Why You Can’t Stop Farting at the Gym

You're not the only one.

  • Some aspects of working out can produce excess gas.
  • How you breathe and hydrate, as well as what you eat before a workout, can also contribute to gassiness.
  • Some things can reduce flatulence, including breathing correctly and avoiding certain pre-workout foods.

You're in the middle of a squat when suddenly you hear it. Or maybe you feel it, or worse, even smell it. However it goes down, you just let one rip in the gym.

While you might not be able to rid yourself of fitness flatulence completely, gastroenterologists and fitness pros do have some tips that can help. Here's what to know about why workout farts strike, plus what you can do when you're in a class or crowded weight room and have to break wind.

Moving Your Body Can Make You Fart

Farting, or flatulence, is when air from the intestine is passed through the rectum. So, it's physics, really. "Any exercises that involve physical bending or twisting can cause the air in our digestive tract to be literally pushed out," said Peyton Berookim, MD, director of the Gastroenterology Institute of Southern California. This includes pilates, cycling, yoga, and bodyweight workouts that physically compress the intestines, such as inchworms and forward folds.

Strength-based workouts can be gassy too. Many strength athletes employ something called the Valsalva maneuver, a way of breathing that's thought to help them lift more weight, Dr. Berookim explained. But if the air isn't fully exhaled through the mouth, it comes out the other end.

"This way of breathing is most common in exercises that involve pushing, hinging, and squatting, so powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters might notice more gas being expressed," Dr. Berookim said. The same goes for people who do CrossFit.

There's another gas-producing mechanism at work when you do aerobic workouts. During bouncy exercises like running and jumping rope, our internal organs jostle up and down and side-to-side. Working out can speed up the natural digestion process, causing gas produced in our gastrointestinal tract to bubble out at a faster—and potentially more noticeable—rate, said Dr. Berookim. This may be what causes another exercise-related digestive condition, the dreaded runner's diarrhea.

How You Breathe Plays a Role

Inefficient breathing while you work out makes it more likely that you'll cut the cheese. "An individual's inability to inhale and exhale properly can cause flatulence at a higher rate," said exercise physiologist Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia. Breathing rapidly forces excess air into the stomach, then the intestines...and then out your anus, White said.

On the other hand, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth will limit the amount of air that gets caught in your GI tract, in turn limiting the urge to fart, White explained.

What You Eat Matters

"I often advise my patients to avoid eating high-fiber foods that create lots of gas, such as onions, cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and legumes," said Dr. Berookim. White added that wheat and whole grains, carbonated drinks, and sugar alcohols (which are typically found in items labeled "sugar-free") are also highly gaseous. Additionally, the following foods may also cause gas:

  • Beans
  • Vegetables (ie. asparagus, broccoli, artichokes)
  • Dairy products
  • Wine and beer
  • Fruit (ie. apples, peaches, apricots, pears)

Consume them in the hours before you hit the gym, and you risk a flatulence attack.

So what should you fuel up with? White's go-to pre-workout snack is a banana (for fast carbohydrate energy) and peanut butter (for protein and fat) eaten an hour before working out. But since everyone's digestive system is slightly different, it's worth experimenting with different foods. Some people may find bananas gas-producing and will do better with oatmeal or toast with peanut butter, White said.

Gulping Water Is a Culprit

When it comes to farting, how you hydrate is key. "Gulping down water can cause more air to be swallowed into the digestive tract, which will get released either through the mouth or anus," said Audra Wilson, RD, a nutritionist at the Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois.

Instead of trying to hydrate all at once, Wilson recommended drinking water all day long and sipping it throughout the time you're at the gym.

What to Do if You Get Gassy Mid-workout

What to do depends on how comfortable you are letting loose in the moment. Holding in a fart will likely make you feel uncomfortable and bloated, so if you're feeling particularly flatulent and no one is on the machines near you, you might as well release it. If you are in a crowded class or weight room, excuse yourself and pass gas in private.

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2 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Gas—flatulence.

  2. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Controlling intestinal gas.

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