When you work out, you expect body odor, soreness, and sweat. Strength gains and weight loss are the common side effects of exercise.
However, do you know that some people also experience itchy legs or itchy fat while working out?
A lot of people wonder why exercise makes them itchy, especially if they are doing it after a long time or have just started working out. Any part of the body can itch in this case, including thighs and abdomen.
Apart from this, there are some other strange things that can happen while working out, such as runners’ stomach, sleepy butt, numb feet, and much more.
Experts say that both newbie’s and athletes can experience some bodily dysfunctions or discomforts while working out, which are strange yet normal exercise side effects.
Here, we will take a look at itchy fat, its possible causes that will answer your question “Why does my fat itch when I exercise,” and how you can alleviate it.
What Is Itchy Fat?
The fat itch you are worried about is just an exercise-induced histamine response. You can feel an itchy sensation anywhere in your body, such as your legs, arms, or whole body.
This is known as itchy fat or itchy skin during exercise. Experts say that it is a quite common body response to exercise.
Why Does My Fat Itch When I Exercise?
When you exercise, your blood flow and heart rate augment since your heart sends more blood to your working muscles, such as your chest while bench pressing or your thighs while running.
This can result in your cells releasing a compound known as histamine and the dilation of your capillaries, pushing them outward and stimulating the surrounding nerve cells, which send signals to your brain.
Your brain interprets these signals as an itchy sensation. The blood vessels expand during a workout in order to bring more nutrients and oxygen to working muscles and eliminate waste products and carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, your fat itch can be caused due to some exercises, like running or bicycling. This is because these exercises can cause your skin to rub against clothing, your skin, or other things.
Depending on what workout you are doing, itching can be due to frictional irritation as well. In medical terms, this is known as intertrigo. It is an itchy and red-colored skin rash that is caused due to skin-to-skin friction.
Sweating and working out a lot can also cause bacterial and fungal infections, leading to itchy skin.
In such a case, you must consult your doctor so that they can prescribe the right medication for healing your skin.
What is Histamine?
Histamine is a substance in your body that is generally linked with inflammation, itching, and reactions. Researchers have found that histamine is also connected to exercise.
Blood vessel expansion is also known as vasodilation and histamine is a known vasodilator. Histamine increases blood flow to infected or injured tissues in order to facilitate the immune system to identify the problem area.
As per a Japanese study, histamine can be released while exercising to protect your body against exercise-induced exhaustion or fatigue.
Plus, histamine sends itch signals to your brain. This means when your body produces more histamine, it can lead to an itchy feeling.
Allergies and Itching
The answer to the question “Why does my fat itch when I exercise” can also be an allergy if it happens mostly during a workout.
An allergy is an abnormal response of the immune due to which the body releases histamine or inflammatory chemicals in response to an allergen, which is a harmless stimulus.
You can experience itching with some other symptoms in the eyes, throat, nose, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, or skin, as per whatever you are allergic to.
Your allergy can be prompted by a sudden environment change, something you ate or inhaled at the gym, or something you contacted during the workout.
Some examples of allergies that can cause itching include:
- Food allergies: As the name suggests, food allergies are caused by certain nuts and fruits that you eat. Such an allergy can result in the temporary swelling of the throat, tongue, and lips, in addition to common rash and itchiness. This can be caused due to foods such as energy drinks and protein bars at the gym. Energy drinks can amplify a caffeine allergy while working out and protein bars contain certain nuts.
- Inhalant allergies: These happen due to certain substances that you breathe in, such as pollen. They are recognized by nasal symptoms. Such an allergy can be caused by deodorants used by other people, disinfectants used in gym cleaning, fungi in locker rooms, etc.
- Contact dermatitis: This is a mild or moderate skin rash that is usually felt than seen and caused by physical contact with something. It can be caused by spandex in athletic wear and latex in sports bras and yoga mats, in addition to things you apply to your body prior to or after your workouts, such as lotions, powders, and body sprays.
Such allergies can be cured with an antihistamine, as per the cause of the allergy. Some causes might need an injected, oral, or topical corticosteroid.
Is Fat Itch Harmful?
Itchy fact is a harmless side effect of working out, which causes the blood vessels to expand. Most of the itches are not problematic, including the ones that you get while doing some strenuous physical activity, like running, working out, cardio, etc.
A fat itch is rarely serious and generally goes after you are done with your exercise.
However, in some cases, a sudden intense itch can also be a sign of exercise-induced anaphylaxis or EIA, which is a life-threatening condition.
How to Stop a Fat Itch?
As per experts, the release of histamine commonly takes place in beginners. This means when you keep up with your exercising routine on a daily basis, you will be less sensitive to the histamine response.
Plus, your brain will get used to the signals and ignore them. This will make the itching sensation go away automatically.
However, if you take a long break from your exercise, the itch will become more intense when you start again.
You can also apply lotion before you start exercising. Try changing your workout clothes and opt for moisture-wicking fabrics to reduce the sweat that clings to your skin while working out.
This is because sweat can also lead to itching in some circumstances. For instance, when there is excessive sweat on the skin for a long time, then it can cause miliaria and consequently itching.
You can also take an antihistamine before you exercise after consulting your doctor.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) provides the following tips to prevent itching due to dry skin:
- Drink plenty of water, which will keep your skin healthy as well as help you in losing weight.
- Keep your showers and baths short and use warm water instead of hot water. Plus, you should use mild cleansers and gently dry yourself.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after you take a shower or bath in order to retain the moisture. You can use creams or ointments instead of lotions if you have very dry skin. Plus, you must use a hand cream after you wash your hands.
- You can put a humidifier in your room, which adds moisture to the air, in turn helping your skin.
In case the itching continues, you should take a look at some other common causes that can result in itching, such as foods and drinks, material irritants, detergents, etc.
If these are not the causes of your itchy fat, then it’s time that you consult a doctor.
Plus, if you have hives, welts, or dizziness or your symptoms don’t get better with treatment, then also you should see your doctor as this could be something serious, such as exercise-induced urticaria.
What Is Runner’s Itch?
Apart from a fat itch while exercising, you can also experience this sensation in your legs. This happens when your body warms up while jogging or running.
Even though it is commonly known as runner’s itch, it can happen to normal people as well and not only runners.
Generally, runner’s itch goes away when you run frequently. This means if you can bear the uncomfortable feeling for a few weeks, you won’t have to experience it for long.
Can Itching Happen While Losing Weight?
Itching can also be associated with losing weight. This can happen when you have gained weight quickly and your skin needs to balance this quick growth. Skin that is in the process of healing can be itchy.
This is due to dermal tearing, which causes your nerves to produce itchy sensations. You might also experience itching in your stretch marks after losing weight.
Now you know the answer to the question “Why does my fat itch when I exercise” and how you can stop it. Stop fretting about it and focus on your workout routine.
Your fat itch will go away on its own after a while. If the condition persists, you can consult your doctor as something else might be causing the itch.