Feeling bloated is never great, especially after a good run. Sometimes, it’s bad enough that it can take that shine off your post-run high!
But why do you feel bloated after running? There are several possible reasons that we’ll uncover in this article. You may be surprised that just a small change can eliminate post-run bloating forever!
Here’s what you should know about bloating in general, why it may be bothering you after a run, and what you can do about it.
What Is Bloating?
Bloating is an uncomfortable condition in which your stomach—mostly lower, but sometimes upper, too—feels full, stretched, and tight.
Usually, it feels this way because the abdomen becomes filled with gas. Oftentimes, bloating comes along with excessive gassiness and possibly pain and discomfort.
Is It Common to Feel Bloated After a Run?
You may be surprised to know that it’s quite common to feel bloated after running! When running, you typically take in more air than at rest, and it’s easy to get trapped where it shouldn’t be.
It’s more common with beginners, those getting back into running after a break, or those actively trying to increase their mileage. Bloating is also more likely to strike runners who exercise in hot and humid conditions.
So if you’re struggling with bloating after your runs, you’re not alone. It’s quite a common occurrence!
Why Do I Feel Bloated After a Run?
After running, the first step to eliminating bloating is to figure out what’s causing it.
Here are some of the most common reasons for bloating after a workout. There may be more than one contributing to your bloating.
Yes—a lack of water can cause you to feel bloated. This is up top because it’s actually quite common, especially in runners who don’t take enough water with them on longer distance runs.
When you don’t drink enough during your workout, your body can’t replace the fluid lost through sweat. As a result, the body begins retaining water, so it can use it in an emergency.
In many cases, this can cause your lower abdomen to become bloated. It may be accompanied by a feeling of “puffiness” in your limbs and face, because the body stores water wherever it can.
You may not notice it much during the run, except your skin may feel more “bouncy” than usual. It’s often more noticeable after a run when your muscles relax.
2. Drinking Too Much Water
On the other hand, drinking too much during your run can also cause you to feel bloated during or after your run. It’s especially common if you’re drinking plain water without replenishing electrolytes.
This causes the body’s fluid balance to skew. The sodium content inside each cell becomes so diluted that the cells swell, causing bloating. This condition—called hyponatremia—can be fatal if not treated in time. So it’s essential that you don’t overhydrate!
Recent research indicates that electrolyte-infused or carbohydrate-infused water drinks are less likely to cause bloating than plain water.
If you prefer drinking plain water, take an electrolyte tablet on long runs and use it in at least one bottle of water, with plain water in between.
High-fiber and high-protein foods tend to induce gassiness. If you eat many of these foods, especially close to your run, you’re likely to find yourself bloated after running as they begin to digest in your stomach.
Digestion of these foods can give off gas, accumulating in the digestive system and leaving you feeling bloated during or after your workout.
It’s also worth noting that eating a high amount of carbohydrates—for example, during pre-race carbo-loading—will cause your body to naturally retain more water in an attempt to aid in digestion. This can also contribute to you feeling bloated.
4. Running Too Soon After A Meal
When you eat, the body takes a few hours to digest your meal. When you run too soon after eating, your digestive system is still in the middle of digesting it.
So when you set off on a run, the body diverts most of the blood towards the limbs to power your muscles and your cardiovascular system. This means there’s much less blood assisting with digestion, so it slows down to a crawl.
As you’re running, the half-digested food sticks around in your stomach. It tends to bounce around as you run, slowly fermenting and producing gas, which causes you to feel bloated.
5. Swallowing Air
This is a common one! When you run, you tend to take in bigger gulps of air than usual. Some of this may end up “going down the wrong pipe,” and land up in your stomach instead of in your lungs.
This gas has nowhere to go, so it builds up in the abdomen, causing discomfort and potential pain.
6. Running When It’s Hot
If you’ve grown up in hot and humid conditions, you may be able to run in the same kind of weather without feeling anything negative. But if you’ve moved to a hotter place and you’re running, the heat and humidity may lead to bloating.
When the external temperature is hot, it causes your core temperature to rise faster. To get rid of some heat, the blood vessels dilate—open wider—to carry the blood closer to the skin, where heat can escape.
This opening of the blood vessels can draw blood away from the core, leaving undigested food to ferment and cause trouble! It can also cause fluid to build up between cells, giving you a bloated feeling.
7. Pushing Yourself Too Hard
Regular exercise is a good thing for your body! But if you push yourself too hard, your body may misinterpret the strenuous activity as a stressor, kicking itself into fight or flight mode and releasing cortisol, the stress hormone.
The higher your cortisol levels, the more water you tend to retain, leading to that bloated feel. This can be for a few different reasons, but it often has the same effect as running on a hot day or after a meal.
The blood gets diverted to the limbs so they can be ready to face a perceived threat. However, this means there’s less blood in the core, so undigested food starts to cause bloating. Or, fluid builds up between cells as the blood is diverted to the skin’s surface.
8. Medical Conditions
It’s always a good idea to rule out medical conditions, especially if nothing else on the list seems to be the reason you’re feeling bloated after running.
IBS—irritable bowel syndrome—celiac disease, and SIBO can trigger bloating. The excess cortisol in your system after exercise could aggravate medical conditions, so it’s a good idea to check this with your doctor.
Certain medications can also cause bloating as a side effect. It’s a good idea to ask your medical professional about your medications if you’re experiencing bloating but there seems to be no other reason.
How Do I Get Rid of Bloating After A Run?
Getting rid of bloating depends on the cause of the bloating. We always advise putting measures into place to prevent it, but if you do find yourself suffering from bloating after a run, there are a few quick ways to relieve it.
If gas or excess air in the abdominal cavity is the issue, gas relief capsules or peppermint capsules could help ease it up quickly.
You can do a light abdominal massage to try and relieve pain and get the bowel moving, and taking a warm bath may also help to loosen up tight abdominal muscles.
Tips to Prevent Bloating
Implement some of these tips into your daily life to reduce your chances of feeling bloated during and after runs.
1. Eat Slowly
The faster you eat, the more likely you are to take in air. Eating slowly and mindfully can help to stop air from going where it shouldn’t, reducing your chances of bloating both during and after your run, and at other times.
2. Eat Smaller Meals
It could also be a good idea to eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than a few bigger ones. This takes some strain off the body so it doesn’t have to work so hard to digest a lot at once.
Your body should become more efficient at digestion, but it also means you should never have a big meal sitting in your stomach when it comes time for a run.
3. Consider Food Sensitivities
If you’ve tried everything but the bloating continues, it’s a good idea to rule out food sensitivities. You may have a sensitivity to gluten or dairy or something else, but not realize it at the time.
You can go to a medical professional to test for food sensitivities or do your own research at home. The best way to do it is to take a week or two and note what you eat for every meal, when your symptoms arise, and see if you can spot any patterns.
If you find a correlation between a particular food and when your symptoms come up, avoid that food for a couple of weeks and see if it improves.
4. Don’t Run Too Soon After Eating
If you’ve had a big meal, you should wait at least 3 hours before going for a run so you’re sure the meal is mostly digested. Smaller meals should be followed by a 2-hour wait, and an hour or so after a snack.
It’s tempting to eat your pre-workout meal right before you run, but this can lead to a lot of unpleasant consequences. Follow the timelines above and you should see noticeable improvement in your bloating.
5. Avoid Sugar and Alcohol
Alcoholic drinks and sugar-laden foods increase water retention and stimulate gas production. They also contain little to no nutritional value, so avoiding them as far as possible will positively affect your bloating.
6. Stop Drinking Fizzy Drinks
The carbon dioxide in fizzy beverages can cause gs to be released in your stomach. When you run, it shakes everything up and can cause a gurgling, volcanic state in your stomach!
If you don’t drink fizzy drinks, but you’re using an electrolyte tablet, this could be the issue. Many of them are effervescent, which could cause a similar problem.
7. Use a Probiotic
A probiotic can be your secret gut weapon! These live bacteria supplements bolster up your gut bacteria and help you to digest food more easily. It’s a great idea if you have gastrointestinal issues outside of running as well.
Other benefits of using a probiotic include improved nutrient absorption, well-regulated blood glucose levels, and even improved mental health!
8. Try an Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Tea
Do NOT confuse these with detox teas! Many detox teas include caffeine in their products, which can have a diuretic effect and release water weight, but are not healthy or sustainable.
Natural teas like peppermint and dandelion herbal teas can have an anti-bloating effect. Plus, they’re tasty! Add a touch of honey for some sweetness and extra health.
9. Run At a Cooler Time
If the heat seems to be a factor for your bloating, you may have to reconsider your running schedule to run at a cooler time of day. The early morning or evening after dark may be slightly cooler, reducing the heat-related bloating.
Alternatively, you could consider investing in a treadmill so you run under a fan or aircon, and be out of direct sunlight.
10. Use the Belly Breathing Technique
Belly breathing—also called diaphragmatic breathing—is a valuable skill to learn. Don’t be fooled by the name—it doesn’t mean taking air into your stomach, which is what causes bloating in the first place!
Most runners breathe into their lungs but don’t engage their diaphragm. When you learn to do so, you can improve your lung capacity and maximize your oxygen intake.
Breathe in as deeply as you can through your nose. Breathing through your mouth puts you at risk of “swallowing air.” You can also utilize the “two-breath” technique here—breathe in as far as you can, wait for a second and then inhale again.
Your stomach should extend as your diaphragm moves downwards to make more space for the lungs. Breathe out through your mouth, and then do it all again.
You may have to practice belly breathing and the two-breath technique outside of running and be mindful of your breathing while running. It may take some time, but with focused effort, your breathing should improve noticeably, reducing your bloating!