Why Do I Feel Bloated After a Workout?

You’re dripping with sweat.  Your muscles ache.  Your lungs burn as you gasp for larger and larger gulps of air.  Another killer workout in the books…but something doesn’t seem right.  You don’t feel like you think you should.  You feel…big.  Kinda like how you feel after one of those all-you-can-eat buffets.  So what gives?  You didn’t just stuff yourself full of junk; quite the contrary.  For many of us, a heart-pounding workout leaves us feeling bloated and defeated.  Has this ever happened to you?  Ever wonder why that intense workout makes you feel so bloated?  As it turns out, that bloated feeling is not just in your head.

Today we take a look at what causes this common workout side effect and perhaps give you a couple of options for limiting the post-workout pudgy feeling so many dread.

Why Do I Feel Bloated?

First things first – if you’re just starting a new workout program or bumping the intensity of your workouts, the post-workout bloated sensation is more likely to strike.  The reason for this has to do with our natural response to stress.  When your body is faced with stress (i.e. a killer HIIT workout, for example) the adrenal glands respond by releasing cortisol, a stress hormone. This hormonal release leads to a variety of responses in the body, one of which is fluid retention.  As our cells suck up more fluid, we begin to feel the consequences…particularly around our stomachs.  This excess fluid retention is the primary cause of our post-workout bulge.

That said, the cortisol response is going to diminish with time.  As your body becomes more accustomed to more rigorous workouts, the hormonal response will be less pronounced. Give yourself a solid couple of weeks and you should notice significantly less bloating after those workouts.

If you want to take things another step further, your diet can play a significant part if that overall bloated feeling.  To lower your cortisol levels, avoid sugary foods and/or white flour food products.  These food choices, while tasty, cause a rise in cortisol, as well as insulin.  If you aren’t already, opting for low glycemic-index foods like lean protein, whole grains, legumes, and veggies is a sure-fire way to lower cortisol levels and experience less of that bloated feeling.

On the topic of diet, if you’re consuming too much fiber just before a workout, you very well may feel a little excess bulge around your gut.  Additionally, a high-sodium diet can also impact fluid retention and lead to your bloated feeling.

If you’re feeling excessively bloated after a workout, definitely take a hard look at your diet and see if there are changes to be made.  Look at that bloated feeling as a nice reminder to reassess your diet and see if it can be improved.

At the end of the day, that post-workout bloated feeling is a common side effect for many people.  Stick with your workout routine, change your diet if needed, and in just a couple of weeks you should notice a significant change in the way you feel after your workouts.  If your bloating doesn’t seem to subside after a month or so, perhaps check in with your doctor or an allergist.  It’s quite possible you’re experiencing chronic inflammation due to a food or foods you’re eating.

Happy lifting, and as always, if you have any questions, post ’em below.