Top 6 Reasons You Feel Bloated After A run

runners diarrhea
Fit woman showing hands heart sign on her stomach

Have you ever felt bloated after a run? You’re not alone.

Every runner experiences bloating, some more often than others.

Feeling bloated after a run can be annoying, but there’s often a simple explanation. By getting at the root cause of the condition, you’ll be able to prevent it in the future.

In today’s article, I’ll explain some of the main reasons why you may feel bloated after a run, as well as how to prevent it.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

What Is Bloating?

It might feel uncomfortable but bloating is common among all people, runners and non-runners.

So don’t worry! You’re not alone. Everyone bloats.

Basically, bloating happens in the abdomen. The condition is often caused by excess gas production or abnormalities in the movement of the muscles within the digestive system, causing the GI tract to be filled with air or gas.

You might experience bloating as feeling tight, full, or swollen in the abdomen. Often, you’ll feel like you have ingested a big meal, and there’s no more room in your stomach or even losing appetite.

What’s more?

The whole abdominal area may look bigger, making your clothes fit tighter.

Bloating is usually accompanied by:

  • Flatulence
  • Pain
  • Abdominal gurgles or rumblings
  • Frequency belching or burping
  • heartburn

Is It Common To Feel Bloated After A Run?

YES.

In fact, bloating typically occurs just after a hard or long run. It often afflicts beginner runners or those returning to the sport after a long break as well as those trying to increase their training load.

The Main Causes OF Bloating Post-Running

The causes of bloating vary from one runner to the next, but there are a few universal culprits (one or more of them might be to blame for your pain).

Let’s delve a little deeper.

Heavy Breathing

Bloating after running isn’t typically caused by food but by air.  By far, this is the most common cause of bloating after exercise.

When you’re logging the miles, your breathing rate increases to ensure that your muscles are getting enough oxygen.

You’re, after all, expanding more energy running than lounging on the couch.

Here’s the caveat, though.

Fast and/or intense breathing during running can force you to do more mouth breathing and swallow a lot of air. Some of this may find its way to your esophagus and then reaches your stomach, intestines, then the colon—which, in turn, makes you gassy.

Keep in mind that the air you breathe has both volume and mass—which means that it takes up space inside of your body.

Drinking Too Much Water

Yes, there’s such a thing as overhydration. In fact, anything in excess is harmful—water is no exception.

Drinking too much water both during and after your run may cause a condition known as hyponatremia. Thanks to the excessive fluid, your body may start to dilute the sodium. This, in turn, causes water retention and will make you feel uneasy.

Eating Too Close To A Run

What you eat before a run also impacts how you feel throughout the workout and thereafter.

Running immediately after having a big meal can cause stomach problems—this should come as no surprise.

When you log the miles on a full stomach, blood flow switches from your digestive system to focus more on your muscles. This confuses your body and makes you feel uncomfortable and bloated.

Bloat-Inducing Foods

If you consume foods rich in protein, fat, or fiber close to your run, these can cause bloating.

Some of the common offenders include:

  • Beans
  • Apples
  • Lettuce
  • Cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.
  • Dairy products
  • Pears and peaches
  • Onions

Artificial Sweeteners

A common cause of bloating after a workout can be artificial sweeteners.

These can be found in most sports drinks and other energy-on-the-go options. Since it’s hard for your body to digest these sweeteners, they often linger in your stomach for a while, making you feel bloated.

Medication

Although improper breathing and diet choices are the most common causes of abdominal bloating in runners, other factors contribute to the condition.

One of the most common ones is prescription medications, especially if they contain sorbitol or lactulose, according to research.

What’s more?

Some drugs may also force your body to retain more water to help with excessive sweating or urinating.

Is It Normal To Experience Bloating After A run?

The short answer: yes, it’s not abnormal to feel bloated after a run

The reason you’re experiencing bloating after a run boils down to the fact that you have been either breathing hard or gulping too much water—both of which may cause you to swallow air.

And as I explained earlier, all of that trapped air has to go somewhere, right?

That’s why, all in all, post-run bloating is normal. It’s rarely something to worry about.

How to Prevent Bloating After Running

While post-run bloating is annoying, you have to remember that it’s also temporary.

Here are some strategies to help you relax your stomach and soothe your bloating symptoms.

Focus on Your Breathing

Since trapped air within your stomach lining is the leading cause of bloating after running, paying attention to your breathing could help.

Though heavy breathing may contribute to bloating, trying to hold your breath or, God forbid, stop breathing altogether is not the solution.

Instead of panting for air while running, which only adds up to the stress, focus on taking deeper, and more fully, breaths.

Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, this type of breathing engages your diaphragm for fuller inhales and exhales.

Check out this tutorial on how to practice deep breathing while running.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRd_0wQYcWY

Eat Light

Want to increase your chances of getting bloated? Then have foods rich in fiber, protein, and fat the hours before a run.

Since these foods take longer to get digested, they may amp up stress on your digestive tract causing trouble down the road.

As a rule, avoid fatty, spicy, heavy, high-fiber, high-protein, and high-sugar foods—as well as caffeinated or alcoholic drinks—in the three hours before your workout.

Instead, if you have to eat before a run, stick to easily digestible unprocessed foods such as eggs, bananas, oatmeal, and peanut butter.

Eat Early

Not only does the type of food you eat matter, but also when you eat.

Even if you don’t run, you’re likely aware of the impact of food on how you feel bloated later on.

So don’t just lace up those running shoes after a meal. Give your digestive tract a few hours to do its thing—or consider running in a fasted state.

At the very least, give your stomach at least two hours before running. If you have a sensitive stomach, aim for longer than three hours.

Have to eat close to run (because you’re already starving)? Then go for an easily digestible snack instead of a full meal.

Stay Well Hydrated

Want to ensure optimal performance while running? Stay well hydrated.

Dehydration compromises your digestive system, which makes you more prone to GI tract issues—bloating is not an exception.

Just remember not to drink too much. Check my full guide to hydration here.

Check Your Medication

Common offenders include OTC drugs such as NSAIDs as well as antidepressants and antibiotics.

If you’re using prescription medication, consult your doctor to check if the bloating is a side effect, when to take it—or triggered by something else.

What To Do If You Feel Bloated?

If you start to experience bloating after a run, try moving your body a bit. This should help you start to release some of the excess gas out of your stomach.

I’d also recommend that you do some form of post-run stretching or yoga to not only get your body twisting and moving but also stretch out your running muscles.

You can try my favorite pose, the cat-cow. These work well for relaxing and compressing your torso, therefore, getting that air out of your digestive tract.

Consult your Doctor

Bloating after a run should only persist for a couple of hours. That’s why if you’re coming down with chronic or serious bloating, then you might consult your doctor to rule out any underlying issue.

This is especially the case if your bloating is accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Stomach or pelvic pain
  • Unwanted, sudden, weight loss
  • Change in bathroom habits, such as getting constipated or peeing too often.
  • Hematemesis and melena

Conclusion

Experiencing bloating after a workout really sucks. Today’s article, though, should put you on the fast track toward a bloat-free life. The rest is really up to you.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

In the meantime thank you for dropping by.

David D.