Move / Recovery

Bloated After Working Out? Don’t Sweat It, Here’s Why

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Written by Mona Freund
Reviewed by Sequoia Ridley, RDN & Victoria Sekely, DPT, CSCS

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When you hit the gym, go for a run, or give your muscles a good burn with a Pilates sesh, you glow. Working out boosts confidence and releases endorphins icon-trusted-source Mayo Clinic “Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress” View Source , or the “feel good” chemicals. After one of these sweaty sessions, the last thing you’d probably expect to feel is… bloated. 

Bloating icon-trusted-source Johns Hopkins Medicine “Bloating: Causes and Prevention Tips” View Source is a condition in which the stomach feels tight and full. It’s often accompanied by gas and may be uncomfortable. It has a lot of causes—including, sometimes, working out.

While it may seem counterintuitive, post-exercise bloat isn’t always a bad thing. If you find yourself wondering,  “Why do I feel bloated after working out?” we have some insight to help guide you. Luckily, a few simple tweaks to your routine can help you beat the bloat. 

Is Post-Workout Bloat Normal?

In most cases, post-workout bloat isn’t cause for concern. Post-workout bloat also isn’t permanent and should go away after a couple of hours. If you find that it lasts longer, or is accompanied by difficult or painful bowel movements, stomach cramping, or painful gas, talk with a healthcare professional about other possible underlying causes.

Causes of Bloating After Working Out

Woman with grey hair and blue eyes looks straight ahead as she grasps the handles of the chest press machine at the gym. Two men in black and navy shirts are blurry in the background, each using an indoor bicycle. The woman wears a magenta quarter zip and has white ear buds wrapped around her neck.
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Post-workout bloat doesn’t have a universal trigger. The culprit could be something different each time you feel it. A lot of the time, when people feel bloated, most of what they are feeling is actually air.

Here are some other common causes:

Overhydrating

So you like to stay hydratedhello, glowing skin! But it’s best to avoid chugging. Drinking too much water too quickly can cause hyponatremia. This is a condition in which the concentration of sodium in your blood is low, causing your cells to retain too much water.

Excessive water intake followed by sweating can make your cells retain water, which can then cause bloating. Our advice? If you’re drinking more than 8 cups of any liquid daily, consider cutting back a bit or adding in some fluids with electrolytes. (If you don’t notice a difference,  check in with a healthcare provider to see what’s up.)

Your Pre-Workout Meals

Fueling your body is an important pre-workout ritual. But what and when you eat could determine your post-workout fate. 

Let’s break it down. 

Your muscles need energy to perform. But eating up to an hour before your workout icon-trusted-source Mayo Clinic “Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts” View Source forces your body to digest food while sending blood to your working muscles. What follows is sluggish digestion that may provoke bloating. So while those protein bars may seem like the real deal to elevate your performance, they could cause that bloat later on. At the very least, wait a few hours to exercise after consuming foods high in protein, fiber, and fats. They’ll help you in your workout, but take longer to digest.

Turnin’ Up The Heat

So you hit your first hot yoga class, only to finish bloated and bothered—but don’t sweat it. Heat can make you retain water, which could result in bloating.

While hot yoga could cause you to feel bloated, it still provides benefits (did you know that stretching with warm muscles icon-trusted-source Mayo Clinic “Stretching: Focus on flexibility” View Source is safer than with cold muscles?). So don’t forgo the heat on account of post-workout bloat. Take it in stride and know it won’t last.

Heavy Breathing

It’s normal for your breathing to increase as you exercise. In fact, many of us think of huffing and puffing as a standard part of a workout. 

However, inhaling quickly or intensely when exercising can frequently lead to you swallowing air, which is also called aerophagia. These extra few gulps of air may cause you to look and feel bloated. It may also cause burping and belly pain. If you find that your workouts always cause you to gasp for air, slow down for a beat and focus on calming your breath. This may be enough to prevent discomfort and bloating.

Stress

If you’re jumping into a new (intense) workout, it may trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response icon-trusted-source Pub Med “The protective role of exercise on stress system dysregulation and comorbidities” View Source

While all exercises can cause stress, hitting it hard when your body isn’t used to the strain on specific muscles could cause your body to produce the stress hormone cortisol. The point? Because there’s evidence that cortisol exacerbates bloating, intense exercise may make bloating worse, too.

Don’t take this as a sign that this particular workout isn’t for you. Give your body time to adjust to the new ways you’re utilizing your muscles. Post-workout bloat should pass in no time!

Exertion

Exercise is work—it’s where the term “working out” comes from. Exerting a lot of energy while you move signals your muscles to go into repair mode. Your body has to compensate by sending extra fluid to your muscles, which leads to bloating as your body temperature rises.

Tips to Beat Post-Workout Bloat

Tips to Beat Post-Workout Bloat
Hydrate properly
Focus on your breathwork
Choose simple carbs for your pre-workout snack
Dress comfortably
Plan a rest day
Stretch after your workout

Hydrate Properly

While you certainly don’t want to overhydrate, you do want to make sure you’re taking in enough water. The body’s electrolytes icon-trusted-source Medline Plus “Fluid and Electrolyte Balance” View Source (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride) keep fluid balance and blood pressure in check.

When working out, you’re sweating it out. A drink with added electrolytes—like Nuun—helps to replenish the electrolytes that get flushed out through sweat. Keeping your levels balanced may help beat the post-workout bloat.

Nessie Tip:

If it’s tough for you to remember to drink water, try tracking your water intake to ensure you get what you need without overdoing it.

Focus on Your Breathwork

Many workout classes focus (rightfully) on perfecting form to prevent injury. But don’t hold your breath as you’re trying to achieve great form! Try to work on steady breathing to avoid gasping or swallowing too much air. If you feel like you’re gulping a lot of air, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth icon-trusted-source Cleveland Clinic “Should I Breathe Through My Mouth or Through My Nose?” View Source .

Nessie Tip:

Always bloated after ab workouts? Practice exerting control over the connection between mind and body with breathwork.

Opt for Simple Carbohydrates Pre-Workout

It’s best not to eat less than an hour before exercising. But if you need to eat shortly before a workout, reach for a quick snack with simple carbohydrates icon-trusted-source American Heart Association “Carbohydrates” View Source , which get digested quickly. Small amounts of simple carbs such as fruit, yogurt, or smoothies can provide the energy you need for a great workout without overloading your digestive system.

Nessie Tip:

During your post-workout wind-down, your body goes into recovery mode. Consuming easily digestible carbs or proteins after exercising is a good call. Protein-packed smoothies are a popular post-workout snack, but keep in mind that whey protein powders can sometimes cause bloating.

Dress Comfortably

Sometimes workout bloat just happens—and that’s okay! But when it happens, you’ll want to be dressed as comfortably as possible.

For maximum comfort, choose lightweight gear made from breathable materials. Look for pieces made of spandex, cotton, or polyester.

Pace Yourself

Ready to get back into the swing of things after a workout hiatus? Right on! Just don’t hit the ground sprinting. Pacing yourself is a great way to prevent both post-workout bloat and injuries. 

Take your time and gradually build up the intensity of your workouts. Doing this will give your body time to get used to heightened stress on your body with the new routine and a better chance to beat the bloat. 

Nessie Tip:

As you’re planning your workouts, don’t forget to schedule rest days.

Stretch Post-Workout

bloated after working out | Woman uses left hand to press right arm into chest. Wears a ruby sports bra. She closes her eyes and looks blissful in the foreground of a white curtained, sunlit room, decorated with orange toned pillows and blob paintings, and a dark green leafy plant.
Getty Images

Collapsing in a puddle of sweat right after your workout may be tempting, but it’s not recommended. 

Working out hard pumps blood to your heart and increases your heart rate. Stretching for five to ten minutes after your workout both aids your heart rate in returning to normal and gives your body the chance to cool down.

A post-workout cooldown or stretch also gives your body the chance to relieve bloat caused by breathing in excess air. 

All told, a lot of us experience post-workout bloat. For the most part, it isn’t something to worry about. Feel confident walking into your next barre, HIIT, or yoga class hydrated and focused on maintaining your mind and body’s connection. 

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