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WIAW: IBS, Eating & Exercise

One thing I’m still trying to figure out in this wacky IBS world–where hunger can feel like nausea and full-from-one-sandwich full can feel like full-from-Thanksgiving-dinner full and stomach pain can just appear out of nowhere–is exercise: specifically, how to handle eating before and after exercise.

I sometimes feel really, really bloated, like big ole hamburger and French fries at the brew pub bloated, after just a normal meal. It happens less now than it used to, but it still happens. And yeah, if I feel really lousy I’ll not worry about the gym and do other things, but if I never went to the gym when I’m having symptoms, I’d almost never get to the gym, because frankly, I’m almost always having some degree of symptoms. They’re usually mild enough that I can ignore them when I’m just moving about my day-to-day life, but then I get on a stationary bike or jump on a yoga mat and I’m like, whoa. This actually doesn’t feel good on my tummy at all.

All this is to say that my tummy almost always feels pretty crummy while I’m exercising. To my knowledge, a lot of people experience some degree of nausea when they’re exercising, especially when they’re really pushing themselves–for me it’s like that only, like, it also feels like I have a really big balloon filled with water and rocks bouncing on my queasy tummy. Because that’s a great image, right?

But I like the way exercise makes me feel otherwise. If I get to a good spin class once or twice a week, it can actually make my IBS flare-ups calm down–plus all the other nice things about exercise like endorphins and sleeping better.

In truth, the *best* thing for me when I exercise is just to not eat anything within three hours beforehand and at least an hour afterward. If I do that, I feel great while I’m exercising–but then I get crazy hungry later in the day for going too long without eating before and after a tough workout, so that’s not good either.

Lauren Renlund did a post about this back in March that I found really helpful. She suggests eating carb-rich snacks before exercise, and I do find that to work well if all I need before a workout is a smallish snack. On the other hand, sometimes I need to eat a meal shortly before I exercise, and I definitely want to make sure I’m getting a good amount of protein and fats with my meals because blood sugar crashes an hour or two after a meal are so inconvenient!

All this is really just a rant. I’m not even really looking for advice. I’m just saying–this is a thing that I strongly dislike about having IBS, and if you’re struggling with it too, a) I hear ya and b) I’ll keep you posted if I figure anything out.

Anyway, on that note, here’s what I ate today. The last couple of weeks I’ve done spin class on Tuesday, so a workout happened and yeah…I didn’t feel good. In truth, I really didn’t feel good all day. Oh, well.

Thanks, as always, to Laura for hosting Jenn’s What I Ate Wednesday linkup.Breakfast: I had these chocolate zucchini baked oats I’d prepped the night before. Yum! I put chocolate chips in mine because melty chocolate chips in breakfast things is the beeesst! Plus Applegate Naturals turkey sausage and some strawberries.Midmorning Snack: Once I got to my office, I decided to make some chai tea using a vanilla ProNourish low-FODMAP protein shake. I got a pack of these, even though I wasn’t wild about them the first time I tried them, because they were half price at Safeway and yeah–I was reminded that I still really don’t care for them. Oh, well.

Do you like my wacky alligator mug? My folks gave it to my for my birthday.

Lunch: A BLT, baby carrots and grapes.

As time goes by, I prefer open-faced sandwiches more and more. Perhaps partly because gluten-free bread tends to be small and no room for toppings, so I just make two little open-faced sandwiches for extra topping room. Does that make sense? So yeah there’s another sandwich half buried in there.Afternoon Snack: After my afternoon workout, I was hungry but I just did not feel like eating. Still, I knew I wasn’t going to get home for a while because I had five papers left to grade and I needed to finish prepping for my lesson on Wednesday morning, so I had a Clif bar.In the early evening I got a ride home from my roommate and got some photos of the leaves while I was waiting for her. Autumn colors just starting appearing in northern Colorado this weekend!

Supper: When I got home I just did not feel like eating. But it was close to 8 and I hadn’t eaten since the Clif bar at 4, so I did heat up a little Palaak Paneer entree and half a corn on the cob. I don’t think eating corn on the cob with curry is very traditional, but I like corn on the cob with everything! Didn’t even try to take a pic because Palaak Paneer in a plastic tray after the sun goes down is just not going to be pretty, no matter how delicious.

I finished off the evening by trying my first muffin recipe from Amanda’s new cookbook. I haven’t tried them yet–still feeling crummy–but I definitely cleaned out the batter, and that was yummy for sure! Looking forward to having a couple for breakfast tomorrow!


Do you feel queasy and/or bloated when you exercise?

Do you ever just skip exercise entirely when GI issues flare up?

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  1. I don’t like to eat before exercising, it makes me feel weighed down. The leaves are starting to change in Connecticut as well. But that means they will soon fall and I will be doing leave cleanups for months (I own a landscaping company) Anyway I really hope your symptoms get better so your not always uncomfortable. That sounds not fun at all

    1. Joyce says:

      Oh no! I didn’t know you were a landscaper. Although on the other hand…job security?

  2. I used to exercise in the afternoon and have to be super careful about what I ate before. Now I wake up early and workout, usually without a pre-workout meal because that’s what works best for me. Or if I’m starving I have a banana with some nut butter. Find what works for you and makes you feel good. You know your body best!

    1. Joyce says:

      Thanks, Patricia. Exercising pre-breakfast is something I so associate with my eating disorder, I just don’t want to go back there again. But I can see why it works well for some folks–glad you’ve found something that works well for you.

  3. Evangeline says:

    Chocolate baked oatmeal? I’m sold. The fall leaves are lovely. Boston has been surprisingly warm, and the trees are taking their time. I’m so ready for the burst of color though!

    1. Joyce says:

      I didn’t realize you were in Boston, Vangie. Hope you get to see some fall color soon!

  4. Cora says:

    What a good topic that, surprisingly, hasn’t really been talked about yet. As with everything IBS related, I think its such a day to day, on going learning experience of what works and what doesn’t. Or maybe it will just always be changing so there never will be an actual answer (that’s kind of where I’m at right now with all the eating and digestive stuff… a little bitter perhaps).

    I have found that most often movement makes my stomach feel better. Sometimes, however, I’ve noticed my weird pain/pulling/twisting sensations get worse while working out. I think some of my symptoms are stress related – which means they could get worse with exercise. When I feel really really bad I just don’t do anything. I’m usually too tired trying to deal with the discomfort.

    1. Joyce says:

      Doing nothing is totally a legitimate response to bad IBS days. It can be really debilitating!

  5. Casey the College Celiac says:

    I suppose I’m “lucky” that exercise seems to improve my stomach health 9/10 times. Working out right in the morning without eating breakfast yet seems to work best for me, but everyone is different. Sending you some good tummy and exercise vibes!

    1. Joyce says:

      Thanks Casey! Glad exercise helps your tummy stuff, and I appreciate the good vibes.

  6. Emily says:

    I love that you shared about this. I sometimes feel crummy during a workout, but other times a workout actually helps my stomach. And those chocolate baked zucchini oats with sausage and fruit for breakfast sounds like such a good breakfast.

    1. Joyce says:

      Thanks, Emily. Sometimes it helps me too. IBS is such an unpredictable thing, isn’t it?

  7. Kaylee says:

    Sorry to hear about your struggles in navigating this tricky thing.
    When I was exercising regularly, I didn’t really eat beforehand because it made me feel a little nauseous too and sick in the stomach. Now, at least for yoga, I can get away with eating before moving and still feel normal. Hmm, you’re definitely making me want to tune in more with the effect digestion has on my exercise and vice versa.
    And oh I totally feel ya about those open-faced sandwiches. The bread to topping ratio needs to be just right. Plus, traditional sandwiches are much messier for me.

    1. Joyce says:

      Glad I’ve found a fellow open-faced sandwich fan!
      Glad also that yoga doesn’t bother your GI stuff too much. šŸ™‚ Yay for yoga!

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