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Is Pre-Workout Causing Bloating? (5 Ways to Get Rid of It)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 26, 2022

As a personal trainer with over ten years of experience, I’ve heard some of my clients complain about bloating after taking pre-workouts.

I couldn’t see the connection, but that didn’t stop me from digging deeper.

After extensive research with my dietitian, I finally came to understand the causes of bloating after taking a pre-workout and compiled the information into this article.

Here’s what I found.

Quick Summary

  • Pre-workouts may induce stomach problems due to the inclusion of some components.
  • Common gastrointestinal signs include bloating, nausea, acid reflux, and diarrhea.
  • Peppermint, ginger, fennel, and other botanicals can help relieve bloating and vomiting.
  • Mild exercise can help lower bloating and promote intestinal gas removal.

Can Pre-Workouts Cause Bloating?

A scoop of pre workout

Yes, pre-workouts can cause bloating due to compounds like sodium bicarbonate and magnesium that may induce stomach distress and dehydration.

Using pre-workouts might increase your chances of dehydration [1].

When your body does not have sufficient water, your stomach holds water to counteract, resulting in apparent bloating.

While you aim to energize your system for great exercise performance, having a pre-workout too soon before your workout might induce bloating.

As I came to realize, this is particularly evident if your pre-workout snack has a lot of fat, fiber, or protein.

“People who eat high fiber diets are more likely to experience bloating if their high fiber diet is protein-rich as compared to carbohydrate-rich.”

- Science Daily

Digestion can become sluggish, and microorganisms in your digestive system may react by generating gas, making you feel bloated.

5 Pre-Workout Compounds That May Cause Bloating

An opened pill top view

Many pre-workout supplements may induce stomach issues due to the inclusion of components such as caffeine, lactose, creatine, whey protein, arginine, artificial sweeteners, and magnesium.

Common gastrointestinal signs include bloating, nausea, acid reflux, and diarrhea.

A more in-depth explanation of these compounds follows:

1. Creatine

Creatine is a common bodybuilding substance that is frequently used in pre-workout shakes.

And for a valid reason: it's harmless, inexpensive, and efficient. Pre-workouts mixed with creatine, however, may induce bloating in certain consumers.

Creatine, as per studies, greatly enhances water retention [2]. 

It causes a feeling of stiffness and fullness by increasing water preservation in body cells.

This is exactly what happened to one of my clients as he was going through the creatine loading phase.

However, if you choose pre-workouts with a moderate amount of creatine, you can easily avoid creatine bloating.

Studies show that taking a modest dose of creatine supplementation for a prolonged duration is just as beneficial as taking a large dose for a shorter period [3].

2. Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar with sugar cubes

Artificial sweeteners have a reputation for causing stomach issues. As a result, these synthetic substances either break down slowly or go undigested.

Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, and others) and their compounds linger in the gastrointestinal system for prolonged periods, disrupting the gut microbiota.

The study on the relationship between sweeteners and glucose intolerance finds that the action of synthetic sweeteners has a harmful impact on gut microbial populations [4].

As a result, changes in intestinal microbiota composition cause various digestive problems such as bloating, diarrhea, and irregular bowel movements.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine is frequently used in pre-workouts to boost attention and energy and aid in reducing weight.

However, caffeine may induce bloating in a variety of ways.

First, it increases stomach acid levels, which may irritate your gut, thus making you feel bloated if consumed on an empty belly [5].

Second, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it makes you pee more often. This can cause dehydration, which may slow down your digestion process.

Caffeine may induce stomach distress by boosting stomach acid production, which might also lead to acid reflux [6].

Bloating is significantly more common when your digestive tract isn't operating properly.

4. Arginine

Arginine illustration

L-arginine is an amino acid utilized in pre-workout supplements to generate pumps by increasing nitric oxide concentrations [7].

According to studies, it also impacts gut secretory pathways, causing water and electrolyte release in the gastrointestinal tract and causing gut enlargement [8]. Smaller dosages seldom produce these effects.

Furthermore, arginine possesses laxative characteristics that, when mixed with excess water production in the gut, can result in dehydration and diarrhea [9].

L-citrulline, an additional amino acid component of pre-workouts that is turned into arginine within the body, may produce similar issues.

5. Lactose

Lactose is a milk sugar that can cause gastrointestinal problems in certain people.

These people are incapable of manufacturing the lactase enzyme, which is essential for digesting lactose.

Lactose deficient persons experience bloating visceral hypersensitivity and flatulence when they consume lactose, according to scientific evidence [10].

“Lactose, the sugar in milk, travels intact throughout your digestive system, pulling water into your gut, causing gas, bloating, and lots of discomfort.”

- Karen Ansel, R.D.N.

If you have a food allergy, you should avoid pre-workouts that include this carbohydrate since lactose will induce stomach pain.

I usually ask my clients if they're lactose intolerant and then offer a pre-workout supplement depending on their response.

5 Ways to Get Rid of Pre-Workout Bloating

Ginger and peppermint

If you are feeling disturbed and bloated as a result of your pre-workout supplements, below are five techniques to ease your symptoms:

1. Eat Ginger and Peppermint

Bloating can be relieved by including peppermint, ginger, fennel, and other botanicals in your diet.

According to a research investigation, ginger mixed with artichoke extracts is beneficial in relieving symptoms such as stomach discomfort, bloating, burping, fullness, and vomiting.

These extracts have been recommended for the healing of functional dyspepsia, a persistent digestive disorder [11].

Ginger has been linked to anti-nausea and anti-vomiting effects in particular.

Other herbs used to treat gas and stomach discomfort include chamomile, basil, and peppermint.

A randomized trial examining the effectiveness of peppermint as an ISB treatment discovered that using peppermint oil three times per day provided immediate alleviation from bloating, gas, and bowel difficulties [12].

2. Take Probiotics

Probiotic food

Probiotics are "healthy" microorganisms that live in your GI tract and are known to cure irritable bowel syndrome.

While many foods include probiotics (for instance, yogurt and cheese), they can also be purchased as probiotic supplements.

Surprisingly, research suggests that eating probiotics may aid in the elimination of stomach bloating [13].

3. Avoid Chewing Gum

You're undoubtedly wondering how chewing gum might cause bloating.

But bear with me on this one. Chewing gum increases your chances of swallowing gas from the environment. When this gas reaches your stomach, it might aggravate bloating.

4. Mild Exercise

A person walking on stairs

If you're feeling bloated because of an upset stomach, a longer walk, a gentle run, or a bike ride may help eliminate it.

According to studies, mild physical exercise and taking the right supplement lowers bloating and promote intestinal gas removal [14].

Stretching and yoga activities are also recommended to reduce bloating.

5. Drink Lukewarm Water

Lukewarm water relieves gastrointestinal membranes while also hastening digestive responses.

It helps with bloating because it streamlines food digestion and absorption, which relieves digestive issues and eliminates the bloated feeling [15].

Most of these side effects of pre-workout are modest and temporary, and they may be prevented by choosing the proper pre-workout supplement and taking fewer doses.

Another recommendation is to avoid proprietary blends that do not detail the proportions of various constituents.

FAQs

Why Does My Stomach Get Bloated After Workout?

Your stomach gets bloated after a workout because, during exercise, your body produces cortisol, or the stress hormone, which can have an effect on fluid levels and cause water retention.

How Long Does Workout Bloat Last?

Workout bloat may last for a couple of weeks.

What Gets Rid of Bloated Stomach?

Physical activity during the day and taking a walk after eating can get rid of bloated stomach.

Does Beta-Alanine Cause Bloating?

No, beta-alanine doesn’t cause bloating, but it might cause other side effects like skin flushing and tingling sensations if taken in high doses.

So, Does Pre-Workout Make You Bloated?

Pre-workouts may cause digestive issues such as abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and nausea.

To help you minimize risks, I’ve tried and tested many pre-workouts for safety and efficacy and had my clients try them out until we came up with an ultimate list:

The natural ingredients these products contain will surely lower the chances of side effects and keep bloating at bay.


References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pre-workout-side-effects 
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10599501
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155521/ 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25440050/
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coffee-on-empty-stomach 
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146619
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083567/ 
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17513449/
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-l-arginine/art-20364681 
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255689223 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4411465/ 
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26319955/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10811333/ 
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating
  15. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-drinking-hot-water

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