Gut health plays an important role in maintaining overall good health as the digestive system forms the core of the body’s functioning. As truly said, ‘We are what we eat’, our food influences our digestive health, which in turn affects our overall health, wellness, emotional well-being and performance.1,2
The training for marathon involves strenuous physical activity and corresponding energy expenditure. During this time, blood flow to the gut decreases and is diverted to other organs such as muscles to help in their recovery. This may impart stress on the digestive system, but don’t worry! A good nutrition strategy can provide the much-needed respite to your gut and help you perform well.1,2
Managing digestive discomfort through nutrition
Gastrointestinal problems are common among runners. Some of the symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, and stomach or intestinal cramps during the run. Good nutrition before, during and after the run can help prevent and manage these untoward digestive complaints.2,3
7 ways to avoid digestive discomfort
1 Stay hydrated: Dehydration is one of the major reasons that can worsen digestive discomfort. Consuming adequate water and fluids can help maintain digestive motility and eliminate toxins from the body.
2 Reduce your fibre intake before the run: High-fibre foods can lead to increased bowel activity and gas production. This may cause digestive discomfort and cramps, affecting your run. Hence, go low on fibre-rich foods a couple of days before and on the day of the run.
3 Keep your diet simple: High-fat and sugary foods can slow down digestive motility and lead to digestive issues. Take small meals at frequent intervals and avoid foods high in fats and sugars.
4 Go for good bacteria: Probiotics are the bacteria that thrive in the digestive tract to facilitate effective digestion and nutrient absorption. They help in maintaining gut health balance. Ensure that you include probiotic foods such as yoghurt and curd in your diet.
5 Fight against acidity: Acidity in your stomach can affect your performance during the run. To manage this condition, eat alkaline foods including various fruits and vegetables such as lemons, apples, bananas, grapefruits, broccolis, green beans, lettuce and sweet potatoes.
6 Be aware of food intolerances: Gluten and lactose intolerances are allergies to certain foods that can cause digestive discomfort when consumed. Gluten sensitivity can lead to intestinal damage, whereas lactose intolerance can cause increased bowel movements and diarrhoea. Watch out if you are one of the gluten- or lactose-intolerant individuals.
7 Avoid new foods: The chances of gastrointestinal distress are greatly avoided when you understand what works best for your system. Experiments with new foods should be done well in advance before the marathon to understand the best approach that suits you and thus can be adopted to your nutritional plan.
Appropriate nutritional practices and the right approach to diet can help maintain your digestive health, thereby supporting you to give the marathon your best shot.2,3
Stuempfle KJ, Hoffman MD, Hew-Butler T. Association of gastrointestinal distress in ultramarathoners with race diet. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Met. 2013;23:103-9
Erick Prado de Oliveira EP, Burini RC. Food-dependent, exercise-induced gastrointestinal distress. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011;8:12.
de Oliveira EP, Jeukendrup A. Nutritional recommendations to avoid gastrointestinal complaints during exercise. Sports Sci. 2013;26(114):1-4.