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.”
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.