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Exercise Without HeartburnWhen you go to they gym, it’s great to feel the muscles burn, but heartburn is not the desired burn. It’s unfortunate that exercise and heartburn go hand in hand with many people. Many movements in exercise can cause added pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) causing stomach contents leak through into the esophagus. This leaking of contents into the esophagus is acid reflux. The byproduct of acid reflux is the pain we know as heartburn. Here are some ways to avoid the distraction of heartburn and concentrate on the workout.


14 Tips for Preventing Heartburn During Exercise

  1. Make sure you are healthy enough for exercise. Heartburn and heart problems are hard to distinguish between. See your doctor and plan your exercise routine according to your health level.
  2. Wait 2 to 3 hours after eating before exercising. Stomach contents are undesirable during exercise. Exercise reduces blood flow to the digestive tract, causing the stomach to produce more acid to digest any stomach contents. The contents can also cause pressure on the LES leading to acid reflux.
  3. Don’t over eat before exercise. Overeating will also cause pressure on the LES during your workout.


  5. Chew your food properly. Properly chewing will help food digest more readily and vacate the stomach before your workout.
  6. Avoid heartburn trigger foods before workouts. These include: fatty foods, processed foods, caffeine, dairy products, spicy foods, produce from the allium family, tomatoes, citrus, soda, alcohol, mint, and chocolate.
  7. Avoid pre-workout protein. High-protein meals, bars, and shakes have longer digestion times. Proteins should be reserved for post-workout when protein intake is most important for muscle repair and development.
  8. Drink water. Drinking water during your workout will not only hydrate you during your workout but will wash acids back down into the stomach if they have refluxed. Water will also dilute stomach acid. But don’t drink too much water. This will cause the same pressures on the LES that foods can.
  9. Dilute your sports drinks with water. If you drink sports drinks during your workout, consider diluting them by 50% or more. High concentration of carbohydrates during your workout can contribute to heartburn. Many of these drinks are also acidic.
  10. Understand your movements. Many exercises can cause added pressure on the LES leading to acid reflux. Bending over, crunches and bouncing movements are just a few of the actions that can cause pressure on the LES. If you are experiencing acid reflux during your workout, you should avoid these activities.
  11. Avoid overly strenuous exercise. Running, cycling, and weightlifting can all cause acid reflux.1,2
  12. Avoid labored breathing during exercise. Studies have shown that “Exaggerated ventilatory effort” can lead to acid reflux.3
  13. Wear loose-fitting clothes while exercising. Tight clothing can put unnecessary pressure on the LES.
  14. Keep on exercising. Exercise can lower weight. Being overweight places added pressure on the LES. Exercise also lowers stress levels. Both of these benefits can lead to lower instances of heartburn.
  15. Consider pretreating with medications if all other options fail. If you consistently have heartburn while working out after following the above rules. You might consider taking an antacid or H2 blocker before working out.

For additional information on exercise related heartburn, see “Heartburn Friendly Exercises“.


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