Feeling bloated after a workout? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Getting bloated after exercise is a common phenomenon.
There are a number of causes why you might experience bloating post-exercise, and also a number of steps to help soothe and prevent it.
Let’s get started.
What is Bloating?
First things first, what is bloating, and what’s the mechanism behind it?
Bloating refers to the feeling of the tummy being overly full or strained.
The condition occurs when the organs of the digestive system are stretched, especially when solids, liquid, or gas pool in a part of the gut.
The uncomfortable feeling can be blamed on bloating from gas, or due to a build-up of tissue, fluid, or digestive content.
The condition may also be accompanied by burping, swelling, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and a lot of gas. It can be acute or chronic.
That said, whether you’re exercising to lose weight or to increase strength, bloating after a workout is an uncomfortable feeling.
Now let’s look at the main causes of this condition as well as what to do in order to soothe and prevent it in the future.
Causes and Prevention Of Bloating After Exercise
Now that you know a thing or two about the mechanisms behind bloating, let’s discuss some of the main causes and how to prevent the condition for good.
1. Food Choices
Although proper fuel is key for optimal function, eating too close to your workout can set you up for bloating. How come? Exercise pulls circulation away from your digestive tract to the working muscles. This, in turn, may leave you feeling bloated.
Eat at The Right Times
This should be a no-brainer.
Don’t hit the weight room or the running track soon after a meal.
Instead, give your digestive system plenty of time—at least two to three hours –to properly perform its function.
As a rule, the harder and more intense the workout, the further you should space out your meals and sessions.
Experiment with different time windows and see for yourself.
Feel famished just before a workout?
Then, at the very least, choose an easily digestible snack to quench your hunger.
Eat the Right Foods
What you eat also matters, especially within the three to four hours before a workout.
That’s why, as a rule, avoid any “trigger food” during that period, even if it’s a healthy item.
Some foods take longer to digest, which puts extra stress on your GI tract during a workout.
For example, high-fiber vegetables are common triggers for people.
This means no beans, broccoli, burgers, or beer.
Artificial sweeteners are also another common culprit.
Avoid any food that’s high in:
- Coffin or alcohol.
Leave the high protein, high fat, and high fiber foods for the hours after your session to give your digestive tract time to recovery.
2. Drinking Too Little Water (or Too much of it)
Your hydration habits can also affect how bloated you feel following exercise.
For starters, not drinking enough water can set you up for stomach issues, such as constipation.
On the other hand, drink too much water than your body needs, then you might experience hyponatremia.
In this condition, your body’s sodium levels drop to dangerous levels, forcing your body to retain water.
This, in turn, may make you feel bloated.
Build the habit of drinking enough water before, during, and after each session.
When your body lacks fluid, your GI system slows down. This, in turn, may increase your bloating risk.
If you’re an excessive sweater, consider rehydrating with electrolytes to help restore your body’s fluid balance.
Leave nothing to chance.
3. Heavy Breathing
When you exercise, your heart and breathing rates increase to meet your body’s needs for oxygen.
You’re, after all, exerting more effort when running on the treadmill than when lounging on the couch.
Here’s the caveat, though. When you push yourself too hard, you’re also panting for air, which causes you to swallow a lot of it.
Some of this air makes its way down your GI tract and causes bloating.
Keep in mind that air has both mass and volume.
So, it has to take space somewhere in your digestive tract.
Improve Your Breathing
Although heavy breathing might be behind your bloat, holding your breathing during exercise is never a solution.
Rather than panting for air while exercising, focus on taking deep breaths. This is what’s known as belly, or diaphragmatic, breathing.
You should also stay within your fitness level.
4. You’re New to Exercise
If you’re new to exercise, intense training may activate your body’s flight or fight response which hinders proper digestion function, therefore, lead to bloating.
Since exercise acts as a stressor, it activates your adrenal gland to produce the stress hormone cortisol.
For example, a hard weightlifting session or interval run will boost cortisol levels.
And this, apparently, is more common when you’re new to exercise—a period in which your body hasn’t yet fully adapted to physical training.
Take it Easy
Push your body more than it can handle, and you’re likely to experience bloating.
Instead, slow down if you need to so that you don’t overexert yourself.
For example, if you’re trying to train for your first 5K, start first by doing three to four walk/run sessions a week.
Then slowly up build up the running portions until you’re jogging for 25 to 30 minutes non-stop and without panting for air.
Coming back to exercise after a long break?
Then you should give your body a few weeks to get used to intense training.
Consult Your Doctor
If bloating is chronic and is impacting the rest of your day—and life—then it’s time to get it checked by a doctor to rule out any other more serious underlying condition behind your bloat.
More specifically, you should consult your doctor if bloating occurs more than three times a week and/or if your symptoms are getting worse.
This is especially the case if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Change in urinary patterns or bowel movements
- Stomach pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Unwanted weight loss
- Moodiness and depression
- Frequent gas
There you have it! If you’re dealing with post-workout bloating, the above guidelines should set you on the right path. The rest is just details.
In the meantime, free free to leave your comments and questions below.
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