Stomach Problems On Race Day
During endurance races like marathon running and long-distance triathlon, up to 90% of those taking part have reported gut issues during a race such as heartburn, nausea, bloating, abdominal cramps, vomiting, flatulence, the increased urge to defecate, and diarrhea .
While these symptoms can be mild (we have all ran behind someone with a bit of gas), they can also be detrimental to performance, and even force us to drop out of the race. There are many reasons why we experience these symptoms during endurance exercise including changes in blood flow as we redirect blood that usually goes to our gut towards our working muscles, hormonal alterations, neural effects, and the mechanical movement of exercise. However, there are things we can do to reduce the likelihood of suffering from gut problems on race day.
Practice Your Race Nutrition
When it comes to racing, may people load up on carbohydrates the day before, and then take on drinks, gels and all sorts of other foods to try to fuel their efforts. However, if you have not practiced this in training, it could spell disaster.
Consuming more fluid or carbohydrates than you are used to, or that you can tolerate, can lead to bloating, cramps, nausea, as it cannot be emptied from our stomachs and then absorbed from our intestines quickly enough. On your longest runs, practice matching your planned fuelling strategy exactly. It’s not enough to sip on a sports drink or taking the odd gel in training if you are then planning on taking on board much larger amounts on race day. If you are planning on 2 gels an hour, for example, then build in training sessions where you go through the exact strategy. Use the same brands as you are going to use on race day as well. If there are only a couple weeks left until your race, all is not lost.
A study from Australia has shown that runners reduced their gut symptoms during a 2 hour run after 2 weeks of ‘gut training’ by consuming carbohydrates during their training runs . This lead to reductions in carbohydrate malabsorption and gut symptoms, and improvements in performance.