Can Working Out Cause Diarrhea?

We all know that working out is good for our health. But did you know that it can also cause diarrhea?

Can Working Out Cause Diarrhea?

It’s true! Exercise can lead to an increase in bowel movements, and in some cases, diarrhea.

There are a few reasons why this happens. First, when you work out, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can speed up the movement of food through your digestive system


Exercise is important for overall health, as it helps to keep the body strong and fit. However, too much physical activity can lead to a number of different unpleasant physical reactions, including diarrhea. This type of loose bowel movement can be caused by multiple factors that are related to working out, such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalances in the body or a shift in the body’s equilibrium.

Diarrhea can be an uncomfortable and even embarrassing situation. Though it is not necessarily dangerous on its own, it is important to address any underlying causes so that they do not become more severe with time. Knowing why and how working out causes diarrhea can help you prevent it in the future and get back to exercising without any issues.

Causes of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea

Exercise-induced diarrhea (EID) is a common gastrointestinal symptom that can occur after moderate to strenuous physical activity. It is characterized by frequent, loose, and watery stools. The underlying mechanism of EID is still not fully understood, but there are many potential causes that should be considered. These include food sensitivities, hydration, medications, and other contributing factors.


Dehydration is one of the most common causes of exercise-induced diarrhea, as it disrupts both the balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body. During physical activity, your body uses up more fluid than usual. If you don’t replenish enough fluid, it can interfere with normal digestion and cause the large intestine to contract rapidly, leading to loose or watery stools. Dehydration can also increase the flow rate of stool and reduce absorption time, which contributes to diarrhea. Therefore, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. If possible, try to drink about 17-20 ounces (0.5-2 litres) of water before starting any physical activity and 8 ounces (0.3 litres) every 20 minutes during your workout if you are sweating heavily. Additionally, include electrolyte drinks or coconut waters in your fluid intake regimen as they may provide more hydration than plain water during extended periods of strenuous exercise.

Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition can be a leading cause of exercise-induced diarrhea. Some believe that scheduling meals too close to exercise can be a contributing factor as the body’s digestive system may not have enough time to fully digest food consumed prior to engaging in physical activity. An inadequate intake of carbohydrates, either during or prior to the workout, can cause exercise-induced diarrhea. Eating too many carbohydrates in one sitting and then exercising soon afterward puts extra stress on your digestive system and may interfere with normal digestion, creating an imbalance that could lead to diarrhea. Inadequate hydration is another potential cause of exercise-induced diarrhea, as low fluid levels can bring on symptoms that many describe as loose stool or nausea.

Intensity of Exercise

High-intensity exercise, such as running and vigorous sports can cause exercise-induced diarrhea. Excessive sweating during intense exercise has been found to decrease water absorption in your gut, resulting in increased movement of water and electrolytes into the colon which can then trigger the digestive process. Vigorous physical activity is more likely to lead to diarrhea than slower activities due to increased demands on the body’s energy systems, leading to an accelerated breakdown of carbohydrates and fat for fuel.
Other factors that can increase your risk of getting a bout of stomach distress include dehydration, aggravated by high temperatures or strenuous workouts without adequate hydration; inadequate fueling before or during a workout; or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is important to note that increased grain intake before a workout may also cause GI distress due to the presence of dietary fiber found in grains which may not agree with some individuals.
Therefore, it’s important to be mindful not just of your food intake prior exercise but also the intensity and duration of exercise itself as this plays an important role in determining the likelihood of experiencing diarrheal symptoms after physical activity.


Exercise-induced diarrhea is a common condition that occurs when physical exertion causes the body to push out digested food more quickly than normal, often leading to sudden diarrhea. Though there can be several contributors to the onset of exercise-induced diarrhea, stress has been identified as a top cause. When the body is under physical duress due to exercise or other activity, it can respond with runaway stress hormones and signals that have far-reaching effects on other bodily functions, including digestion. This excess production of stress hormones can especially occur if you feel overwhelmed or push yourself too hard while exercising.

Other contributing factors can include inadequate hydration, eating too close to time of exercise and consuming high fiber foods before working out. In general, athletes of all levels need to be aware of their body’s warning signs during training or competition so they can avoid overexertion and stay healthy. Taking precautionary measures such as avoiding excess dietary fiber up to 24 hours prior to exercising, drinking ample water before and during work outs, planning meals ahead of time (followed by at least an hour between eating and athletic activity) can help prevent excessive fatigue that may lead to exercise-induced diarrhea.


When engaging in physical activities, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects, such as diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused from overexertion and dehydration, and can occur even when working out. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this uncomfortable symptom, so the goal of this heading will be to discuss the preventative measures to take while exercising.

Hydrate Properly

Hydrating your body properly before and during a workout is essential if you want to avoid potential gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. Exercising can cause significant dehydration, which, in turn, can cause an increase in your bowel movements. To help minimize the risk of diarrhea after exercising, ensure that you are drinking enough fluids.

For short duration activities like running or weightlifting, most people can consume a glass of water before their workout and replenish the fluids during exercise when necessary. Depending on the duration of your activity, you may need to drink more than a glass of water prior to beginning the workout session. Aim for 16 ounces for moderate activity lasting up to an hour, and 20-24 ounces for more intense exercises lasting longer than one hour.

It’s also important to drink plenty of water throughout the day so that your body stays well-hydrated even between workouts. Adults should aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day; athletes may need even more depending on their fitness goals and level of intensity during exercise sessions.

Eat Nutritious Foods

In addition to contributing to normal digestive function, consuming a balanced, nutritious diet may help reduce the risk of developing diarrhea as a result of exercise. It is important to consume a diet featuring nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar can also help promote gastrointestinal health. If you experience diarrhea after exercising, increasing your intake of electrolytes—such as sodium, potassium and magnesium—may help replace lost fluid. Nuts, seeds, legumes and bananas are good dietary sources of electrolytes that can assist in restoring balance within the body’s cells to aid digestion and reduce discomfort.

Increase Intensity Gradually

When exercising and pushing your body to the limit, it is essential to do so in a gradual and progressive manner. Having an intense workout program from the beginning can result in over-stressing the body and increase your chances of experiencing diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused due to dehydration, lactic acid buildup, irritation of the intestine wall caused by bouncing movements or gastrointestinal disturbances due to excessive heat exposure. You should start slowly by allowing your body enough time to adjust to exercises such as running. Increase intensity gradually, as you get more comfortable with workout programs including difficult exercises like running or other HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) drills.

Manage Stress

In addition to avoiding challenging workouts, managing stress is important in preventing diarrhea while exercising. Your body responds to acute stressors—like an intense workout or illness—in the same way: it releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can suppress digestion. Working on stress management techniques like yoga, tai chi, and breathing exercises will help minimize the potential for negative effects on your digestive health.

It’s important to note that exercise does not cause chronic diarrhea; however, if you are predisposed to digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a more strenuous activity could worsen existing symptoms. In these cases, restricting the intensity of your exercise routine to a moderate activity such as walking may be beneficial. Additionally, reducing certain foods from your diet may help reduce symptoms of IBS or IBD as well.


After reviewing the evidence, it is clear that there is a relationship between exercise and diarrhea in some cases. While the exact cause remains unknown, experts suggest that intense physical activity can lead to disruption of the gastrointestinal tract and increase risk for developing diarrhea. In some cases, taking breaks throughout exercise may help reduce symptoms; however, if you experience persistent or severe diarrhea after working out, it is important to speak with your physician or healthcare provider as soon as possible. Your doctor can help diagnose underlying health problems related to your symptoms and provide treatment recommendations. Additionally, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk for developing diarrhea during exercise. Staying hydrated and focusing on consuming healthy foods before and after workouts may help reduce instances of post-exercise diarrhea. Practicing mindful eating before exercise may also be beneficial in helping prevent any disruptions in your GI system. Overall, it is important to remember that each individual’s body responds differently; what works for one person might not work for another — so always be sure to talk with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about experiencing post-workout digestive issues!

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