“Gas is produced in the gut by the microbes that reside there. They eat foods we don’t digest and ferment them, which results in gas,” says Kate Scarlata, RD and GI and IBS expert. “We might notice lower GI gas moving during exercise, as exercise can stimulate the movement of gas in the intestine." So, if you’re eating before exercising, you might experience those gas bubbles. The good news is you don’t need to suffer through those minutes in pain. With a few simple lifestyle tips and exercises, you can reduce gas prior to exercising and get rid of it mid-workout, too. Bless up.
1. Choose your carbs wisely before working out
You need carbs to help fuel your workout with immediate and sustainable energy, but some carbs are better than others in terms of gas production. Ditch poorly absorbed, fermentable carbs a few hours before you head to the gym. “These include beans, onion, garlic and large servings of wheat, such a big crusty bagel,” Scarlata says. “By reducing the food sources for your microbes, you’ll reduce their gas production in your intestines,” she says. Fuel your workout with rice, potatoes or oatmeal, which are lower in rapidly fermentable carbs.
2. Take probiotics regularly
While not a quick fix, taking probiotics and eating probiotic-rich foods and beverages will keep your belly happy and lower risk of gas during workouts. “Excessive gas, whether you’re working out or not, is usually the result of imbalanced gut flora. There are lots of temporary fixes, but to eliminate that gas in the long term you’ll need to rebalance your gut microbiome,” says Lisa Richards, nutritionist and the creator of the Candida diet.
The most important step towards a healthy microbiome is taking probiotics in capsule and edible form. “Fermented foods can contain a huge number of beneficial bacteria, sometimes across hundreds of different strains. Good examples are kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Including them in your diet is easy and can be done at any time of day,” she says. (FWIW: It's different to eat foods that are already fermented, than foods that will ferment in your gut and produce a bunch of gas.)
3. Stop gulping those liquids
If you’re dehydrated, of course drink some water, but if you aren’t super thirsty and are just gassy, ditch the drinks for the rest of the workout, as it’ll help ease some gas production. “Try to avoid drinking liquids while you are exercising. Gulping down liquids in the middle of intense exercise often means swallowing some air too. Most of this will get burped up, but some can end up in your small intestine,” says Richards. If you need to drink water, try to wait for a break in your workout, or at least a period of lower intensity, she recommends.
And you might even consider ditching the sugary sports drinks all together. Though you may get that boost of electrolytes mid-exercise to hydrate, you’ll be disrupting your stomach even more, because sugar isn’t good for digestion, says Abby Schmidt, CPT and Studio Three Interval Instructor.
4. Be mindful of your breath
Watch your breath. If you are super gassy and don’t want to actively release, but more so tame your belly and reduce farts and bloating, reduce the amount of air that enters your body from the outside. “If you're more of a high intensity junky, I recommend taking those breaks when they come. Inhale through your nose and out through your mouth,” says Schmidt. Excess air coming in will increase gas, so by breathing in through your nose, you’re lowering the amount.
5. Just...let the gas out
Feeling gassy but surrounded by fellow exercisers? Take a quick break and excuse yourself to the bathroom or a corner in a classroom to pass some gas in private and then feel more comfortable for the rest of the duration of your workout (editor's note, though: Wait until the end of your sprint if you're in a class like Barry's to make the "break" more coy). “Yoga positions such as the child pose or knees to chest can help your body release gas,” says Scarlata, as they can stimulate the colon to allow gas to easily move and exit the body. You can also try pelvic floor physical therapy, which can help your pelvic floor relax and remove excess gas.
Think of these as moves that work your pelvic muscles and core. “Any exercise that has you tightening your core can cause gas. Simply put, if you are squeezing your belly button to your spine you are also putting pressure on your colon and literally pushing the gas out,” says Schmidt. That means planks, abdominal work, and squats are all going to help you release that pent up gas. You can either walk it out, as this helps to move the trapped gas, or do exercises like a plank or reverse crunch, two of which put pressure on your insides and help push gas out, Schmidt suggests.
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