I'm a small-town Minnesota dietitian and triathlete.
I help endurance athletes reach their performance and body composition goals through a flexible eating style.
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems are very common in endurance athletes. All you need to do is gather a group of long-distance athletes together and bring up the conversations of GI problems. Before long you’ll hear a selection of horror stories of planning training routes with bathrooms available, running with toilet paper, diving into the ditch to relieve yourself before you soil your shorts and even situations of athletes failing to complete a race due to GI problems.
It’s a horrible situation to be in, and unfortunately most athletes have experienced it a time or two.
There’s actually quite a bit of research on GI issues in runners and endurance athletes. I have sports nutrition textbooks with entire chapters on GI issues.
The problem is that there is no clear sign as to the direct cause because symptoms are highly individual to the person and there are usually no clear patterns.
Common GI symptoms include heartburn, stomach pains, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, reflux, nausea and vomiting and they can vary in severity, but all symptoms can impact an athlete’s performance.
Factors that can play a role in GI problems:
Here are a few easy ways you change work to preventing GI issues:
Personally, this is my go-to solution for triathlons:
1) Eat a low-fiber diet for at least three days prior to the event. Limit whole grains. No fibrous veggies. No beans/legumes.
2) On the evening prior to the event, I got for an easy-paced run for 20-30 minutes. I’ve affectionately dubbed this as my “colon-cleanse run” and it works every time to take care of the bowel business and not have to worry about it during the race.
As I’ve mentioned, this issue is SUPER common in endurance athletes. So you are not alone. If things are really bad. Consult a doctor, make sure there isn’t a medical issue, and then consult a dietitian, we’ve got ways of help you work through this.
My number one priority is for my clients is to enjoy their race without worrying about porta emergencies and feeling their very best.