Feeling bloated from running? GI distress can turn an otherwise enjoyable run into a pain in the you-know-what. Here’s how to alleviate stomach troubles.
In all those countless hours of conversation with running friends, one topic has probably never come up. The last thing you want to talk about is how gassy and bloated you feel during and after running. Even while discussing your unfair boss or your latest Netflix binge, uncomfortable bloating may be all that’s actually on your mind. We get it and we’re here to help.
By taking preventive steps to guard against GI (gastrointestinal) distress—or to be more specific, bloating, burping, gas, stomach cramps, nausea and the need to dash to the nearest bush or Shell station restroom—you can put it behind you. Here’s what you need to know about bloating and how to alleviate symptoms. Spoiler alert: It happens to all of us.
Is it Normal to Bloat When Running?
Every runner bloats. You bring lots of air into your body each time you inhale while running, but not all of it gets exhaled—especially if you’re “gulping” air during a hard workout. Some of it can get trapped in your intestines, especially your colon, which can inflate like a balloon with all that air. So while you’re burning all those calories, thinking that you’re shrinking your stomach, it may be bigger at the end of the run. Fortunately, this is a temporary condition.
What is Runner’s Stomach?
Whether you call it bloating, distended stomach or “runner’s stomach,” excess air is only one cause. All that jostling when you run also contributes. That’s because blood is diverted away from your stomach for use by your churning legs and pumping arms, which compromises your stomach’s ability to satisfactorily digest food. And that brings us to the leading contributor to stomach woes: too much (or the wrong kind of) food in your stomach. Give peace, not pizza, a chance.
How Do I Get Rid of Bloating During and After Running?
Here are some hacks that should help you avoid or reduce the symptoms of GI distress:
- Avoid heavy, fatty, spicy, high-protein, high-sugar, and high-fiber foods—and caffeinated or alcoholic beverages—in the last two hours before a long or hard run. So, no burgers, beans, broccoli or beer (just to name the bad B’s).
- During those two hours, stick to easily digestible fuel like bananas, oatmeal, eggs or a PB&J sandwich.
- Stop for mid-run drinks or snacks—such as sports beverages, gels or bars—so you don’t gulp in air while refueling.
- Try nose breathing (more details here) to reduce the volume of air you take in.
- Hydrate well before, during and after runs because an overheated body slows digestion, which increases bloating.
- Be extra conservative about taking in food and liquids before and during faster workouts because the faster you run, the more GI problems can arise.
- Avoid alcohol and NSAIDs (such as Advil), which can cause GI problems.
- Experiment with different eating strategies on easy runs to determine what your body can and cannot handle. We all have different sensitivities to foods.
- Don’t panic if your bloating is at its worst post-run. That’s normal. But you’re done—and your tummy will shrink and feel better quickly.
Author bio: Bob Cooper is a former executive editor of Running Times and a former contributing editor to Runner’s World. The finisher of 45 marathons and ultramarathons currently runs, bikes and kayaks in San Anselmo, California.