A photo of the back of an athlete who is on an outdoor track. They are feeling bloated after a workout and holding their back with their hands.

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7 Reasons Why You May Feel Bloated After a Workout—and How to Prevent That Uncomfortable Feeling

Post-workout bloat isn’t too uncommon, experts say, but a few simple changes in your routine can help you avoid this unpleasant feeling.

By Kathleen FeltonMay 29, 2024


Most of us exercise because we want to feel our very best, so it can be frustrating—and a little confusing—to end a sweat session feeling, well, blah. If you find yourself uncomfortable and bloated after a workout, know that this isn’t unusual, experts say.

“Though it sounds counterintuitive, it’s actually not uncommon to feel bloated during or after a workout,” says Anthea Levi, RD, a registered dietitian and founder of ALIVE+WELL Nutrition in New York City. “It’s less about what part of the body you’re training and more about factors like the intensity or duration of the workout and how you are breathing, fueling, and hydrating while you exercise.”

The good news is that a few changes in your routine—such as tweaks in what you eat and how you move—can often prevent you from feeling bloated after a workout. Keep reading for more on what causes post-exercise bloat and how to address it.

What Does Bloating After Exercise Feel Like?

Chances are, you’ll know bloating when you feel it. And bloating after a workout “will likely feel similar to bloating at any other time of the day,” Levi says. You might notice the following sensations in your belly:

  • Tightness

  • Pressure

  • Fullness, though it can feel a little different from the heavy feeling you experience after a big meal

  • Gas or burping

  • Mild belly pain or cramping

  • Possibly a distended abdomen, meaning it’s expanding outward (“It may have a swollen, balloon-like quality to it,” Levi says)

Is Post-Exercise Bloating Common?

Bloating in general is very common, affecting nearly 1 in 7 people in the US, according to a 2023 survey of more than 88,000 Americans. And it isn’t too uncommon to experience some mild bloating and abdominal discomfort after a workout, experts say. “The incidence of overall exercise-induced gastrointestinal symptoms is anywhere from 20–96 percent,” says Samantha Nazareth, MD, a gastroenterologist who practices in New York City. 

She explains that when you exercise, your digestive system is temporarily deprioritized as your body focuses on the task at hand. “Gastric emptying slows down as blood is redirected to more critical areas, such as the muscles,” she explains. For some people, this may result in a bloated feeling at the end of a workout, particularly after high-intensity exercise or super-challenging core moves.

However, while some mild bloating can be common, Dr. Nazareth stresses that extreme bloating after a workout isn’t considered normal. If you’re experiencing painful and severe bloating after exercise, or bloating that persists even after making changes to your routine (more on this below), you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Why You May Feel Bloated After a Workout

As Dr. Nazareth explained above, some post-exercise bloat can be inevitable simply because your blood is flowing to your extremities during exercise to power those hard-working muscles. “Less blood flow through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can compromise digestion, slow motility, and increase our chances of bloating,” Levi says. But there can be other culprits, too, including:

1. Eating Lots of High-Fiber Foods Before Working Out

Filling up with a high-fat or high-fiber meal right before exercising can up your chances of feeling bloated after a workout since these foods take longer to digest. “Most of the time, this is a positive, since we want to feel fuller for longer,” Levi says. “But right before a workout, our bodies do best when we consume quick-to-digest foods that will provide fast fuel to our muscles.” 

2. Swallowing Too Much Air During Exercise

Aerophagia is the official term for swallowing too much air, which everyone does a little throughout the day (when you’re eating and talking, for example). But taking lots of big gulps during a workout can lead to gas buildup in the digestive tract, Levi says, and this, in turn, can contribute to bloating. Putting numbers behind this, one 2005 study conducted at Mayo Clinic found that 27 percent of patients with aerophagia experienced bloating. (Abdominal pain, distention, and belching were other possible side effects.)

3. Frequently Drinking Through a Straw

You’ve heard that plastic straws are bad for the environment, but there’s another reason to avoid them whenever possible: Much like aerophagia, drinking through a straw (no matter what it’s made out of) can introduce too much air to your digestive tract, per Mayo Clinic, which can cause gas buildup and bloating. At the very least, skip the straw before a workout to avoid that bloated feeling afterward, Levi says.

4. Being Dehydrated

Constipation is a common bloat trigger, Johns Hopkins Medicine notes, since stool that isn’t moving quickly enough through the digestive tract can result in gas. And dehydration can lead to constipation because stools become too hard and dry, making them difficult to pass. “If we’re sweating a ton without adequately rehydrating, we may become constipated, which can result in or exacerbate abdominal distention and bloating,” Levi says.

Aim for around 11.5–15.5 cups of liquid per day (from both food and beverage sources), which is the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s recommended daily hydration goal. 

5. Drinking Too Much Water

While you definitely want to avoid dehydration, you also don’t want to overdo it—especially just before a workout. “If you’re guzzling water or sports drinks while exercising, you may feel bloated from all that fluid sloshing around inside,” Levi says. Bloating caused by overhydration may feel more obvious because you’ll notice symptoms during rather than after a workout, she adds.

6. Loading up On Artificial Sweeteners 

It’s also worth paying attention to what you’re sipping while you sweat: Some energy drinks, protein shakes, and flavored waters may contain sugar alcohols (on the nutrition label, you might spot terms like erythritol, sorbitol, or xylitol, for example) that can prompt bloating after exercise. “These sweeteners get fermented by bacteria in the gut, which can result in uncomfortable gas production and bloating in some people,” Levi says.

7. Overdoing High-Intensity Workouts

Make sure to prioritize rest days, especially between rigorous workouts like HIIT classes. “Exercise is essential for our health, but it can also stress the body, particularly if it’s very high intensity,” Levi says. “Since some individuals experience stress in the form of digestive symptoms like reflux, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or gas, it’s not impossible to feel bloated simply because you completed a rigorous workout.”

How Long Does Bloating After a Workout Last?

How long your post-workout bloat lingers—as well as when it starts—can depend on what, exactly, is causing your symptoms. “For example, you may start to feel bloated from overhydration pretty immediately,” Levi notes, “whereas bloating as a stress response may occur hours later.”

In general, though, you’re most likely to experience bloating just after finishing exercise, according to Dr. Nazareth, and it may last for a few hours or even up to a day. It’s less common to feel bloated during your workouts, she adds, but “some people may experience [this] during intense workouts, especially if they’re not adequately hydrated or have eaten too close to their exercise session.”

How to Prevent Bloating After Workouts

The surest way to nix bloating after exercise is to figure out your triggers, then avoid anything that seems to increase your risk. Here are a few strategies to try:

1. Keep a Food and Exercise Journal 

To identify bloat triggers, Dr. Nazareth recommends tracking what you eat and drink over time, so long as you feel comfortable doing so. “Experiment with timing and composition of meals before exercise,” she says. For example, you might notice that you feel better if you eat a light breakfast with simple carbohydrates before exercising, or that back-to-back HIIT classes seem to increase bloat post-workout.

2. Eat Light Before You Exercise

Speaking of diet: Consuming a huge meal shortly before you work out, or filling your plate with lots of high-fiber foods (think whole grains, seeds, and leafy green or cruciferous veggies) or high-fat options (French fries, for example) can make you feel bloated after a workout. Instead, save big meals for at least two to three hours before a workout and keep things light if you have a pre-workout snack. “Simple carbs are good for a quick snack if you need to eat, such as fruit or a smoothie,” Dr. Nazareth says.

3. Avoid Carbonated Beverages

Bubbly drinks boost your risk of gas—and subsequent bloating—so it’s best to save these beverages for after a workout, or avoid them altogether if they seem like a big bloat trigger for you. And for the same reasons, skip the straw!

4. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water throughout the day and snacking on water-rich foods (think cucumbers, watermelon, and grapes) can help ensure you’re adequately hydrated, preventing post-workout bloat. Just don’t do too much of a good thing: “When it comes to hydration, practice moderation,” Levi says. “Sweating a ton without adequately rehydrating may exacerbate bloating by worsening constipation, while overhydrating will likely leave you feeling overly full and distended.”

5. Try to Breathe Evenly While Exercising

To prevent yourself from taking in too much air while you work out, avoid big gulps through your mouth and make an effort to inhale primarily through your nose, Levi says. 

How to Treat Post-Workout Bloat

If you finish a workout and find yourself bloated and full-feeling, you’ll likely be desperate for relief. Prevention is best when it comes to bloating, but there are a few strategies you can try to ease symptoms in the moment:

  • Get moving. While it might seem counterintuitive, Dr. Nazareth recommends going on a walk or trying some gentle stretching exercises, since both of these can help promote digestion and relieve gas, in turn alleviating bloating. Certain yoga poses, such as Garland Pose or Child’s Pose, may help relieve bloating after a workout, too.

  • Try an abdominal massage. Levi suggests lying down on a mat and manually massaging your abdomen in a gentle, clockwise motion, starting at your right bone. “[This will] help mobilize and expel gas bubbles,” she says.

  • Rehydrate. As long as you weren’t drinking too much fluid during your workout, take frequent small sips of water or an electrolyte drink after your workout to help ease bloating caused by dehydration.

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Post-Workout Bloat

While some bloating after exercise can be normal (and hopefully improved with a few routine changes!), abdominal pain and bloating can sometimes be signs of another medical condition. “Abdominal distention that is painful, constant, or worsens should always be assessed by your healthcare provider,” Levi says.

You should feel empowered to discuss even mild post-exercise bloating with your doctor, but it’s especially important to reach out to your practitioner if you notice any of these symptoms: 

  • Severe pain with bloating

  • Blood in your stool

  • Bloating that persists or worsens

  • Bloating that’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever or vomiting

The Takeaway

It’s not uncommon to feel bloated after a workout from time to time, particularly if you’ve been engaging in serious core workouts or high-intensity exercise. That full, swollen, tight feeling in your belly can also be more likely to occur if you’re dehydrated, swallowing too much air while exercising, or have been eating lots of high-fiber or carbonated foods and beverages, experts say. Still, while mild post-workout bloating can be normal, you should absolutely let your doctor know if you’re experiencing severe, persistent bloating after exercise. That’s especially important if you’ve tried lifestyle changes (such as drinking more water, avoiding food and beverage triggers, and breathing as evenly as possible during workouts) that aren’t improving your symptoms.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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