Stomach Pain After Working out? How To Stop It For Good

Upset stomach after working out? What you can do

Have you every experienced stomach pain after working out? If so, you’re probably wondering what the heck is going on, and what led to the upset stomach.

Most post-workout pain are linked to factors such as diet or exercise, so something as simple as changing your workout routine could be massively beneficial.

Here we reveal some of the most common reasons for stomach pains after a workout, and how to tackle it head on.

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What causes stomach pain during a workout?

Stomach Pain After Working out

We all know the feeling, you’re facing a hard training session, you push through like a trooper, and suddenly you’re doubled in pain. A stabbing pain ricochets throughout your stomach – seemingly out of nowhere.

Some people call it a side stitch, some people call it exercise-related transient abdominal pain. Whatever you call it, it sucks, it hurts and you just want it stop.

But what causes stomach pains after exercising?  It looks like it’s down to four distinct things:

  • digestive issues
  • Your fluid intake
  • the sort of exercise you’re doing
  • an inadequate warm-up

Can exercise cause stomach pain?

Exercise itself isn’t solely responsible for stomach pain. For example, if you don’t do the right things before, during and after a workout sessions, you’re kind of encouraging stomach issues afterwards.

That being said, there are exercises that involve repetitive torso rotations and torso movements that make stomach pain more likely. This is particularly true when the torso is in an extended posture for long periods of time.

Activities where this happens are:

  • kayaking
  • horseback riding
  • rowing
  • swimming
  • running (the most notorious for causing stomach pain after workouts)

You may also want to take care when doing a gym session that involves a lot of abdominal work.

Dehydration and stomach pain

upset stomach after working out

Dehydration significantly contributes to alterations in the GI tract, this often happens when you’ve lost more than 4% of your body weight.

Surprisingly Studies show that as many as 75% of Americans are dehydrated are on a daily basis. If you also run, this should be even more of a concern. This is because runners, in general, have the most difficulty maintaining hydration.

You may be thinking; “but I always drink when I’m thirsty” Here’s Dr. Martha Pyron, MD of Medicine in Motion response to that;

“Feeling thirsty happens after you are already dehydrated”, she explains; “You should try to prevent feeling thirsty.”

One way to maintain adequate hydration is to drink 400-600 milliliters of water or sports drinks before exercising. If you have breaks while exercising, try to drink water during your workouts. Also, be sure to drink and re-hydrate after you finish.

Dietary contributors

Even when you’re eating a balanced diet, you may still be susceptible to GI issues. And let me tell you, there are few things worse than gas, or desperately needing the bathroom, when you’re in the middle of a intensive workout session. 

To prevent an upset stomach, large meals should be avoid at all costs. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people ignore this advice. 

It’s no surprise that individuals who consume significant quantities of food 1-2 hours before workouts are more likely to feel abdominal discomfort during exercise.

The sort of food you eat before exercise doesn’t really matter (although high fiber foods and high carb drinks seem to make it worse). Simply put, having a large amount of food in your stomach before you workout is a bad idea.

Below are 3 ways to combat this:

1. Time when you eat before workouts

prevent stomach pain after exercising

American Gastroenterological Association states that it takes at around 2 hours for our stomachs to empty. So if you have a snack (and this should be a light snack), it’s advised you wait 30 minutes before doing light or moderate exercising and 1 hour before doing anything more intensive.

John Kuemmerle, a professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University suggests that peanut butter on toast is a good pre-workout meal, or almond milk in a shot of espresso.

2. Eat slowly

If you hurry, chances are you won’t properly chew your food.

“The stomach then has to work harder to break it down into digestible pieces,” says Tracy Lockwood, R.D., a nutritionist located in New York City.

This can trigger bloating and stomach pain. A  meal should require at least 20 minutes to finish

3. Keep prebiotics in mind.

Even when you get probiotics from foods such as yoghurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, you may not be optimizing your gut health. For healthy bacteria to live in your gut, you need prebiotics.

Some of the best sources, are resistant starches. So start incorporating green bananas, black rice, tiger nuts, purple potatoes into your diet.

Digestion and working out

You require extra oxygen during exercise to support lots of muscle contractions. This means that blood supply is guided away from your organs (including the digestion) and to your muscles.   

 As a result, there may be a decline in your guts ability to move food into your digestive tract. To complicate it further, this could also harm your gut mucosa, damage your microbiota,  increase gut permeability and lead the stomach to produce toxins that cause diarrhea!

All this may cause stomach pain during a workout.

So what’s the work around? It’s important to bare in mind that this symptom seems to be intensity dependent.  That means the more your exercise, the more blood the muscles require and the less is available for your digestion.

One way around this is to choose low risk, gentler exercises, that may be easier on the stomach. However, if you still want to do high intensity workouts, see the guidelines below.

High Intensity Exercise and stomach pains

pain in stomach after working out

As we now know, one of the most common reasons for post-exercise stomach pain is exercising at a high intensity. But if you want to partake in this type of workout, what can you do to lessen the risk of stomach pain afterwards?

One of the first things is to listen to your body…

Those newer to world of High Intensity Training may be tempted to ignore their bodies warning signals and push on through. This often leads to unnecessary injuries and – of course, stomach pain.

To avoid this, when you start high intensity training, enlist someone more experienced – like a fitness trainer, so you don’t over-exceed your personal limits. Follow their guidance carefully, and only work to a desired intensity level, then stop.

By training your body correctly, the chances of post-exercise stomach pain drops dramatically.

Weather conditions

Exercising in cold conditions also plays a role in post-workout stomach pain, especially when you exercise in snowy or icy weather. Cold weather causes the circulation in muscles to decrease, this increases the chance of muscular tension in the abdominal area.

Warming up of the abdominal muscles decreases the risk of this problem. Perform warm-up exercises indoors, before exercising outside in a cold climate. In addition, when exercising in colder weather, wrap up well to help your body retain the necessary heat.

Warm up properly

Not warming up properly has also been mentioned as causing stomach pain during exercise.

And if you think about it, then it makes sense.

When you don’t warm up the right way, your muscle and core body temperature don’t increase in temperature. Then the body, in response, is not prepared to workout. This is likely to provoke abdominal cramping and stomach pain.

Need some warming up tips? Check out the video below.

Stomach pain after working out – abs

Intense ab exercises may contribute to abdominal strain — particularly if you’re pushing your body to the extreme. Injuries to this area may entail tearing of the tendon fibers or abdominal muscles ( typically the rectus and the obliques muscles) . In these cases  discomfort and tenderness will develop in the ab certain area.

This type of pain may be felt while working out, however delayed onset muscle soreness – DOMS is also typical . Chances are you’ll notice it after coughing, sneezing and other actions that expand the ab muscles.

Pain from a mild abdominal strain steadily declines over 10 to 14 days of resting. It may take up to 10 weeks for more serious strains to fully resolve.

Can exercise cause pain in lower abdomen?

Pain in the  Lower abdominal pain while exercising is not uncommon. Like the reasons for pain that we explored earlier, this may be nothing more than a side ache or stitch.

Other causes for this are:

  • A pulled muscle. Needless to say, if an exercise hurts stop and allow your body to recover.
  • Nerve entrapment around the lower abdomen area. This is less common, but also could contribute to pain in this area.  
  • A stress fracture of in the pubic bone, often felt while running. Ouch and ouch again, this should be looked at by a doctor.

When to see your doctor

There’s a bit of a disclaimer to all the info I’ve given here. Some abdominal pains are certainly normal after exercise. These are, in most situations, common scenarios that apply to the majority of people.

Then there are others that don’t fall into this category 

These are more serious.

In reality, stomach pain after workouts these could also be a sign that something more severe might be happening. In these cases you should certainly see your doctor.

  • you start developing a fever
  • any pain extends from your stomach and into your neck, chest and shoulders
  • when you start start vomiting
  • you are pregnant
  • You have continually lower abdominal pain that never goes away – especially as a woman (this could be a sign of endometriosis)
  • your abdominal muscles noticeably protrude
  • the pain is severe and sharp and continual
  • you experience vaginal bleeding afterwards

To Summarize

Having stomach pain after workouts is, in truth, a relatively natural occurrence — although it doesn’t have to be. In reality, you can eradicate this happening by making sure that you warm up correctly, take care of your gut health and stay hydrated!

Have you beaten the dreaded side stitch or exercise pains? How did you manage it? Let us know in the comments below

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