Can Cycling Cause Constipation?

man on mountain bike

Bike riding is an excellent way to get your exercise in and it’s also a great form of transportation. Because cycling puts your body in a less natural position, gut health comes into question. Some people even wonder if bike riding can cause constipation.

Cycling stimulates bowel movement, so it doesn’t usually cause constipation, but it can cause a number of other gastrointestinal issues, such as acid reflux and diarrhea. However, excessive exercise can cause constipation when paired with a poor diet and a lack of fluids.

While biking can’t cause constipation, it is a contributing factor for a few other gastrointestinal problems. Read on to learn more about the effects that cycling can have on your digestive system.

Internal Effects of Cycling

Blood Flow

When exercising, in general, your blood flow is concentrated toward the muscles that are putting in the work. Your blood flows to support the high demands of exercise, taking away blood flow from some of your more normal functions, like your digestive system. Because your body is spending its energy on the active muscles, the digestive system isn’t up to par in its functions. This can cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues and discomforts. 

While cycling, your body is also bent into unnatural positions for long periods of time. This can not only cause discomfort for your muscles, but it can also affect the way things work inside your body. 

Long Term

Because bike riding can be the cause of a lot of minor gut problems, the effects add up and could create bigger long-term issues. Below, we’ll go over some of the issues caused by bike riding. These issues can cause damage to our digestive system. Because of how food sits in the stomach while biking, it can break down the lining and weaken it. 

It’s important to recognize the risks, but if you are a casual biker, you don’t have much to worry about because you’re likely not cycling enough to experience many of these issues.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where the esophageal sphincter (the “lid” on the stomach) malfunctions, pushing stomach fluid up the esophagus. This feels like a burning in the chest and up the throat. It can be quite painful and could definitely interrupt a good ride. 

When cycling, your body is hunched over and bent at the abdomen. This cuts off the esophageal sphincter and pushes food and bile back up the esophagus, causing acid reflux. There are some things you can do to try to ease acid reflux while bike riding. 

The first is to adjust your seat. If you have a bike that’s properly sized to you, you will likely be pretty comfortable, but you may still have the issue of being bent so much that it causes acid reflux. By lowering your seat, you may eliminate some of the stress on your abdomen, lessening your chances of bile rising back up your throat. 

Another option is to avoid eating for a few hours before your ride. This option is tougher because bike riding requires a lot of energy, so cyclists often try to fuel up before a big ride.


Flatulence is the release of gas that has been collected in the stomach. Gas collects in the stomach in a couple of different ways. The first is swallowing air. We all swallow a bit of air when we eat or drink. Another way air is collected in the stomach is as foods sit in the stomach, they ferment and turn to gas. Flatulence is a normal function and happens usually about ten times a day for the average person. However, when it is more frequent than this, it usually indicates a problem. 

While riding a bike, your working muscles are taking your blood flow and energy, so your digestive system has access to less energy. Because the digestive system isn’t working at full power, the food and liquids have more time to sit in the stomach. The foods sit for a long time in the stomach, so they have a long time to ferment and build up gas. This causes excessive flatulence. 

Generally, flatulence isn’t a big thing to worry about while you are cycling because it is a natural occurrence that has just been exacerbated. If flatulence is interrupting your ride and causing a lot of discomfort, there are a couple of things you can try. An easy fix is to eat less fiber before your ride. Another option is to completely avoid food altogether for 4-6 hours before you cycle. 


Diarrhea is a well-known medical issue characterized by loose stool and frequent bowel movements. Diarrhea can be a major inconvenience for a cyclist and extremely uncomfortable, but diarrhea is more than an annoyance.  Diarrhea can be dangerous for someone who is biking because it can cause dehydration. 

Dehydration, if severe, can cause light-headedness, muscle cramps, and headaches. Water is needed for the body to successfully complete its functions. If your body becomes dehydrated, bodily functions are significantly hindered. 

While extremely severe dehydration doesn’t happen often while cycling, it is a danger bikers should be aware of and take precautions against. The best thing you can do to keep your body safe from dehydration is to take in plenty of fluids. While water is very important, it is also crucial to get plenty of electrolytes. These will aid in keeping your body hydrated. 

Bike riding stimulates bowel movement, so it follows that diarrhea would be an issue, but measures can still be taken against it. Avoid eating fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeine before riding, and you will prevent a lot of potential issues with diarrhea.

How to Avoid Gastrointestinal Issues While Biking

There are a few things you can do to avoid these gut issues while biking, but ultimately, you know your body better than any online article out there. You should try the suggestions and find what works best for you. Learn how your body reacts to certain foods and find a good cycling routine that works for you.

One thing you can try is limiting food consumption before your ride. To avoid all issues and be sure that you will not be digesting when you are on your ride, you will have to abstain from food for four to six hours. This is unreasonable when you plan to exercise, but there may be certain time increments that work better for you.

Watching what you eat will also have a big impact on your ride. Avoid fatty foods, caffeine, and other foods that cause gut issues under normal circumstances. Don’t use extra fiber on days with long rides. If you generally eat fiber, it is okay to use it on race day, but be aware that extra fiber can cause gastrointestinal issues as you are biking. 

Make sure your bike is well fitted to your body and that you can experience a comfortable ride. Adjust your seat so your body can sit as upright as possible and put less pressure on your abdomen.

Using all these tips and tricks should give you a more comfortable ride and decrease your chances of long-term gastrointestinal problems.

My Recommended Gear for Year-Round Cycling on a Budget

It took me years of trial and error to figure out the best and most affordable setup for my daily bike commuting. I would only recommend the gear that is good quality for a good price. Here’s my full year-round gear recommendation guide.

Want to know how much your cycling gear should cost? Check out my guide with different budget options here.

Ride on!

Benjy Suzaki

Hi, I'm Benjy Suzaki and I love cycling with my kids. Biking has been a big part of our family life ever since I decided to bike everywhere instead of drive, including to my job in NYC from New Jersey. is all about how to make biking a priority in your daily life through bike commuting, bike maintenance, and riding with kids.

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