious! Soy is a bean and we all know how much flack beans get when it comes to farting.
Why is that, you ask? All beans (soy beans included) contain “oligosaccharides.” This sugar molecule is similar to raffinose meaning that our bodies can’t fully break it down. And much like the other undigested sugar molecules, oligosaccharides like to sit in our guts to ferment and create fart/bloat city. But before you go chalking up another reason to hate on soy, it’s worth noting that these same sugar molecules also act as a “prebiotic” meaning they support the growth of those GOOD bacteria we talked about earlier aka they assist the probiotics in performing their job in the colon/large intestine.
Hopefully I’m not getting too scientific and technical with my vast farting knowledge but basically when you supplement with a probiotic, you provide the natural bacteria that feed on the sugar and starch in the food you’re eating which in turn, improves digestion and provides better food absorption. And the prebiotics that you’re eating via beans supports the growth of those healthy, good bacterial strains.
And I know this is kinda unrelated but I think as women, we often forget just how big of a role PMS plays in regards to our bloated bodies. Think about it: the week or two leading up to our periods cause a major increase in estrogen and decrease in progesterone. And this combo can definitely make us retain water (easily a 5 lb. weight gain.)
So whether you’re hormone bloated, fiber-full, or just sodium bomb-ed yourself with salty, faux meats galore, here are my tried and true anti-bloating meatless meathead tips & tricks:
- Stick to lower sugar and high-water content fruits such as berries, oranges, cantaloupe or watermelon.
- Put ginger in EVERYTHING! It’s an anti-inflammatory AND digestive aid. I add fresh ginger to my smoothie every morning and to a lot of my cooked veggies or whip up Asian-style tofu/veggie dishes.
- Drink dandelion root tea or Dandy Blend herbal coffee substitute. I drink both all the time. Dandelion is not only used in herbal medicine as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory but also as a digestive aid because it stimulates the production of gastric enzymes. Hibiscus tea has a similar effect.
- Try adding apple cider vinegar to your food. You can use ACV to make a homemade salad dressing or sprinkle it directly onto foods or supplement with it if you can’t stand the taste. ACV stimulates the production of gastric enzymes which will increase the amount of acid in your stomach, aiding in digestion and helping to alkalize your body.
- And if you aren’t already drinking green tea for its metabolism-boosting/weight loss/anti-aging effects, this miracle substance has also been shown to decrease bloating and reduce inflammation in the body.
And finally, it just wouldn’t be an award-winning, anti-fart post without including my top picks for anti-bloat veggies. So here goes!
First, a moment of silence for my most loved and hated vegetable of all time: ASPARAGUS. Anyone who has followed me for a while knows how much asparagus I’ve eaten in my career as a vegan bodybuilder. And anyone who’s ever hired me as their vegan coach knows how much asparagus I cram onto their meal plans. #SorryNotSorry 😉
I go into much greater detail about the anti-bloating, diuretic effects of asparagus in THIS POST and why competitors eat so damn much of it. But basically, it makes you piss like a race horse which helps to remove the water and waste that’s causing you to feel bloated. Parsley has a similar effect so feel free to garnish your food with it as much as possible. I’ll even toss some parsley into my smoothies if I’m feeling extra bloaty.
I’d also like to give cucumbers an honourable mention because much like watermelon, they’re a great green veggie to incorporate into your food plan because cucumbers are full of water.
In case I didn’t clarify this enough earlier, WATER IS CRUCIAL FOR DIGESTION. Aim to drink a good 2 – 3 liters everyday but be sure to spread it out because drinking too much water with your meals can actually impair digestion. And obviously you want to drink a lot of that H2O when you’re working out to replace what you’ve lost through sweat.
Well I think I’ve made this post long enough! Oddly enough, I could probably ramble on about farting and bloating for an eternity but hopefully this is a good overview and I encourage you to listen to my podcast episode ALL about farting for more info.
And whatever the case, please don’t let a little gas and bloating derail you from your vegan diet or fitness goals. Instead, every time you’re feeling discouraged about ANYTHING in life, remember the wise words of my father:
“This is just a fart in the windstorm of your life.” 🙂
Just beautiful, Dad! Happy farting, kids!
-Sam Shorkey, Jacked on the Beanstalk