Does Working Out Give You Diarrhea?

If you’re working out hard and notice that you’re getting diarrhea, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people experience this problem, and there are a few possible explanations.


Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle; however, it can also cause a number of unpleasant side effects. One of these side effects is diarrhea. While it may seem strange that physical activity could be the cause of loose stools, it actually happens more frequently than you might think. This article explores the potential causes and offers advice on what to do if you experience diarrhea after working out.

First, it is important to understand how exercise affects your digestive system. When you are active, your body directs blood away from other processes in order to focus on providing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles that are being used for exercise. This can speed up the passage of food through the intestines and can result in loose stools or diarrhea. In addition, certain types of exercise—such as running or intense aerobic activity—can actually stimulate contractions in your intestines that accelerate their movement as well.

It’s also important to recognize that our bodies have varying sensitivities to physical activity; some individuals are more prone to experiencing digestive distress after exercise than others. Lastly, some individuals may already have existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which could be making them more susceptible to this issue after physical exercise is undertaken.

Causes of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea

Exercise-induced diarrhea (EID) is a condition that occurs when physical activity triggers the onset of diarrhea. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, from inadequate hydration to nutritional changes. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of EID and provide tips for managing the condition.

Intensity of Exercise

For exercising individuals, especially those who exercise strenuously or at a higher intensity, it is important to consider the link between intensity of exercise and the onset of Exercise-Induced Diarrhea (EID). According to a systematic review from the International Journal of Sports Medicine, EID tends to be more common during rigorous exercise and activities that require dynamic stabilization. Additionally, research has indicated that EID may occur more frequently at relatively higher intensities for longer durations. Therefore, for those engaging in high-intensity exercises like CrossFit or interval training, it is important to consider this as a potential contributing factor for onset of EID.

Furthermore, due to the nature of these intense workouts, fluctuation of hydration levels is more likely during high-intensity activities. As water loss can lead to further digestion disruption and dehydration can precipitate symptoms and onset of EID, adequate electrolyte levels should be maintained before and during these physical activities. Thus, proper hydration with necessary electrolytes are essential when considering intensity of exercise as a cause for diarrhea.

Duration of Exercise

Exercise-induced diarrhea is caused by a combination of physical and emotional factors. The duration of exercise can be a significant factor in determining whether you experience this symptom. Generally, the longer the workout session, the greater the chance of developing diarrhea. Most cases will usually occur at around the 2 to 4 hour mark or after physical activity is complete, although it can occur much sooner in some individuals.

It has been suggested that long-distance runners or those competing in endurance events are more likely to experience exercise-induced diarrhea due to their sustained level of physical activity over a prolonged period of time. During endurance exercise like running, cycling or swimming, there is increased blood flow throughout the intestines which can eventually lead to a disruption in their normal functioning and cause diarrhea.

Other factors such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, mental stress, poor nutrition and even caffeine intake may all contribute to increased intestinal motility and lead to abdominal cramping with symptoms including nausea and watery stools. With extended periods of exercise, these symptoms tend to get worse as your body struggles with fatigue and adjusts its internal environment accordingly. It’s important for anyone experiencing exercise-induced diarrhea to consult a physician before continuing with such activities in order to determine any underlying health issues which might be causing the problem.


Exercise-induced diarrhea can be caused by dehydration, or when a person loses more fluids than they take in. This is usually seen during long, strenuous workouts such as long-distance running or swimming, wherein excessive sweating has caused the body to lose too much water and electrolytes. This can lead to gut distress and a possible disruption of gut activity that results in diarrhea. Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise is essential for maintaining balance in your digestive system. It is important to drink water regularly as well as keep track of fluid intake before and after exercise. Electrolyte drinks can also help prevent dehydration and potential gastrointestinal distress due to increased levels of electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise.

Poor Nutrition

While exercise-induced diarrhea can be caused by a number of factors, one of the more common causes is poor nutrition. The typical “Western Diet” is often lacking in fiber and contains very few high-quality sources of complex carbohydrates. This can lead to an imbalance in the levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

When this happens, the beneficial bacteria that help regulate digestion are overwhelmed while harmful bacteria are allowed to thrive. This can cause a host of digestive issues, including diarrhea after exercise. Poor nutrition pre-exercise can also lead to excessive fatigue, which increases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline — making post-exercise diarrhea significantly worse.

Ensuring your diet contains healthy sources of carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds will help keep your gut healthy and eliminate any potential causes of exercise-induced diarrhea. It’s also important to stay hydrated before exercising as dehydration limits the body’s ability to break down complex carbohydrates and absorb nutrients from food efficiently — both necessary for good digestion.


Exercise and physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it can sometimes cause side effects such as diarrhea. To help prevent this, it is important to properly hydrate before and after working out, as well as warm up and cool down properly. Additionally, it can be helpful to eat a light snack before and after exercising. Let’s explore these suggestions in more detail.

Increase Hydration

Increasing your water intake can help reduce or prevent diarrhea caused by working out. Proper hydration ensures fluids are available to help regulate the digestion system and keep it running smoothly. An adequate amount of water helps shorten the time it takes food to pass through the digestive tract, making digestion less likely to cause cramping and diarrhea. Staying well-hydrated can also reduce the concentration of stool and make it easier on intestinal walls, which in turn prevents irritation that can increase the chances of diarrhea. It is recommended that people who are engaging in physical activity drink around 16-20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, another 7-10 ounces about 10 minutes before beginning the activity, and then 5-7 ounces every 15- 20 minutes during any strenuous physical activity lasting more than one hour. Drinking fluids during meals may also be beneficial as long as they are taken into account when considering how much fluid has been consumed throughout the day.

Eat Properly

Eating properly is one of the most important practices you can follow to prevent working out induced diarrhea. It’s important to hydrate well before, during and after workouts and eat balanced meals that contain all the necessary nutrients. Especially when exercising, ensure you consume enough carbohydrates to glucose in order to bring sugar levels in the body back up. Also take caution not to overdue it — proper portion size is an essential preventive measure against diarrhea.

Consume foods high in dietary fiber such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains as these are slower to digest and thus don’t cause overwhelming stomach distress during exercise. These fibers increase intestinal water retention and may act as mild antidiarrheal agents. Avoid triggers such as caffeine, spicy food or dairy products that could have a negative impact on your digestion when mixed with exercise. Eating meals two to three hours before engaging in physical activity will help keep your metabolism primed while providing time for digestion without putting additional stress into the process.

Adjust Intensity and Duration

If you experience digestive problems after exercise, it’s often a result of exercising too strenuously or pushing yourself beyond your usual limits. If this is the case, adjusting your intensity and duration can help prevent excess stress on your system. Consider reducing the time or difficulty of your workouts, such as decreasing the speed of your run, taking a shorter walk or opting for lower-impact exercises like swimming or yoga.

In addition to moderating your workouts, shorter warmups and cooldowns are also recommended prior to and after exercise. Sufficient hydration before and after an intense workout is vital in order to remain properly hydrated during the activity; dehydration can worsen digestive issues during exercise. A balanced meal approximately two hours before physical activity may also alleviate bowel issues associated with intense exercise. Taking all these steps together can help reduce excessive stress on your system for a more comfortable post-workout experience.


Working out can cause diarrhea for some people, and it may be a sign of the body’s physiological response to exercise. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risk of suffering from exercise-induced diarrhea. Knowing what the causes are, how to prevent it, and how to treat it if it occurs can help you stay on top of your game.

Increase Hydration

Adequate hydration is key before, during, and after physical activity to help prevent many of the exercise-induced gastrointestinal side effects. Dehydration is a major cause of GI problems like diarrhea, as well as a host of other health issues. Consuming enough fluids before and during exercise helps to provide the body with electrolytes and adequate blood supply to the muscles for optimal performance and energy levels.

It’s important to note that you should always drink fluids that are free from artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Instead, aim for hydrating fluid sources like coconut water or fresh fruit juice because they are full of essential minerals and electrolytes that will help keep you hydrated throughout your workout. Additionally, it is recommended to drink 8 ounces (around 240ml) of fluid every 15-20 minutes while exercising in order to maintain steady hydration levels.

Post-workout hydration involves replenishing the body with fluids lost through sweat during physical activity in order to return the body’s balance back to normal as quickly as possible. The American Council on Exercise suggests downing 16 ounces (around 500ml) per pound (1 pound equals 0.45 kg) of bodyweight lost during exercise in order to rapidly rehydrate yourself and reduce any risk of water depletion or dehydration related diarrhea symptoms.

Eat Properly

When your body is not properly fueled with energy from food and hydrated with enough fluids, the body may not be able to maintain a consistent level of energy for vigorous physical activity. Eating sugary, unhealthy foods high in fat can often lead to gastrointestinal distress when coupled with intense physical exertion. Therefore, it is important to focus on healthier meals composed of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates prior to going for a jog or any other form of exercise to avoid post-workout diarrhea.

Adjust Intensity and Duration

When you are pushing yourself too hard while exercising, it can lead to dehydration and changes in your digestive system. To minimize the chance of diarrhea after a workout, start by taking things slowly. Consider reducing the intensity of your exercise or shortening the duration. For instance, if you’re running on the treadmill, start at a slow pace and slowly increase your speed over time. When it comes to weightlifting, take breaks in between sets and focus on using proper form instead of lifting with more weight than you can handle.

Also, pay attention to what you’re eating before and after your workout. Eating foods that are high in fiber or complex carbohydrates as part of a balanced meal may provide some digestive benefits. However, eating too much before working out can contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort such as diarrhea or bloating. Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water throughout your workout as well—dehydration can increase the risk for diarrhea due to exercise-related stress on your body.

Use Anti-Diarrheal Medication

Anti-diarrheal medications, such as Loperamide, can help reduce the symptoms of exercise-induced diarrhea. If your stool consistency is too loose and you experience frequent urgent diarrhea, anti-diarrheal medication can help to reduce these symptoms. Taking this type of medication should only be done after consulting with a medical professional and following the directions on the packaging. In some cases, anti-diarrheal medications may make your symptoms worse if taken for too long or in inappropriate doses.

It is also important to note that anti-diarrheal medications are not meant to increase fluid intake or hydration levels or provide energy; they solely act to reduce uncomfortable symptoms and decrease the frequency of episodes. Furthermore, they do not affect any diagnosis given by a doctor, nor do they necessarily treat any underlying cause of exercise-induced diarrhea; rather, they simply serve as a preventative measure to minimize discomfort in order to maintain or improve an active lifestyle.


The conclusion from our research is that occasional bouts of diarrhea after exercise can be normal and usually do not indicate any underlying conditions or allergies. While most commonly associated with running, physiologically it is the intense physical activity that causes the body to quickly break down carbohydrates and other materials, resulting in temporary diarrhea.

In general, if your exercise induced diarrhea occurs after every workout, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as nausea, cramping and fever then it’s best to consult a physician for a full evaluation as this could be an indication of a gastrointestinal infection or food allergy. However, in the absence of these additional symptoms or excessive frequency of bowel movements after exercise, it is likely safe to assume that your post-workout diarrhea is normal and nothing to worry about.

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