In every runner’s life, there comes a time when fueling becomes a main topic of conversation. What causes a side stitch? (Still unknown but some point to nutrition and hydration.) What should I eat prior to running? What should I during the run itself? How about after?
All these questions have many different answers and what works for one person won’t always work for the next. Nutrition and fueling are very personal and can even change from race to race. I’ve discussed fueling and hydration a number of times (here, here, and here — to name a few) but today I want to talk about stomach upset after a run — and how to possibly avoid it in the future.
It’s happened to me before and it will likely happen to me again. And if it’s happened to me, that probably means it’s happened to you as well. What is this “it” I’m referring to? Post-run stomach upset. The first time it happened to me, many years ago, I was distraught. I spent almost the entire day after a run in the bathroom. It was awful! I just assumed that’s what happened after a long-ish run, and I just kind of dealt with it. For a few years, in fact. But then I started doing some research (after spending the day in the bathroom got a bit monotonous, of course) and I came to recognize that I could prevent some of the pain and discomfort, if not avoid it altogether.
Has this issue happened to you? Here are some tips to keep your bowels in good, happy, working order after a particularly taxing run.
7 Ways to Avoid Stomach Upset After a Long Run
1. Be sure to hydrate really well in the days leading up to and the few hours before a tough run.
Hydration is the key contributor to keeping your gut happy and healthy. If you’re dehydrated even in the slightest bit, your gastrointestinal tract can’t function properly and throws your entire system out of whack. It is well documented that the better hydrated you are, the better your performance, and the happier your belly. To ensure you are properly hydrated prior to a run, be sure to drink enough water. A good test is the pee test. If your urine is clear, you should be good to go. For the average person, light yellow urine is okay. But for a runner or endurance athlete, clear pee is the key.
2. Eat much less fiber in the day or two prior to a long run or tough workout.
Fiber is fantastic and a critical component of the nutritional equation, but restricting fibrous foods before a long run is another piece of the happy belly puzzle. Foods to avoid include beans, leafy greens, and pretty much anything that acts as “nature’s broom” under normal circumstances.
3. Eating a tried-and-true breakfast before a long run is also important.
If you know your body does well with a bowl of oatmeal, why bother eating something different before a long run? Stick with what works for your body. If that’s toast with peanut butter, so be it. Don’t fight what works!
4. Gels and sports fuels are great, but not for everyone.
If you find your belly doesn’t do well with sugar, why pump it full of sugar on a run? This is probably TMI so if you want to skip ahead, please do. But when I was a kid, my grandma used to give me a whole roll of Certs out of her purse. What did she care? She was the grandma! She got to spoil the grandchildren, right? Little did she know that my body would reject the overload of sugar from the whole roll of Certs. My poor mother had to sit with me in the bathroom at least once a year (after a roll of Certs was rightfully consumed after a visit with Grandma) while the sugar vacated my body amidst cramps, noises, and other gastrointestinal fun. I recently forgot that my body doesn’t do well with loads and loads of sugar. I had two gels on the run along with two pouches of chews. Everything stayed down well, but the after effects were disastrous. Needless to say, I spent a good portion of the rest of my day in the bathroom. #lessonrelearned
5. Stick with the brand of fuel that works for you.
During your training you’ll want to experiment with fuels as much as you can. But a word of caution here: if you’re a newer runner or newly experiencing GI distress, it’s best to try one brand of fuel per run. Doing so will give you insight into whether said brand works well for your body chemistry, or if you need to try something else. If you’re mixing and matching off the bat and have trouble with your bowels, you won’t be able to pinpoint where the trouble began.
6. If you’re like me and you have trouble digesting all the sugar, opt for real food.
Trail runners do it, so why can’t you? There’s no hard and fast rule to not eating real food on the road, it’s just a little trickier unless you’re used to running with a larger pack for supplies. I usually take along pretzels or trail mix in addition to gels and chews. The combination of real food and sports foods works well for me.
7. Above all else, be sure to try every and any combination before race day.
This is said again and again in blogs and running posts all over the web. And it is said for good reason. There’s nothing worse than a preventable calamity on the race course. This rule applies to food, beverages, apparel, footwear, and yes, even something as simple as earbuds or sunglasses. A lot can happen in 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Don’t let it be something that could have been avoided by practicing during training.
And now for the Running Coaches’ Corner! Join Lora Marie, Susie, Debbie, and myself for the Running Coaches’ Corner linkup every Wednesday. We love reading your running stories, racing tips, and coaching strategies. Scroll to the bottom of this post to add your link!
TALK TO ME!
Do you experience stomach upset after a long run?
What would you add to this list of tips?