Is Workout Bloat a Thing? An Expert Explains

Here's why your tummy might get puffy after exercise.

You're just about to slip on that new dress you've been dying to wear, but you notice your stomach has suddenly inflated thanks to pesky bloating. We've all been there, and one influencer is shedding light on the fact that bloat can happen any time, any place.

"Bloating can be caused by SOOO many things," Courtnee Leeper wrote in a September 9 Instagram post. She's right. Eating too fast, chewing gum, and drinking through a straw can all cause your abdomen to puff out on you. Yet there are other causes as well, and the one Leeper focuses on might surprise you: working out.

Uh, we thought exercise was supposed to make our stomachs slimmer, no? Well, Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, Health contributing nutrition editor, says that though you might feel bloated after working out, it probably isn't directly caused by physical activity.

Rather, Sass says you're probably huffing and puffing and accidentally gulping down air while trying to catch your breath as you exercise. That can trap air in the gastrointestinal tract and cause a puffy tummy. It's similar to what happens when you eat too fast and swallow gas-producing air.

Another thing that can cause bloat after working out is eating too close to your gym session, especially if your meal contains fiber, protein, and fat, which take longer to digest, says Sass. "When you start your barre class or run, blood flows away from the digestive system toward your muscles, which slows digestion further and may lead to bloating," she explains. So hold off on downing that protein bar or shake until after your workout.

Artificial sweeteners can also cause bloating because they're difficult for your system to digest, and they hang around in your stomach for a while. Before reaching for a sports drink, check the label to make sure it doesn't contain bloat-inducing artificial sweeteners. It might be refreshing during your workout, but it could leave you with some serious distension afterward.

Bloating might not be comfortable, but unfortunately, you can't always prevent it from happening. Instead of being angry with your stomach for ballooning on you, accept that it happens to everyone... and it's temporary.

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