Bijgewerkt op: 19 okt. 2022
A lot of people experience bloating very often. They often think that it is normal to be bloated all the time. Spoiler alert: it is not normal.
Being frequently bloated indicates that something is going horribly wrong in your digestive tract.
Especially girls tell me constantly “When I eat something in the morning, I am bloated for the rest of the day” and I am like “Okay, that really isn’t healthy, what are you eating for breakfast...”
Females often feel very insecure, when bloated. Men experience bloating too, but they usually care less about it. Male fitness enthusiasts who want to hit the vacuum pose are an exception. I have mastered the anti-bloating strategies and now I can hit the vaccuum pose all day every day.
After working through digestive issues with many people all over the Netherlands and Belgium I can say that there are a few things that have worked for almost everybody that I coached over the years.
Disclaimer: Don't use this blog as medical advice. Always consult your own health care professional.
If you are truly sick of experiencing a bloated belly, do the following:
1. Start with doing breathing exercises before eating your meals. A few years ago I came up with this idea. If you know how the nervous & digestive system of the human body works, you would acknowledge that doing this should provide benefits. But ofcourse, to have proof aka anecdotal evidence, I had to test it with my clients and… it worked great. It may sound weird, doing breathing exercises before eating, because nobody promotes it on the internet. Why does nobody promote it? Because it is free. No money to gain. They rather promote useless pills. But I do promote it, as it works wonders. This life hack is worth gold, believe me. How does it work? Breathing exercises stimulate your vagus nerve, this increases the parasympathetic system. This system is promotes relaxation and digestion. If your digestion is suboptimal, bloating can occur. If you are stressed out, or just had an intense workout, you really need to bring your body back from “flight or flight” to “rest-and-digest” and that is possible with controlled breathing. You can try box breathing, it is a very simple technique for beginners. Inhale 4 seconds, hold it 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds, wait 4 seconds, do this for 2 minutes. Done. Bon appétit.
2. Chew way better and eat very slow. As you chew your food more digestive enzymes are produced. These help to breakdown food further to assist digestion. The process of chewing also triggers the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, this further aids digestion, by regulating the pH to increase acidity levels assisting with food breakdown. If you eat too fast, you will swallow more air. While air is moving through your digestive tract, it causes bloating and that can be very uncomfortable.
3. Drink ginger, chamomile or mint tea after your meals. Ginger tea can help prevent a variety of digestive issues, including nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, cramps, and indigestion. Chamomile tea has been shown to reduce symptoms of acid reflux, ward off bloating and gas, and contribute to overall gastrointestinal health. Peppermint tea can also relieve digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating and indigestion. The smartest bodybuilders that are bulking are often adding freshly grated ginger to a lot of their savory meals, because they know it works.
4. Don’t eat huge meals. This one really speaks for itself. Don’t be stupid. Eating a massive meal will put more stress on your digestive tract. Eat normal portions, try to listen more to the satiety signals your body is giving you. If you are “bulking” or “main-gaining” and need a shit ton of calories, just switch from low-kcal to more caloric dense foods.
5. Lower FODMAP containing foods. FODMAPs are a group of nutrients that are pretty hard to digest. Some foods contain a lot of them. You are especially sensitive for FODMAP induced issues if you consume them right before, during and after exercising. Because during intense activities like strenuous workouts the parasympathetic nervous system won’t be active, digestion isn’t functioning optimally. If you have a shit ton of hard to digest nutrients in your gut or intestines at that point, you are asking for trouble. In the Netherlands most people eat a lot of dairy and wheat bread, dairy contains lactose and wheat bread contains fructans. Both fall under the category FODMAP rich foods. So it is not weird that when you consume large amounts of bread and milk, you experience some bloating. It is just cause-and-effect. You can switching to alternatives like lactose-free dairy and 100% spelt bread or oats. If you can’t digest a lot of lactose at once, go lactose-free or consume your dairy in small portions at different times during the day. Consuming a lot of fruits that are very high in fructose can also cause some trouble. High fructose fruits are mango’s, apples and watermelon. Honey is also high in fructose. Fruits that usually cause no issues are bananas, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mandarins. Broccoli, asparagus, onions and garlic are also very high in fructans. Vegetables that are easier to digest are spinach, pumpkin, tomato and zucchini. Pasta is also rich in fructans, rice and (sweet) potatoes are easier to digest. Avocado contains sorbitol, eating an entire avocado at once, can trigger some bloating. Eating a lot of green bell pepers and mushrooms can also induce bloating. Consuming large amounts of polyol sweeteners like xylitol, used in chewing gum, can also lead to problems. Sweeteners like sucrose, aspartame, stevia, glucose and maple syrup are usually well tolerated. Legumes like kidney beans and lentils are can also be trigger foods. Try to find out which FODMAP rich foods cause problems for you. As it is not the same for everybody. Some people can tolerate specific FODMAPs better than others. Search for “LOW FODMAP DIET” on Google images. You can eliminate some products and switch to alternatives, but sometimes just lowering your consumption by eating less FODMAPs is enough. If you don’t want to experience discomfort eat low FODMAP at meals close to your workouts. Your digestive tract functions better when you are in rest-and-digest mode, so if you didn’t do any intense activity and don’t plan to do one in the upcoming hours you can get away with consuming more FODMAPs.
6. Only eat fast food combined with vegetables or fruit. If you eat fast food without any fiber, it can end pretty detrimental. Eat a side salad, with the hamburger or pizza. It is very important to eat some natural occuring fiber at every meal (pre-workout meal excluded). Some girls drink a Starbucks “coffee” with cheesecake for breakfast and complain about bloating. If you eat a meal like that, brace yourself and deal with the bloating. That is not a good breakfast. 1+1=2. Like for real, where is the protein, the veggies, the fruit? My clients must eat veggies or fruits at every meal. Every single time calories goes into their mouths, I want to see vegetables or fruits going down with it. Same goes for protein. Every single meal, I want them to eat a protein source. Doing this while following an exercise regimen will lead to muscle gains and a healthy bodyfat percentage. Having healthy bodyfat levels can also limit gastrointestinal issues. Being very overweight/overfed is terrible for your gut and mental health. Same goes for being underweight/underfed.
7. Eat daily probiotic (fermented) foods. These foods contain useful living bacteria. Eating such foods daily can lessen the severity of diarrhea, bloating, gas, and constipation. Most people don’t do this. Most people also have digestive issues due to a suboptimal gut microbiome. Don’t be like most people. Eat sauerkraut, Biogarde®, yoghurt, kimchi and tempeh. Drink kefir and kombucha. Every single day aim for it to get in a variety of probiotics. It is such a simple task, yet people find it difficult. Just make it habitual to stock up on probiotic foods. The chances are very high that you’ve used antibiotics or medication at some point in your life. They can negatively impact your microbiome (living micro-organisms in your gut). With probiotic foods you can repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. These bacteria can improve digestive processes, besides that they can have tremendous impact on your overall wellbeing, immune system, appetite regulation and even mental health, due to the gut-brain axis (vagus nerve). Eating more fermented foods can also naturally improve your stomach acid levels. If you are often bloated and/or you fart a lot, you better start eating more fermented foods because your stomach acid is probably too low. Because if you don't have enough stomach acid, you can't digest food properly (especially protein) and absorb certain important nutrients. This will result in more gas formation. Another option to increase stomach acid is to also drink apple cider vinegar. You can dilute a spoon of it in water and drink it before your meal. Gluten is a hard-to-digest protein, acid increases it’s breaks down, so having low stomach acid will increase your gluten sensitivity. Birth control pills can decrease hydrochloric acid secretion, so girls that are using them, really need to consume more probiotic/fermented foods to decrease this side effect in order to optimize their digestion. Same goes for the bodybuilders/athletes that are using/abusing oral PEDs. You can also supplement with a betaine HCL (with pepsin) supplement. It is a capsule that you can swallow with water, right before or during your meals. In today’s environment (with processed food consumption) a lot of people would benefit from it, so you might want to look into that. This supplement can improve your digestion, especially protein digestion. You will be able to digest high protein foods like meat more effectively and if you have an existing food intolerance (or allergy) the symptoms might become less severe.
8. Stay hydrated during the entire day, consume enough salt and maybe add a fiber supplement for better stool. Staying hydrated is very important for optimal bodily functioning. Drinking enough water in between meals is necessary. Salt is necessary for optimal hydration and digestion. Try to salt all, yes, every single whole food meal that you eat during the day. Processed meals already contain a lot of salt, so adding more is not required. Buy psyllium husk capsules (fiber supplement). Flush them away with a sip of water during your meals.
9. Just simply don’t eat foods you react strongly to. If you are sensitive to gluten, go gluten-free or at least limit your consumption. Some people react very badly to specific vegetables. Everyone is different, so person A gets bloated from product X but person B doesn’t get bloated from product X. If you don’t know what foods are triggering issues. Go write down everything you put in your mouth and write down when you get bloated. This way you can try to find the cause(s). You can also follow an elimination diet. Not willing to do this? Don’t cry about being bloated.
10. Get in enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress (cortisol), which affects the gut. This can lead to a host of issues including bloating, stomach pains, food sensitivities and changes to the gut microbiome. To improve your sleep quality and duration, go outside during the day, don’t abuse caffeine, limit blue light exposure after dark, follow a pre-bed ritual like: reading, shower, meditate, pray (if you are a religious person), drink a hot cup of tea with herbs like chamomile, valerian, etc., use supplements (good sleep stack: magnesium biglycinate, ashwaganda, glycine, melatonin). Try to do more stress management aka self-care practices.
11. Limit highly processed foods. Don’t really have to explain this one, right. Eating things like nacho's and chicken wings from fastfood companies or fried snacks from your local snackbar can result in big, big trouble. These fatty foods soaked in re-heated cooking oils are not very gut friendly. Also a common mistake fitness folks are making is skipping meals and going for these highly processed protein bars. These bars contain protein, a shit ton of weird ingredients, but also a lot of sugar alcohols (polyols). Consuming a lot of polyols at once by eating an entire bar can result in gastrointestinal side effects including abdominal pain, bloating, and gas.
12. Go for a slow walk after your meals. Yes, just walking can improve digestion. Although you might feel like taking a nap, especially after a big meal, walk for 10 to 20 minutes instead. Walking can help stimulate the passage of gas through your digestive tract.
13. Use more carminative herbs. It can not only improve the taste of your meals but carminatives are, simply put, natural gas relievers. Cinnamon, cumin, fennel, rosemary, cardamom and coriander are good examples.
14. Sit up straight while eating. This is the optimal position for your body to be in.
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If you actually have any tips & tricks yourself for reducing the bloat, feel free to DM me on Instagram. But if you are hitting on me, I will ghost. In most cases, haha.