Oh my gosh ... How many of us have this type of problem on a run? Aside from being intensely uncomfortable, GI distress can be highly embarrassing and upsetting—especially if you run into trouble and you're miles away from home. Just one bad experience—with cramps, diarrhea, a sloshy stomach, nausea, or an emergency pit stop—can make you too panicky to run with a pack, much less race.
If you have stomach trouble on the run, you're not alone. Studies suggest that up to half of all runners have this trouble too. Here are some steps you can take to bulletproof your stomach for your next run.
Some nutrients that are good for you are better avoided right before a run. Fiber and unsaturated fat, for instance, are both heart-healthy and help prevent chronic disease. But they also take longer for the body to digest than carbs, and can lead to stomach distress when you're on the road. If you're heading out for a workout, make sure your pre-run meal is primarily composed of healthy carbs; it should have less than 7 grams of fiber, 10 grams of fat, and 15 grams of protein per serving.
Dehydration can worsen stomach issues. So make sure you have plenty of fluids in your system before you head out. In general, you should drink when you feel thirsty. But if you prefer to follow a formula, drink half your body weight in ounces throughout the day. So if you weigh 160 pounds, aim for 80 ounces of calorie-fluids throughout the day. Stick to water whenever possible; sports drinks with sweeteners and additives can add unwanted calories, and worsen stomach irritation. It's best to sip fluids throughout the day. Trying to chug them down right before a run could lead to a sloshy, uncomfortable feeling while you're on the road.
The stomach can only process so many carbs at one time. If you try to chase that energy gel with a sports drink, you could end up feeling crampy, and running for the bathroom. Any time you consume an energy gel, bar, or chews, wash it down with water.
If you've had problems in the past, try out different brands, flavors, and varieties, to figure out what gives you a boost without upsetting your stomach. If you're training for a long-distance event like a half-marathon or a marathon, be sure to try out different sports foods on long runs, so you can have a fail-proof formula for race day.
Many runners are in the habit of popping pain-killers on the run. But both aspirin and NSAIDs taken before a run can increase chances of GI distress, and lead to other serious health problems. It's especially important to avoid them if you have a history of stomach issues on the run. And remember, if you can't run without pain, it's much better to rest instead.