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Running While Bloated: 7 Tips For Runners Who Bloat

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We find that eliminating dairy, grains, processed foods, and sugar is very helpful to avoid bloating during or after a run.

If gas, bloating, or other related tummy issues keep you from enjoying your running, we can help. Whether your bloat is happening before or you are experiencing bloating after running, we have some great tips that work every time!

First, let’s get to the root of the problem, which is why it happens. 

10 Causes of Bloating

1. Constipation

If you are backed up, the food you have eaten will sit in the small intestines. This causes gassy buildup, a common cause of running bloat.

Staying on top of your diet can help prevent constipation.

2. Irregular gut bacteria balance

There can be many reasons why the balance between the “healthy” bacteria and the “bad” bacteria can go awry.

A good probiotic can help with this. 

3. Eating too quickly or late at night

If you don’t chew your food properly, which happens if you eat too fast, your body relies on the enzymes in your digestive system to work harder than they have to. Slow down and chew your food.

Also, eating late and asking your body to digest all night is not what is best for your body.

4. Swallowing air

Breath-holding, a high breathing rate, gulping beverages, drinking from straws, or breathing shallowly without using the diaphragm muscle can contribute to running while bloated.

Some experts also say that chewing gum while you run can lead to you swallowing more air, which results in gastrointestinal issues or bloat.

This can also happen when you do a particularly intense workout such as cardio, track work or a tempo run

5. Stress

You have probably figured out that stress hormones can impact our digestive tract in many negative ways.

6. Inadequate sleep

This is another often overlooked thing. If you do not get enough sleep and rest, your body is not operating like the well-oiled machine that it is.

This includes scheduling enough sleep at night and honoring the rest days.

7. Hormonal fluctuations

The effects of the hormones can be especially prominent when it comes to PMS and menopause for women.

8. Food allergies or intolerances

People who have chronic bloat often find that there are foods they are intolerant to that cause their issues.

The most common food intolerances (whether food sensitivities or true allergies) include wheat/gluten, milk/dairy, eggs, fish, soy, corn, and nuts.

Some people are highly sensitive to all types of grains (not just gluten) and benefit from an approach that also eliminates rice, oats, etc.

Sensitivities may also lie in processed foods or foods that contain artificial ingredients designed to increase shelf lifetime, sugar, or sugar alternatives.

9. High FODmap foods

The “FODmaps” often get blamed when people experience a bloated belly after eating. These include foods high in fructose, lactose, fructans, and polyols.

Examples of high FODmap foods include cauliflower, artichokes, asparagus, apples, ice cream, artificial sweeteners, and much more.

If you think the problem might be your diet, food mapping can help you out. 

10. Medical conditions

Since many medical issues could cause bloat, keep this in mind if all of the above things don’t seem to be your issue.

A trip to the doctor might be in order. 

Bloated After Running?

All runners will experience some post-workout bloat at some point in their career. You take in a lot of air every time you inhale during a run, but your body does not exhale all of it.

Some of this air will trap in your intestines which causes them to inflate. This type of bloat is temporary. 

“Runner’s stomach” is not only caused by air. The jostling around that you do when running also adds to this stomach issue. Blood flow normally used in your stomach is diverted away to help keep your body moving. Since you have less blood at work in your stomach area, you are not digesting your food properly.

This is why you should consume foods that are easy to digest. It is also recommended to eat a couple of hours before a big race or long run. Eating too close to a workout or race can end badly. 

Eating the wrong foods can also lead to feeling bloated after running, or other stomach issues. This can include things that are hard on your body like the food intolerances explained above.

However, some foods commonly cause gastro issues, such as spicy meals, high in fat or high in fiber.  

Food mapping is the ticket if you have stomach issues while or after you run.

Solution: Food Mapping for Runners

One of the things you can do is track your food for 4-8 weeks. You will also want to include your workouts and how you feel each day.

One other thing that can be helpful is how your favorite pants fit. We realize that sounds like a lot of work, but if you are diligent about it, you may start to see patterns. 

If certain foods or food groupings cause the wheels to fall off the bus each week, those are foods to avoid on workout days. You might be surprised that some foods can interfere with your workout, even if they are eaten 48 hours before running.

This is where journaling is so important.

Be diligent, look for patterns and make changes.

7 Tips for Runners Who Bloat

Wondering how to get rid of bloating while or after running?

There are some things you can do. 

  1. Avoid certain foods before running. This includes anything fatty, spicy, high-protein, carbs, or high-fiber food before or after a long run. 
  2. Eat a couple of hours before a run or race. If you have to eat shortly before, pick items that are easy to digest and that you know to agree with you.
  3. Your running fuel should be something you know works well for you, and you should consider stopping or slowing down to take it in. This can help prevent taking in too much air.
  4. Food map to determine if some things are at the root of your problems. 
  5. Hydrate before, during, and after. Focus on hydration (water, sports drinks, electrolytes, etc) as a lifestyle change. 
  6. Consider taking a probiotic to create greater gut health. 
  7. Read through the list of things that can cause bloat and stomach issues. Are any of these changes you should consider? They really might help.

Get Moving!

We get it.

It can be frustrating to experience bloating when running, and the thought of figuring it all out can be mentally exhausting.

However, you need to get moving and start working on the problem now.

 The best starting place is to keep a symptom log to try and determine what your trigger(s) are. Once you’ve nailed down patterns, you can start by eliminating the triggers.

If you want to fast-forward this process, you can start with an elimination diet and slowly add back one food at a time to be sure which foods may be problematic for you.

We find that eliminating dairy, grains, processed foods, and sugar is very helpful to avoid bloating during or after a run.

Taking an over-the-counter anti-gas medication is generally ineffective and does not address the root cause of running while bloated.

Instead of taking something to mask the symptoms, you need to find a solution so you can run often and happy. 

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