Exercise and heartburn: 3 common causes

You can ruin your digestive system by eating a huge meal before a workout. If you want to avoid stomach issues and heartburn, you will want to follow a few well-established “rules” when it comes to what to eat before a workout (and when). Nutritionists suggest that you avoid eating rich, spicy, or high fat meals before you work out because these foods can often trigger reactions in your gut that may manifest themselves while you’re working out. Even though I’ve followed the above rules, like eating carbohydrates that are easy to digest, eating some protein, and giving my food plenty of time to digest, I’ve struggled with midworkout heartburn.

I have decided to search for more sneaky culprits behind my digestive woes after workouts. As a holistic nutrition coach and student pursuing my CPT, I would like to think that I have a decent grasp of workout nutrition, but I decided to turn the issue over to the experts rather than try to explain the issue on my own. Here are insights from a gastroenterologist and a sports nutritionist: Marvin Singh, MD, and Erin James, CSN.

Heartburn after a workout: 3 sneaky causes


Even though I dislike hearing this, coffee is a common trigger. I don’t drink coffee before a workout, but I couldn’t fathom exercising in the morning without some caffeine. No matter whether you’re exercising or not, coffee causes heartburn. Coffee is a risk factor for acid reflux, so if you know that you suffer from heartburn when you drink coffee, then you might want to consider removing it from your regimen or reducing the amount of coffee or caffeine you’re consuming at a time.”

You’re not limited to coffee to drink pre-workout. The amount of caffeine in tea, energy drinks, and pre-workout supplements varies significantly. These might be a good choice for you if you have issues during your workouts like I have. Despite its reputation as a boost during exercise, caffeine is actually safe to drink before a workout.

2. Wearing tight clothing

Although it is counterintuitive given that many of us wear tight clothing while working out, wearing tight clothing may actually backfire during a workout. If you wear tight clothing, it can cause a negative reaction with your body and cause heartburn,” says James. Although most workout clothing is form-fitting, if something is too tight, it can cause negative reactions with your body. The most important thing is to wear what makes you feel comfortable. However, you might want to reconsider wearing something too tight around your stomach, since this could cause pressure that could trigger heartburn.

3. Carbonated drinks (such as La Croix)

You can hydrate with carbonated water, but the extra bubbles you get may not be helping you with workout-related heartburn. Throughout the day, many of us drink carbonated water, but the fizzy water could cause you to experience that dreaded burn when you least expect it-like right in the middle of your plank.

How to prevent heartburn while exercising

The first step to avoiding heartburn before a workout is to allow your food to digest (at least two to three hours.) “The quantity and type of food you eat can help you determine how long you should wait,” James explains.

According to Dr. Singh, working out on an overstuffed stomach can lead to an unpleasant experience. Heartburn can occur when your stomach is too full or when food in your stomach hasn’t digested well enough before exercise, he says. Timing isn’t the only thing to pay attention to if you want to avoid heartburn.

Heartburn can be caused by foods such as onion, garlic, chocolate, tomatoes, and citrus fruits, according to James. The important thing is to remember that we are all different. Someone can eat something and feel great while another can eat it and feel heartburn or stomach aches. Know how your body reacts to different foods before you workout,” James advises.

There are other causes of heartburn symptoms

Heartburn symptoms can be just that, says Dr. Singh–heartburn, and are not usually cause for concern. However, some conditions such as heartburn can mimic other conditions that need to be checked out. If you experience chest pain or burning during exercise, you should seek immediate medical attention because you could be suffering from cardiac chest pain. A burning sensation in your chest may be caused by heartburn, which is often caused by eating or by sleeping, according to Mayo Clinic. It’s best to seek medical attention if you experience sudden chest pain that isn’t typically experienced during a workout.

The first step in treating recurrent heartburn is to seek medical attention. You might need an endoscopy or another type of evaluation. It is also important to ensure that the symptoms you are experiencing are actually heartburn and not related to your heart, notes Dr. Singh.

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