Experiencing bloating and gas when exercising can be uncomfortable and flat out embarrassing. To promote peak exercise performance, dietitian Natalie Egan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital recommends heightening awareness about common causes of bloating and gas, such as eating habits, and fluid and sodium intake. After identifying potential culprits, you can implement dietary and lifestyle changes to help minimize or eliminate bloating and gas discomfort. Consider consulting a health-care provider if you routinely experience bloating and gas or symptoms progressively worsen.
Foods to Avoid
If bloating and gas are making your abdomen feel larger than normal and impeding your workout routine, it can be helpful to avoid eating dairy products containing lactose and beans that can cause bacterial fermentation inside the colon and, thus, flatulence. Bloating and gas are also associated with a rapid, significant increase of dietary fiber; fatty or fried foods; bulky foods such as broccoli and cabbage; dried fruits; products containing artificial sweeteners, such as many low-carb or sugar-free foods; and carbonated beverages.
Fluids, Sodium and Air
Bloating and gas when exercising can be caused by drinking too much fluid or not taking in enough sodium, according to sports medicine specialist Dr. Chris Koutures. To tell if you’re drinking too much fluid or not getting enough salt, weigh yourself before and after exercising. Any postworkout weight gain, or swelling of fingers, hands, feet or ankles, could indicate the need to limit overall fluid intake or increase salt intake around exercise times. Swallowing air while breathing heavily during aerobic exercise, chewing gum, gulping drinks, using a straw, talking while eating, not chewing food thoroughly, and drinking from water fountains can also lead to increased bloating and gas.
Preventing Bloating and Gas
Eating foods high in protein, fiber or fat shortly before exercising may contribute to feeling bloated and gassy. Sports dietitian and triathlon coach Bob Seebohar advises waiting to exercise at least two or three hours after consuming a small, healthy meal or snack so your body will have adequate time to properly digest proteins and carbohydrates. To help prevent bloating due to water retention, fitness competitor and trainer Shannon Clark suggests exercising regularly; eating potassium-rich foods such as bananas, spinach, tomatoes, nuts and fish; minimizing consumption of carbohydrate-dense foods such as pasta, bread and rice; increasing calcium intake; and adding parsley, a natural diuretic, to foods.
Tips and Considerations
Natural therapies such as drinking peppermint or chamomile teas may help alleviate gas and bloating when exercising or engaging in other daily lifestyle activities. Over-the-counter gas treatments are also available, including some containing enzymes that help break down hard-to-digest, gas-producing carbohydrates. Before trying any remedies, consider consulting your health-care provider to discuss potential causes of bloating and gas, and possible underlying conditions.
Bari Auerbach writes a fitness column and has won trophies in fitness shows. Since graduating from Florida International University in 1984 with a degree in communications, she has written for national clients; interviewed dignitaries and celebrities for magazines; and has covered topics including business, politics, fashion and food.