GI Woes and Running
As many as 60% of runners experience stomach distress or discomfort during or following runs. The main culprit: running itself.
What affects whether or not your stomach protests?
o Digestion time
o Bacteria levels
o Hormone and stress levels
What can you do about it?
o Test out different foods, liquids, gels, etc. while training. Once you have a plan, stick with it! Do not try anything new, such as a freebie gel or bar, at your race. Save those for your next training run.
o Reduce your fiber intake in the day leading up to race day. Fiber can cause bacteria to produce painful gas and cramping which can lead you straight to the port-a-potty during the race.
o Bland foods may provide you with the best sources of fuel the day before the race without upsetting your stomach. Pasta (non-whole wheat this time), rice (basmati), pizza, potatoes (without the skin this time), melons, bananas, applesauce, tomatoes etc. work well for most runners. Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, though loaded with nutrients may upset your gut so don’t eat them in the 24 hours before your race.
o Some runners may be sensitive to lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Eliminating dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream) in the 24 hours leading up to a race may help alleviate GI distress. Many runners can substitute rice milk or soy milk for their cow’s milk, and continue eating yogurt products with no ill effects.
o There are many sweeteners used in bars, gels, sugarless chewing gum and other products popular with runners. Look for anything ending in “ol”, such as sorbitol or mannitol on the label of your favorite products and limit or eliminate them prior to your runs. Fructose is a common sweetener as well. If you are prone to stomach upset, do not consume anything with fructose listed as the first ingredient before or during your runs.
o Caffeine is OK in small amounts for most runners. Do not take a gel containing caffeine during the race if you are not used to it! The little boost you may receive from the caffeine is not worth the potential stomach upset.
o Eat your pre-race meals/snacks three hours prior to race time if you can. Stick with liquid fuel within 1-2 hours of a run if you have a history of GI distress.