Monday, September 23, 2013

Avoiding gastro-intestinal problems during endurance sports events

Snappy title for the post? Well it's an interesting article I was reading which goes a long way to describing the feelings I experienced when half way up Ă…reskutan in the summer. After consuming a sport-gel drink which I'd used in training I had an awful feeling of nausea and a burning in my stomach. What I have now realised is even though training with the fluid, it was probably never on such an empty stomach and so it was an 'explosion' upon hitting a totally empty stomach and intestines mid race.

Gastro-intestinal (GI) problems are common during endurance sports events, particularly marathons, ultra-distance runs and the run during a long distance triathlon. Typically, 30-50% of competitors in such events may be suffering from symptoms such as heartburn (reflux), bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramps or other discomfort. Generally females are more likely to experience GI issues than males. Such symptoms may impair performance and even prevent you from finishing the race.

When you exercise at a high intensity, this leads to a redistribution of blood flow as your body’s priority is to nourish the muscle rather than to digest food in the gut. This leads to delays in emptying your stomach, which may result in feelings of fullness, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea and even vomiting. If you become dehydrated, as may occur particularly in the latter stages of a race, the effect is exacerbated. Another cause of GI symptoms is thought to be the ingestion of sugars in sports drinks. Some people may have issues in tolerating sports drinks with a higher concentration of sugars such as glucose or fructose. 

Here are some suggested actions to take in order to minimise the risk of experiencing GI problems in the next race:
  • Train with the products that will be provided at the race to check that you can tolerate them, and find alternatives you can carry if not.
  • Practice a race hydration strategy in training
  • Avoid fibre-rich and high fat foods both during the race and in the 3-4 days before it.
  • Eat your last meal at least three hours before the start of the race.
  • Choose a sports drink with less than 7% concentration of sugars (ie less than 7g per 100ml) and consider avoiding brands containing fructose.
The full article can be found here:

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