How to Manage Exercise-Induced Heartburn

Have you ever been fully engaged in a HIIT workout when all of a sudden you feel like you swallowed lava? Even though exercise is recommended to treat heartburn, acid reflux, or GERD  (gastroesophageal reflux disease), sometimes it can backfire and trigger it, leaving you feeling the burn in all the wrong places

If you think you have exercise-induced heartburn, the most important thing to remember is not to give up on working out, but rather to modify your routine. 

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is stomach acid that climbs up your throat and irritates your esophagus. It causes a burning sensation behind your sternum and can last minutes to hours after a meal. Heartburn doesn’t actually affect your heart but it does mimic the symptoms of heart disease.

Heartburn is considered to be a symptom of acid reflux or GERD). The key thing to remember about heartburn is that it strikes for one of three reasons:

  1. What you ate didn’t agree with you: spicy or fatty foods, tomatoes, caffeine, alcohol, citrus, chocolate, or onions. Learn more about the foods you should be eating with our BodyRock Meal Plan eBook.
  2. After eating a huge meal. Stop binge eating in its tracks with our BodyRock Late Night Eating eBook.
  3. You’re eating too close to sleeping: the prone position allows acid to creep up your throat with no restrictions.

There are also some contributing factors that may put you at greater risk for developing heartburn, such as:

  • Obesity 
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy diet 
  • Some medications
  • Stress
  • Certain conditions (GERD, acid reflux, or hernia)
  • Pressure on the gut (tight pants, pregnancy, vigorous exercise)

Symptoms of Heartburn

Although there is a bridge between heartburn and heart disease symptoms, the main difference is that heartburn is infrequent and can be managed at home. The general symptoms associated with heartburn are:

  • Burning or discomfort behind your sternum after eating or while sleeping
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Pain when laying down or bending
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Burning in the throat

Exercise-Induced Heartburn

It really is cruel that you’re active to stay healthy when BAM, you get saddled with exercise-induced heartburn; but instead of throwing in the towel change your expectations. Exercise-induced heartburn is partial to high-intensity activity such as HIIT, running, or cycling — but that doesn’t mean you have to quit your routine. Rather, try managing exercise-induced heartburn with these helpful tips:

Keep a Food Diary

Food can be used as fuel for your body, but it can also turn into jet fuel for heartburn. So the best thing to do is keep a food journal (check out our Shift Happens Journal) so you can identify trigger foods. Then take it one step further and do your best to limit consuming problematic foods altogether or surrounding an exercise.

If you can, join Sean on his Fast and Furiously Fit challenges and workout in a fasted state to offset heartburn.

Check out the companion Fast and Furiously Fit eBook to learn more about fasting!

Schedule Your Meals Around Your Workouts

For those of you who don’t enjoy working out on an empty stomach, tinker around with when you should eat before a workout— i.e. try an hour or two hours beforehand, etc. Or try having a snack that’s easy on the stomach, like yogurt or a banana, before you hit the mat for a sweat session.

Rethink Your Exercise 

If you’re open to changing your exercise to one that doesn’t jostle your sensitive gut—like low-impact HIIT, yoga, swimming, hiking—go for it, but if you’re hellbent on sticking with what you love (we don’t blame you one bit) then we’ve got one word for you: modify.

If traditional burpees bring on the fire, try a lower-impact version; ditch downward dog for something less inverted. Basically, anytime your head is lower than your waist, you’re putting yourself in jeopardy for heartburn so modify the exercise.

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Take Something for It

If the fiery floodgates are open, get relief by taking an over-the-counter antacid. If you haven’t got any handy or prefer to stick to all-natural solutions then there are a couple of things you can try:

When planning your meals for the week, you may also want to consider upping your consumption of these acid-fighting foods:

  • Vegetables: high in fiber, these bad boys can help scale back stomach acid.
  • Ginger: it’s anti-inflammatory and can help settle your gut.
  • Fruits that aren’t acidic: citrus makes acid worse so go for bananas or melons instead.
  • Lean meats: kick high fats out in favor of lean meats or seafood.
  • Egg whites: what aren’t eggs good for, but stick to low-fat egg whites.
  • Healthy fats: choose healthy fats like avocado in place of saturated.

Managing Exercise-Induced Heartburn

There is nothing cool about heartburn but just because it flares when you’re working out doesn’t mean you give up on exercise; it means you get smart and modify your activity. 

Anti-Heartburn Workout Playlist

If exercise-induced heartburn has got you do, get up and try this anti-heartburn workout playlist. These classes are lower intensity, but will still help you crush your fit goals. Plus, the moves keep you out of inversions or are easy to modify so you can avoid them.


Become a subscriber to BodyRock+ to access these workouts today!


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