Neglecting what your GI system is telling you during training can really affect your performance. Developing bloating, gas, and severe stomach cramps that have you doubled over during your training or even worse, during a triathlon, is every athlete’s nightmare.
Unfortunately, these problems affect a lot of people. Gastrointestinal, aka “GI” disturbances, which generally target the upper and lower abdominal wall have been seen in nearly every endurance athlete at some point during their racing career. Here are some tips from Ironman.com to avoid GI problems during endurance training and racing.
Lower Abdominal Disturbances- Diarrhea, Gas, Side aches, Urgent need for toilet, Intestinal bleeding, Lower abdominal cramps
Upper Abdominal Disturbances- Nausea, Vomiting, Bloating, Burping, Stomach cramps, Reflux/heartburn
There can be many reasons for GI disturbances. Experts believe a primary instigator is an overall reduction of blood and oxygen to the intestines, also known as ischemia. Ischemia tends to be most pronounced in prolonged strenuous exercise. Does strenuous exercise apply to any of you endurance athletes…? We think so.
There are many nutritional related causes to GI distress. Consuming too many fibrous foods in the days leading up to race day can disrupt your gut. Meals high in fat and protein can slow digestion, which make them undesirable choices the night before or day of race. If you haven’t digested your food properly before the race started, burping and vomiting can occur. Finally, staying hydrated doesn’t help the issue either.
For many athletes they can’t avoid GI disturbances due to their genetics. However there are certain ways to help out your gut. So many athletes only focus on swimming, biking, and running, however you need to prepare your body as well.
Research suggests that athletes who fail to practice their nutrition intake in training are twice as likely to experience GI disturbances compared to those who have. Your body needs to prepare for the race as well, so that means using the same nutrition plan you would on race day. At least once a month, try doing a mini race simulation where you practice everything from training, hydration, and meals.
You should follow a low fiber diet for up to 72 hours pre-race. You should also give yourself adequate pre-race digestion time. The rule is, generally allow one hour for every 200 to 300 calories consumed. Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and Aspirin pre-race. Chronic uses of these drugs have shown damage to the intestinal wall and increase of GI disturbances. Taking supplements that are high in caffeine doses, beetroot juice, and sodium bicarbonate, can increase your chances of a GI disturbance. The key is to know how your body responds to supplements on a race day. Don’t forget the always-important…stay hydrated!
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