There's nothing worse than low-key feeling like you're six months pregnant right after finishing a workout, especially when you're 100 percent sure there's no bun in your oven. You know what I'm talking about — your stomach is basically the equivalent of a sad, semi-inflated balloon, and it feels uncomfortable AF, to say the least. So you start wondering if working out can actually make you bloated, or if your tummy is all puffed out and feeling gross for some other ungodly reason.
First of all, if you've ever had an uncomfortably bloated belly right after a rough HIIT circuit, as weird as that phenomenon might seem, you are not alone, fam. It's pretty common to feel bloated after an intense workout, and Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, has a few solid answers to satisfy your many questions. Hint: It all comes down to a heaping dose of science, my friends.
"Humans have two airway passageways, the nose and mouth, which form a junction at the back of the throat before making the journey down the trachea and into the lungs," Backe tells Elite Daily.
However, he says, there's no real border between your windpipe and your esophagus (aka your food pipe), and Backe says people learn this the hard way when exercising.
Basically, Backe is saying that this lack of a barrier between your windpipe and esophagus can explain why some people get super bloated after a challenging workout. The more you exert yourself during your sweat session, he explains, the more oxygen your body needs, which is why you might huff, puff, and pant while you exercise.
"Nevertheless, as your breathing rate rises and your diaphragm has to contract more rapidly, oxygen can enter the esophagus, which empties into the stomach," Backe tells Elite Daily. "Instead of just passing through into the intestines, the stomach will retain a good portion of the air." What's more, the health and wellness expert says, your stomach's volume can fluctuate between as little as 50 milliliters and as much as 1.5 liters. Jeez stomach, can you chill out a little? I'm just trying to breathe, for goodness' sake.
Now that you know the science behind the post-workout bloat, you should probably keep in mind that there are a couple of things that can make the situation worse — but don't worry, they can all be easily avoided. Dr. Alex Tauberg, a sports chiropractor, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and a nationally registered emergency responder, tells Elite Daily that one common reason why people feel bloated after a workout is because they drink too much water beforehand.
While staying hydrated, especially before, during, and after a workout, is important, Dr. Tauberg says, he claims he's also noticed a "recent trend toward over-hydration."
"In an effort to avoid the dangerous effects of dehydration, people are drinking more water then necessary while working out," he tells Elite Daily. Obviously, this isn't inherently bad (as long as you're not majorly overdoing it), but Dr. Tauberg explains that over-hydration can definitely lead to bloating, since your body isn't actually using all of the liquid that you just consumed.
And if you're sure that your H2O consumption isn't the culprit behind your belly bloat, James Mcmillin, an NASM-certified trainer, says your pre-workout snack or meal could be contributing to your belly bloat, too. "I always tell my clients to be conscious of what they are consuming before their workouts," Mcmillin tells Elite Daily. He recommends steering clear of foods that are high in fiber; instead, he says, save those for after your workout. In other words, if the post-workout bloat is really getting on your nerves, save your sweet potato fries and Instagram-worthy avocado toast for post-workout fuel. Additionally, Mcmillin says not having enough salt in your diet can cause over-retention of water and thus lead to some bloating, as well.
If you're reading all of this and nothing's really ringing a bell or relating to your situation, remember that your bloated post-workout belly could also be a result of an overheated body or a case of inflammation, according to POPSUGAR. TBH, it could even be as simple as your body not feeling comfortable yet with a new, super intense exercise you're trying out. Personally, SoulCycle always makes me feel pregnant AF, but that's just me.
If you're really worried, though, and your bloat is interfering with your everyday life, then it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor and figure out how you can stay comfortable after your sweat sessions.