Eight tips to avoid “runner’s stomach”

Three years ago, I learned about the dreaded “runner’s stomach” the hard way.

I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that no one’s race plan includes running backward on the Marine Corps Marathon course around mile 19 to get to the nearest Porta Potty, then tearfully explaining to the runners waiting in line to use it that if they “don’t let me go next, I will take a crap on the National Mall.”

Looking rough post-race at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon.

Not my finest moment. And sadly, I’m hardly alone in suffering a wide range of symptoms of digestive distress mid-run, including vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Even Olympian Paula Radcliffe needed a pit stop—and a quite public one, at that—on her way to winning the 2005 London Marathon.

Jared Rice, a registered dietitian, ACSM health and fitness specialist, and triathlete, says there are a couple of reasons runners may be so susceptible to digestive distress, with dehydration and a lack of blood flow to the gut due to exercise being the main culprits.

“The body diverts blood flow and energy focus away from digestion and toward the extremities to fuel the exercise being performed,” Rice says. “Running, being a demanding, full-body motion, may result in more significant diversion of blood and resources.” He also points out that running results in “a significant amount of jostling and agitation to the digestive system, which may further compromise digestive function and result in things moving along more quickly than usual.”

So what’s a runner to do?

Rice says a runner’s diet leading up to and during a race or workout plays a huge role in causing or preventing digestive distress. He’s careful to note that “no one thing will work for everyone, and different people will tolerate habits in different ways,” but says runners with sensitive tummies may want to try the following:

1) Avoid eating large meals within two to three hours of a long run or race.

2) Avoid eating within 30 minutes of starting a run. Instead, sip a sports drink for that final dose of fuel.

To read more, please visit Washingtonian.com.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Eight tips to avoid “runner’s stomach”

  1. I have heard of bad cases, but luckily I have not really suffered… only had bloat-ness and the whole water noise (loudly) in my stomach when running… Btw so glad I came across your blog, it’s awesome and I can really relate… just scrolled down to find your post about motivation when injured, and gesh being injured is sooo hard and coming back is even harder which I am currently trying to do after having 5 months off from a fracture in my L5… this week has been a struggle at squad to say the least, and questioning is it worth all the pain… but yes it is… and even though I am soo slow and unfit now, I still love it and know it won’t take too long to be back… now grateful for the fact I can simply run! Anyway end of ramble… once I start I can’t stop. Hope you enjoy the rest of the week! Auds 🙂

  2. Great advice to those without a cast iron stomach.

  3. Great tips. When this happens, it just completely destroys a race or training run.

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