So...this year you've committed to finally keeping your annual New Year's resolution to lose weight and get in better shape. You've done your research, gotten some advice from people you trust and respect, and developed a workout plan that includes both weight training and cardio. Good for you!
But now, only two weeks into your program, you've noticed that you're experiencing a bit of bloating. What's that all about -- why do you feel bloated after a cardio workout?
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Lest you think there's something physically wrong with you, don't worry; your body is behaving normally. It's quite common for people who begin a new cardio workout, or substantially increase the intensity of their current cardio workout, to experience some amount of bloating.
The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent it and the condition is only temporary. Your body will adjust to your new workout and the bloating will go away.
What causes my bloated feeling after a cardio workout?
In all likelihood, any bloating that you're experiencing after a cardio workout is due to water retention. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule where certain medical conditions can cause a bit of bloating. But, if you've never experienced significant bloating before, water retention is most likely the cause. It's also a good sign, because it says that your body is functioning the way it was designed to.
When you begin a new cardio program your body experiences a "shock to the system" as it were. This sudden, intense workload on the muscles and the cardiovascular system fool the body into thinking it is in crisis mode which triggers a natural response of storing fluids and nutrients that might be needed later on. One of the things that gets stored is water. Your body is simply protecting itself in case the perceived crisis means a lack of water down the road.
Do I feel bloated after a cardio workout because I'm not eating enough?
It is possible that an insufficient amount of protein and carbohydrates in the system can also cause bloating, but this is rare. Lack of carbs and proteins usually affects the muscles, and muscles rarely bloat in the same sense that we're talking about with water retention bloating. If you aren't getting enough carbs and proteins before and after your exercise, you're more likely to feel tremendous fatigue, be prone to muscle injury, and have a hard time toning and putting on muscle mass.
How can I prevent feeling bloated after a cardio workout?
Exercise experts suggest the best way to prevent bloating resulting from any type of exercise is to drink plenty of water. This means not only before and after your workout, but also throughout the entire day.
According to the Mayo Clinic, under normal conditions the average person should be consuming eight or nine 8 -ounce glasses of water per day. That said, doctors recognize that a healthy level of water consumption varies from person to person based on many factors. Many doctors suggest using the "replacement" method, meaning that you replace all the water that you normally lose through urination and perspiration.
The replacement method for measuring water intake generally means the average adult will fall into the 8 to 9 glasses per day range. On days that you'll be participating in your cardio workout, you'll probably need to add an additional 8-12 ounces before and after your workout. That's because the cardio workout will cause the additional loss of water. The extra 8-12 ounces before and after will supply sufficient water so that your body won't feel the need to store any extra.
As mentioned earlier, the bloating feeling you have after cardio workout is usually temporary. Your body will learn to adjust to the amount of water that you provide and cease storing extra in crisis mode. However, if you go several weeks and still experience bloating, even after making sure you're drinking plenty of water, it's time to see your doctor. This could mean possible dehydration issues that can be cause by an underlying medical condition.
Regardless, don't let minor bloating sidetrack you from your weight loss and fitness goals. If you're willing to persevere through the problem and follow the advice of doctors and professional trainers, you will eventually overcome the bloating. If you give up and give in, you may never lose that excess weight.
Our free goal tracker is a great way to help you stick with your cardio workout!