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Your diet could impact race-day performance
If you’re an endurance athlete, you know about gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Stomach cramps, nausea, pain, bloating, and even vomiting--it’s all par for the course when you’re at your max during an event or tough training day.
It’s also possible that you’ve noticed your symptoms are affected by your last meal.
The authors of a new study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition argue that GI symptoms are often ignored in nutrition recommendations, despite their prevalence in endurance athletes.
So let’s dive into the relationship between GI distress and the foods we eat.
A few things are happening in your body during exercise that can increase GI distress.
This confluence of physiological responses makes it hard for your gut to absorb nutrition, which means that you will feel lackluster and unenergetic. (Not to mention, you’ll be gassy and uncomfortable.)
What you eat can either aggravate the symptoms of the three responses listed above or lessen them. But as Parnell, et al. points out, so far we haven’t learned much about which foods to avoid before competitive exercise.
Researchers gave a questionnaire to 388 runners to assess diet and its relationship to GI symptoms, which included the following information:Demographics
Voluntary food restrictions
Researchers learned that stomach cramps were the most common problem, with over 40% of athletes reporting cramps or pain.
Many athletes claimed to avoid meat, milk and dairy, and high-fiber foods before a big event, with meat and milk topping the list. Here’s how the categories broke down:
In addition, researchers made the following observations:
While this questionnaire is limited, it does offer some insight for athletes struggling with GI distress.
Consider eliminating one food group identified in the study before your next race. If that doesn’t help, try another food group.
For example, avoid meat products before your next event. Next, try eliminating dairy or high-fiber foods from your pre-workout nutritional routine.
About The Author:
Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California. Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.