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Say Goodbye to Bloating

By Bob Seebohar

Abdominal bloating —large pockets of sulfur-bearing gases — stretch the gut wall past its comfortable elastic limit, and pain or expansion in the abdomen is felt and seen.  Bloating can be quite painful for some athletes and it is important to remember that bloating happens quite frequently throughout the day and during and after training sessions. 

running While there are many causative factors that can be associated with bloating (diet, stress, breathing patterns, etc.), the following are more frequent and popular causes:

  • Overeating
  • Lactose or fructose intolerances
  • Food allergies
  • Aerophagia (the swallowing of air)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Partial bowel obstruction
  • Rapid gastric emptying
  • Constipation
  • Menstruation
  • Diverticulosis

In addition to this list, eating a daily diet that is higher fat could cause bloating because carbon dioxide is produced in the small intestine when bicarbonate is released to neutralize stomach acid and fat eaten during meals. Eating this type of meal can generate a good amount of carbon dioxide, some of which is released as gas, which may cause bloating. 

The pre-exercise meal or snack can also have a large influence on whether or not bloating occurs after exercise.  Eating a high protein and/or high fiber meal within 1-2 hours of exercise can increase the susceptibility of bloating and should be minimized as much as possible.  Try to eat a small snack or meal 2-3 hours before exercise.

Daily and pre-exercise nutrition are important factors to consider if you are prone to bloating after exercise but so is your nutrition during exercise.  The following nutrient mishaps during exercise can also precipitate bloating after exercise:

  • Drinking plain water
  • Consuming no or very little sodium
  • Drinking carbonated drinks
  • Drinking a beverage that has a high carbohydrate concentration (greater than 8 percent)
  • Drinking a beverage that has a high osmolality rating (normal body osmolality ranges from 280-330mOsm/kg )

If you experience bloating on a frequent basis, it is most likely due to daily nutrition mishaps and/or food intolerances or allergies.  If you have tried everything to stop the bloating from happening, I would recommend that you consult with a physician.

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS is a sport dietitian and elite triathlon coach. He traveled to the 2008 Summer Olympics as the U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Dietitian and the personal Sport Dietitian for the 2008 Olympic Triathlon Team. He has served as head coach for Sarah Haskins, 2008 Olympian, was a performance team member (sport dietitian and strength coach) for Susan Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon bronze medalist. He is the current coach of Jasmine Oeinck, 2009 Elite National Champion.

Bob's new book, Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat, will teach athletes how to structure their nutrition and training program throughout the year to maximize their body's ability to use fat as energy and improve body composition.  For more information and to order the book, visit www.fuel4mance.com or contact Bob at coachbob@fuel4mance.com

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