Running can be tough on the gut and digestive tract. From side stitches and cramps to the dreaded runner’s trots, there are quite a few stomach and intestinal maladies that can crop up and threaten to spoil a run. Although fewer runners seem to openly discuss the issue, feeling bloated after running is also quite common.
There are several potential reasons you might be feeling bloated after running, and fortunately, nearly all of them are avoidable. Therefore, the key to resolving feeling bloated after a workout lies in identifying the root cause and modifying your routine.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on if you’re feeling bloated after running and what to do about it. In this guide, we’re going to look at:
- Is It Normal to Feel Bloated After Running?
- Why Am I Feeling Bloated After Running?
- How to Stop Feeling Bloated After Running
Let’s get started!
Is It Normal to Feel Bloated After Running?
While it’s not necessarily “normal” to feel bloated after running, it is quite common. Beginner runners, runners returning from an injury or extended hiatus, and runners changing their diet and/or fueling are particularly prone to bloating after a workout.
Additionally, bloating after running is more common in hot and humid conditions and among those with other digestive issues like celiac disease, GERD, or H. pylori infection.
Feeling bloated after a workout is generally nothing to be concerned about, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. Some runners also find that bloating during a run can interfere with performance and compromise their stride.
7 Possible Causes as to Why You Are Feeling Bloated After Running
Bloating after running is usually due to an excess of trapped air or water retention. The most common causes of feeling bloated after running include the following:
Though it may seem counterintuitive, if you’re dehydrated, your stomach tries to compensate for the lack of fluid in the body by retaining water. Because you sweat when you exercise, dehydration is exacerbated after a run, which can lead to feeling bloated after working out.
#2: Drinking Too Much Water
Although drinking water and staying well-hydrated is important for health and athletic performance, drinking too much water can actually leave you feeling bloated after running.
When you drink too much plain water, in the absence of taking in electrolytes, the fluid balance in your body is disrupted. This can lead to a dangerous condition known as hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia results when the sodium content in your cells is diluted too much by an excessive intake of water. Cells retain water and swell, causing water retention and bloating, and if severe, even coma and death.
Studies have shown that drinking plain water leaves people feeling more bloated compared to drinking electrolyte- or carbohydrate-infused beverages.
#3: Running Too Soon After Eating
While you certainly need to properly fuel your body through nutritious foods before you run, eating too close to the time you head out the door for the workout can leave you feeling bloated after running.
When you eat, circulation to the stomach and digestive organs increases to help digestion and absorption of nutrients. To compensate, blood flow to skeletal muscles decreases to just meet the basic needs to oxygenate the tissue.
However, this process is reversed when you exercise. Blood is shunted away from the digestive tract to meet the increased demand from the heart, lungs, and working muscles.
Digestion slows or nearly stops when you run, leaving any residual food to hang around in your stomach. Not only can this cause sloshing and cramping when you run, but it can also contribute to feeling bloated after working out.
As food sits in the stomach and digestive tract, the bacteria in your gut ferment the sugars and produce gas, contributing to gas buildup and abdominal distention.
#4: Running In the Heat
Feeling bloated after running is especially common if it’s hot, humid, or stuffy where you are working out. When your body temperature rises, blood vessels dilate in an attempt to cool your body down. This dilation can cause fluid to accumulate between tissues, leaving you feeling bloated.
#5: Gulping Too Much Air
It makes sense that swallowing an excessive amount of air contributes to feeling bloated after running. After all, bloating is often just an abundance of air trapped in the stomach.
If you’re a beginner runner or running or race or hard workout that has you huffing and puffing, you’re likely swallowing big gulps of air without even knowing it. Most trainers say that heavy breathing is usually the most common culprit of feeling bloated after working out.
#6: Exerting Yourself
Just the act of exercising can cause bloating. The body perceives exercise as a stressor, especially if you’re doing a long or hard run. As a result, the adrenal glands produce more cortisol, a stress hormone that causes the body to retain more water.
As cortisol levels rise, water retention and bloating can increase. If you’re feeling bloated after running, particularly if it’s just after hard workouts or because you’re new to the sport, it may simply be a product of the stress response.
#7 You’re Eating Foods That Don’t Agree With You
Bloating can be a sign that you’re eating something that’s not agreeing with you. For example, if you have lactose intolerance, eating dairy can cause gas and bloating. If you’re feeling bloated after working out as well as during other points in your day, consult your healthcare provider about food allergy testing or consider seeing a registered dietician or nutritionist.
High fiber foods are also likely to cause bloating, particularly foods high in prebiotic fiber. Foods like onions, leeks, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichokes, pears, bok choy, and beans are examples of foods that may exacerbate bloating.
How to Stop Feeling Bloated After Running
The key to resolving feeling bloated after running is identifying the most likely cause. Once you do so, here are 5 helpful tips:
#1: Examine Your Hydration Strategy
If you’re not drinking enough, start drinking more water before and during your workout. If you think you might be drinking too much water—as evidenced by clear urine—consider a sports drink or electrolyte replacement beverage to reduce bloating.
#2: Don’t Run So Soon After Eating
Ensure you’re waiting long enough to go running after eating. You should wait about 3-4 hours to run after eating a large meal, 2-3 hours for a small meal, and 1-2 hours after most snacks unless it’s a very small snack consisting of only simple carbohydrates.
#3: Clean Up Your Diet
Sugary foods, carbonated beverages, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol can often leave you feeling bloated after working out. These foods increase gas production and water retention and do little to advance your nutrition.
Chewing gum can also cause bloating because it causes you to swallow excess air.
#4: Run At a Cooler Time Of the Day
If you’re feeling bloated after running in the heat or in a stuffy gym, try modifying your training schedule to run at a cooler time of day. Seek shade, wear breathable and loose clothing, or use fans and an air conditioner when on a treadmill.
#5: Control Your Breathing
Though it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to keep your breathing rate while running as slow and calm as it is at rest, avoid gasping and gulping huge breaths of air. Focus on controlled and even breathing, with steady and balanced inhalations and exhalations.
Give our tips and tricks a try to see if you can eliminate feeling bloated after running. If you have other GI issues, take a look at our 10 Tips To Avoid Unplanned Bathrooms Breaks On Your Next Race.