What causes stomach pain after exercise-1

What Causes Stomach Pain After Exercising? (And How To Overcome It)

Stomach pain after exercising is the worst – it can really derail an otherwise great workout. If your abs are aching post-training, a few likely culprits could be to blame.

Maybe you powered through too many gut-busting crunches or ate a heavy pre-gym meal. But while annoying, occasional tummy troubles usually aren’t cause for concern. A few tweaks to your diet and fitness plan can typically get you back on track.

In this article, we’ll break down the common reasons for post-workout stomach pain, easy ways to prevent it.

Dehydration and stomach pain

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Dehydration contributes significantly to alterations in the GI tract, especially when you have lost more than 4% of your body weight. Long-distance runners often have difficulty maintaining hydration.

However, if your workout is varied, you can maintain adequate hydration by drinking 400-600 milliliters of water or sports drinks before exercising. Try to drink water during your workouts if you have breaks between exercises, and be sure to drink and rehydrate after you finish the exercise.

Dietary contributors

Eating incorrectly before exercise can contribute to stomach pain. Food that would be fine at other time, can be a nightmare when you combine it with vigorous physical activity. For instance, a large meal with high protein and fat content slows down your digestive system and can cause stomach pain.

If you’re performing resistance exercises, such as marathons, you should consider your dietary patterns in the days leading up to the race.

Different nutrients pass through the GI tract at different speeds. While carbohydrates break down easily and are absorbed, foods rich in fiber, protein, and fat pass more slowly. To avoid stomach pain after exercise, decrease the intake of high-fat, high-protein foods and focus on complex carbs such as vegetables and brown rice.

High-Intensity Exercise

A common factor in post-exercise stomach pain is exercising at a high intensity. Competing people often push themselves harder than they would in a normal exercise routine. When the adrenaline wears off,  all that exertion and tension can lead to abdominal pain.

In order to avoid overexertion, focus on how you train:

  • Work up to your desired intensity level, and learn to listen to your body to know how far to push it
  • If you’re training for a competition, make sure your exercise follows the conditions of the competition as faithfully as possible.
  • By conditioning your body, you may have fewer episodes of post-exercise stomach pain. Most athletes adjust and have fewer gastrointestinal complaints as their learning period improves.

Not Enough Warm Up Time

what causes stomach pain when exercising
What causes stomach pain when exercising? Lack of warm-up beforehand is a major cause

Skipping your warm-up is just asking for trouble. Those abdominal muscles need some TLC before you put them through any vigorous exercise routine.

Rushing into crunches or sit-ups without properly warming up is like jumping into an ice-cold pool. Your muscles are caught off guard, all cold and stiff. Without a good warm-up, blood flow can’t properly circulate to feed your muscle tissues.

So be kind to your midsection, take it slow and easy before diving into the ab routine. Light cardio and dynamic stretches are just what the doctor ordered to get that blood pumping. Consider it giving your muscles a pep talk, getting them prepared and focused before game time.

Muscle Strain

Getting an abdominal muscle strain is no picnic. This happens when you overexert those core muscles past their threshold. Repeatedly crunching and twisting can overstretch the abdominal fibers, resulting in small tears.

To be clear, the muscle fibers don’t snap apart like overcooked pasta. But they do experience microtears from excessive strain. Think of it like pulling a rubber band too far – eventually, it loses elasticity.

These tiny tears in the muscle tissue cause localized pain and inflammation. You may feel a sharp or burning sensation when the strain first occurs. Tenderness and muscle spasms can linger while the area heals.

The good news is abdominal strains are minor and improve quickly with rest. Stop the intense core workouts and give those abdominals a break. Use ice packs to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Over-the-counter meds can help too.

Weather conditions

Exercising in cold conditions can also play a role in post-workout stomach pain, especially when you exercise in snowy or icy weather. When you exercise in cold weather, circulation decreases to your muscles, increasing the likelihood 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. Also, if you exercise in cold weather, dressing properly can help your body retain heat.

Stomach Pain After Exercise Due To A Stitch

what causes stomach cramps after exercise

Uh oh, feeling a “stitch” in your side during exercise? This annoying ache strikes when your breathing and movement patterns don’t quite line up. Let me break down what’s happening.

See, strenuous activities like running and swimming use your accessory breathing muscles – the ones that lift your ribs. As these muscles raise up, your diaphragm and other core muscles are pulling down. It’s a tug-of-war!

When you inhale on a brisk walk or mid-lap in the pool, those accessory muscles ascend upwards while your core pulls the opposite way. This contradictory motion puts strain on the ligaments by your liver and diaphragm.

The end result? A spasm-like sensation as those poor ligaments get tossed every which way. And with blood flow disrupted during intense exercise, the area receives less oxygen – making that “stitch” feel even worse!

The takeaway? Try pacing your breathing with your movement. In through the nose, out through the mouth, timed steady with your steps or strokes. This coordinated rhythm minimizes the muscular strain that contributes to side stitches.

Bottom line

What Causes Stomach Pain After Exercising? Many factors. The best approach is one where you listen to your body and adjust accordingly. Watch what and how much you eat prior to working out, also alter workout routines that always seem to lead to stomach pain.

If you do have stomach pain during and after exercise, take a breather and give yourself some TLC. Often, something as simple as a long hot bath or shower and a lie down afterward can do wonders. Needless to say if the issue persists speak to a health care practitioner.


  • Dee King

    Dee King knows that the journey to wellness often begins within. After overcoming her own weight issues, Dee became a fitness and nutrition specialist to help others discover what works for them. She believes wellness is about finding harmony and self-compassion, not perfection. In her writing and workouts, Dee provides inspiration to stay strong, especially when you want to give up.

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