Can Working Out Give You Diarrhea?

Many people believe that working out can give you diarrhea. We’ll explore the science behind this claim and see if there’s any merit to it.


Exercising is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. From improved mental health to stronger muscles, the list of benefits associated with regular physical activity is extensive. While working out may have its rewards, it can also lead to gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, including diarrhea. Before continuing your exercise routine, it’s important to understand how and why working out can trigger GI symptoms. In this article, we’ll explore the various factors that can make physical activity responsible for bouts of diarrhea. We will also look at how you can manage potential triggers and what steps you should take if GI discomfort persists despite taking preventative measures.

Causes of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea

Exercise-induced diarrhea is a common problem among athletes and gym-goers. It is caused by several factors, including poor nutrition, dehydration, and physical exertion. In this article, we will discuss the different causes of exercise-induced diarrhea and how you can prevent it. Let’s dive in and find out more about the causes of this unpleasant condition.

Intense Exercise

Intense exercise can be a common cause of exercise-induced diarrhea. When you do physical activity, your body experiences numerous chemical changes and disruptions. Intense or prolonged activity increases the hormone adrenaline, which can lead to distress signals being triggered in the intestines. Signs of intestinal distress include severe cramping, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea. This can happen both immediately or a few hours after workouts. Eating or drinking before exercising might also contribute to exercise-induced diarrhea as it forces the intestines to work as soon as you begin exercising. If you’re prone to this condition, it’s best not to eat just before exercising and avoid activities that are too strenuous for your digestion levels. Taking breaks during longer workouts and drinking more fluids may help prevent intense bouts of gastrointestinal distress after exercise.


Dehydration is one of the most common causes of exercise-induced diarrhea. Exercising for prolonged periods or strenuously can lead to a significant loss of fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. When body water content and electrolyte balance have been disturbed, many people experience a loose and watery stool. This is the body’s way of eliminating excess fluid in an effort to restore the hydration levels back to normal.

To prevent dehydration-related diarrhea, it is recommended that you drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise — ideally no less than 8 ounces per hour while exercising — particularly if you are going to be active for more than an hour in hot and humid climates. Additionally, sports drinks containing electrolytes can be effective solutions as they help replace vital nutrients lost through sweat.

Poor Diet

Poor diet can be one of the main causes of exercise-induced diarrhea. Eating a poorly balanced meal or eating certain types of food, especially foods that are high in fat, immediately before exercise can initiate the onset of diarrhea. Having stomach discomfort or feeling full after eating a large meal can also cause symptoms to arise during exercise. Eating fiber-rich foods such as beans, fruits, and vegetables may further irritate an already sensitive digestive system. In addition, dehydration caused by inadequate hydration prior to exercising may contribute to digestive upset and diarrhea.


Stress is one of the most common causes of exercise-induced diarrhea. Stress can increase gut motility, meaning that it triggers a heightened contractile activity in the digestive system, leading to increased passage of stool. This can be aggravated by emotional stress from training or competition as well as physical stress from intense exercise. Other psychological factors such as anxiety, worry and fear can also contribute to GI upset and induce watery stools during and after exercise. Additionally, fluctuations in glucose levels due to lower caloric intake during physical activity may cause diarrhea. To help prevent these symptoms, it may be beneficial to focus on marketing strategies such as positive self-talk before, during and after training or competing. Eating a nutritious diet filled with whole foods can also help regulate your energy levels throughout the day.

Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea

Exercise-induced diarrhea (EID) is a common symptom experienced after intense physical activity. It is usually characterized by loose or watery stools, cramping, and abdominal discomfort. Although a normal response to physical strain, EID can be quite uncomfortable and disrupt one’s workout routine. Let’s take a look at what causes EID, its symptoms, and how to prevent and treat it.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms of exercise-induced diarrhea. It can range from a feeling of mild discomfort and cramping in the abdomen to more intense sensations, such as sharp pains or stabbing pains. Depending on the intensity and location of your abdominal pain, it may be linked to your digestive tract, muscles involved in maintaining posture, or muscles involved in movement. Additionally, abdominal pain may be an indication of a more serious condition, such as an intestinal infection or a blockage. If you experience recurrent episodes of abdominal pain associated with exercising and diarrhea, talk to your health care provider to determine the cause.


Nausea is a common symptom of exercise-induced diarrhea. It is usually accompanied by a decrease in appetite, which may be the body’s way of avoiding any additional digestive problems. Nausea may also be caused by mental stress or anxiety associated with the physical exertion. Other associated signs are feeling faint or dizzy, increased heart rate, clammy skin and sweating excessively. If a person experiences any of these symptoms after exercise, they should stop immediately and seek medical attention.
It’s important to note that sometimes, nausea or abdominal pain can be signs of something more serious such as an infection or infection-based illness so if it persists then it should be checked out by a doctor. Additionally, dehydration from excessive sweating can also cause these symptoms so it’s wise to ensure that there is enough hydration during exercise sessions.

Loose Stool

Loose stool is the most common symptom of exercise-induced diarrhea. It usually happens within 30 minutes of beginning exercise and is characterized by abnormally watery, frequent stools. This type of diarrhea often continues until the exercise session has ended and sometimes lingers for several hours afterwards. People who experience exercise-related loose stool may also find that bloating and stomach cramps accompany their symptoms. Additionally, dehydration caused by diarrheal fluid loss can lead to other adverse health effects such as fatigue, weakened immunity, dizziness, and headaches.

Prevention of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea

Exercise-induced diarrhea is a real and common issue faced by people who work out too vigorously or too intensely. It can be quite uncomfortable and even embarrassing in certain situations. However, there are steps you can take to prevent it from happening in the future. In this section, we’ll look at the different strategies you can use to reduce the likelihood of exercise-induced diarrhea.

Hydrate Adequately

Adequate hydration is essential for preventing diarrhea caused by exercise. Even when exercising in cooler temperatures and for shorter durations, it’s important to drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration. Depending on your activity level, body size, and environment, you may need to drink anywhere from 8-12 (or more) 8-ounce glasses of water each day. It’s a good idea to carry a bottle of water while exercising or participating in sports so that you can stay hydrated throughout the exercise session. You can also get fluids from food sources – many types of fruits and vegetables have high moisture content and can provide generous amounts of liquids while providing other essential nutrients at the same time.

Eat Properly Before and After Exercise

Nutrition is an important factor to consider if you want to prevent exercise-induced diarrhea. Eating the correct foods before and after you exercise can help keep your body fueled and can help delay or prevent the onset of diarrhea.

Before exercising, it’s important to eat a meal that is high in carbohydrates. This will provide your body with the energy it needs to sustain long periods of activity. Foods that are low in fat, such as oatmeal, yogurt, bananas or low-fat granola bars make good pre-exercise snacks. Be sure to drink plenty of water in order to stay hydrated.

After exercising, focus on eating healthy proteins, carbohydrates and some fats in order to rebuild muscles and replenish energy stores that have been depleted by physical activity. Some suggestions for post-workout meals include scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast and avocado; plain Greek yogurt mixed with fruit and nuts; a protein smoothie with banana, skim milk, whey protein powder and natural almond butter; air-popped popcorn topped with parmesan cheese; or tuna salad on top of whole grain crackers. Drinking more water after exercising will help replace fluid lost through sweat during intense exercise.

Warm-up and Cool-down

For people with higher levels of physical activity and those who run, swim or cycle for exercise, it’s important to take a few moments before and after workouts to warm up and cool down. Before a workout, the body needs time to adjust to the increased physical demands. A brief warm-up period involving stretching and dynamic movements can help prepare muscles for action and can reduce the risk of muscle strain.

After a workout, particularly if one is sweating heavily during exercise, it is important to take time to cool down with gentle stretching exercises or walking until the heart rate slows back to its resting level. This will help eliminate post exercise aches and pains due to lactic acid buildup as well as reducing the risk of exercise-induced diarrhea symptoms occurring. Additionally, a cool down period gives one’s body time to restore normal hydration levels lost during strenuous activities — important in avoiding dehydration which may lead to diarrhea flares.

Adjust Intensity

Mild to moderate intensity exercise, such as walking or bicycling, is unlikely to cause diarrhea. However, some individuals may experience stomach problems with exercise regardless of its intensity or duration. To make adjustments and reduce the risk of diarrhea developing during workouts, it is important to tailor your activity level and make changes to coincide with any physical limitations.

To start, increase activity levels gradually to allow your digestive system time to adjust. Furthermore, pay close attention to your diet in the hours leading up to a workout session and plan meals in advance. Also, try avoiding high-fat meals ahead of exercising as they can cause gastrointestinal issues. Additionally, stay continually hydrated by drinking small amounts of water throughout the session instead of large volumes before or after a workout. This will help keep symptoms at bay while also providing necessary electrolytes for proper functioning throughout the duration of physical activity. Finally, if you are engaging in rigorous exercise lasting more than an hour and especially in extreme temperatures (either hot or cold) it is recommended that you refuel with a sports drink containing electrolytes and carbohydrates instead of water alone.

Treatment of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea

Exercise-induced diarrhea is a common issue for athletes looking to optimize their performance. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and even disruption of glucose metabolism. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the risk and effects of exercise-induced diarrhea. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Over-the-Counter Medication

Over-the-counter medications may be used to provide short-term relief of exercise-induced diarrhea. These medications are often antidiarrheal drugs that help reduce the amount of water in the stool and decrease the number of bowel movements. In addition, over-the-counter medications can help to restore your body’s electrolyte balance which can be affected by diarrhea. It is important to discuss proper use of these medications with your doctor so that you understand how and when to take them.

In some cases, it may be necessary for your doctor to prescribe a stronger medication for treating exercise-induced diarrhea. Some examples include loperamide, bismuth subsalicylate, diphenoxylate/atropine sulfate or octreotide acetate injection. These medications are stronger and should only be taken as directed by your doctor in order to avoid adverse reactions or drug interactions with other medications you’re taking.

It is important that individuals who experience frequent episodes of exercise-induced diarrhea get checked out by a physician since it can indicate an underlying health condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Once any health issues have been ruled out, patients should focus on implementing lifestyle changes such as limiting high fiber foods prior to exercising and talking with their doctor about a supplement plan in order to ensure adequate nutrient absorption during any physical activities.

Prescription Medication

If diet and lifestyle modifications mentioned above do not provide relief from the effects of exercise-induced diarrhea, your doctor may consider prescribing medications such as loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). These anti-diarrheal medications can help control symptoms in cases of mild to moderate diarrhea. However, these medications should be used with caution, as overuse can lead to potential side effects such as vomiting, nausea, and/or constipation. Your doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of prescription medication for treating exercise-induced diarrhea.

Home Remedies

Exercise-induced diarrhea is fairly common and can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as reducing the intensity of exercising or avoiding certain foods while exercising. While exercise-induced diarrhea may not need medical attention, it always warrants evaluation if its symptoms are severe, persistent, or recurrent.

Home remedies for exercise-induced diarrhea may include:
• Drinking plenty of fluids before and after exercise to stay hydrated
• Eating a snack containing carbohydrates an hour before exercising to help prevent diarrhea
• Avoiding high-fiber foods before or immediately after exercising
• Choosing lower-intensity activities like walking or yoga
• Taking probiotics regularly to help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria
• Addressing chronic stress that may be contributing to gastrointestinal issues
• Trying over-the-counter medications like loperamide hydrochloride (Imodium), which can reduce the frequency of bowel movements temporarily
If you have any concerns about your symptoms, it’s always best to check with a healthcare provider about your individual needs. Once you determine which factors exacerbate your exercise-induced diarrhea, practice prevention measures like the recommended home remedies listed above.


In conclusion, it is possible for exercise to cause diarrhea, but in many cases this is a result of poor dietary choices or other lifestyle factors. If your workouts are causing you to experience loose stools or other gastrointestinal symptoms, it is best to speak with your healthcare provider to explore potential causes and determine the best approach to take. Additionally, focusing on healthy eating and drinking fluids before and after working out can help minimize the likelihood of experiencing post-workout diarrhea. Taking these precautions can help you stay safe while enjoying the physical benefits of exercise.

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