If you’re like most runners, you have at some point experienced mid-run stomach trouble that forced you to cut short a workout or even a race. So what’s going on? When you run, your body diverts oxygen and blood from your gastrointestinal (GI) tract to your muscles. This limits your stomach’s ability to do its job, sending improperly digested food into your intestines, drawing fluids with it and setting the stage for GI problems. High-intensity runs, long runs, warmer weather and dehydration all exacerbate this effect. But there are steps you can take to help minimise these troubles.
1/ SIDE STITCH
Gripping pain in the upper GI area affects about 25 per cent of runners. The pain is probably caused by reduced blood flow, as well as ligament stress.
Fix: Small pre-run meals and a slow warm-up.
About 20 per cent of us experience this burning chest pain.
Fix: Avoid your trigger foods. Don’t lie down after a pre-run meal. During your warm-up, avoid core work, such as sit-ups, as it may aggravate heartburn.
3/ BURPS AND WIND
Caused by gas-forming foods. Nerves, which can make you swallow air, don’t help.
Fix: Avoid foods that cause gas. A pre-race meditation routine will calm your nerves and limit stress hormones that restrict GI blood flow.
4/ MID-RUN NAUSEA AND VOMITING
Running on a full stomach can cause these symptoms, as can taking in untested mid-run fuel.
Fix: Allow food to digest properly before a run. Practise a fuel plan in training.
5/ MID-RUN DIARRHOEA
Caused by a combination of running and restricted GI blood flow. Race-day nerves can stimulate the bowel, making matters worse.
Fix: Practise a pre-race calming routine.
6/ POST-RUN FEVER OR DIARRHOEA
Limited GI blood flow can damage the intestines, allowing pathogens to enter your circulation.
Fix: Reduce training intensity for a few months, then slowly build it up again. Stay hydrated.
These triggers can stop you in your tracks.
1/ PAIN RELIEVERS
Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen can irritate an already inflamed gut and may lead to more damage.
2/ HIGH-FIBRE FOODS
Fibre promotes bowel movements. Skip high-fibre veggies, fruits and packaged foods a day or two pre-race.
3/ BIG PRE-RUN MEALS
The bigger the meal, the more time you need to completely digest it before you start running.
4/ HIGH-SUGAR DRINKS
Sports drinks, non-diet fizzy drinks and fruit juice can load your gut with sugar, which can aggravate bloating and diarrhoea.