You work out to lose fat and attain a tight, taut physique. Lately, though, you leave your ab workout feeling bloated and full. What's going on?
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Workouts, especially intense ab or sit-up regimens, can make your belly feel swollen and uncomfortable, particularly if you're new to exercise, coming back after a bit of a hiatus or ramping up your program considerably. Your pre-workout habits may also play a role in your symptoms.
If you're new to sit-ups or suddenly want to go "Rocky"-style and perform 50 or 100 of them daily, you may trigger a stress response in your body. Your adrenal glands release cortisol, a stress hormone, that encourages temporary water retention. After a couple of weeks, your body typically adjusts to the new routine and the bloating subsides.
Read more: Why Do You Retain Water After Exercise?
Hydration and Eating Before Your Workout
Eating too much fiber just before your sit-ups can leave you feeling full and bound up. If the sit-ups are part of a longer, total-body workout, have a light snack about an hour before you exercise if it's been several hours since your last meal.
Good options include a banana, a small yogurt or half of a turkey sandwich. Bran cereal, fibrous vegetables or blueberries can all be too hard to digest before you get moving.
Proper hydration is important, especially if you're working out. However, guzzling a bottle of water before you do sit-ups is a recipe for discomfort, as it can create a feeling of fullness in your stomach. Give yourself time after you've taken a large gulp of water before you lie down and crunch.
Your full feeling may not even be a result of your workout, but you notice it when you do sit-ups because all your attention is on your abs.
Certain foods can cause digestive distress and bloating, as can smoking, carbonated drinks and gum chewing. Consider that you may have a mild food intolerance, such as to the lactose in milk or to FODMAPs, otherwise known as "fermentable oligo, di-, mono-saccharides and polyls."
FODMAPS are short-chain carbohydrates found in a variety of foods that many people have trouble digesting. Fructose found in fruit, galactans in beans and fructans in wheat are examples of FODMAP foods. If the problem is chronic, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about ways to alleviate your discomfort.
Swallowing air can make your belly feel bloated and full. Ensure you're breathing at the right time during a sit-up by always exhaling during the exertion to make the exercise feel smooth and comfortable.
Inhale while lying on the floor with your hands behind your head and your knees bent, preparing for the sit-up. The exhale happens when you actually lift upward to bring your torso toward your thighs. Inhale to return down toward the mat. Whatever you do, don't hold your breath.