Most runners have experienced it. That feeling, deep down in the gut, that signals bad news if you are midrun or ridrace. It means you must slow down or stop and
(hopefully) find a bush, a tree, or a porta john and take care of business or risk the unfortunate and embarrassing mess of not making it!
If you are one of the lucky runners who has never experienced this, read no further. This article is a summary of the possible causes of runner’s diarrhea and how you can
prevent it while running.
1. Eating a high fiber or high fat diet, especially in the 1-2 days prior to a big run or race can contribute to having a larger load of **** and the need to eliminate said load.
Prevention here involves eating low fiber carbohydrate foods for at least 1 day prior to your event paired with lean protein and generally avoiding fibrous veggies, beans, and salads. An
example might be meals of chicken or fish served with white rice or white pasta or white potatoes and/or white or sourdough bread. Low fiber and low fat breakfast items such as instant oatmeal, plain bagel, banana, and a favorite sports drink are recommended 2-3 hours prior to race start, to allow time for full elimination.
2. Lack of hydration and electrolytes in the days leading up to your race or during a run can lead to gut distress.
Prevention: Losing 4% of body weight in sweat during a run or race increases your risk of bowel movements while running. Drink about ½ of your body weight each day in fluid ounces to maintain hydration. Try drinking a diluted carbohydrate drink with electrolytes before, during, & after running to maintain electrolyte balance and optimal performance.
3. Eating or drinking foods or products containing lactose, fructose, or agave syrup for certain individuals will increase likelihood of gut issues while running.
Prevention: Many runners have some degree of Lactose intolerance and dairy products can cause increased gas, bloating and bowel movements in those individuals. Women have a harder time digesting and processing fructose than men and this can lead to more gut issues with any sports drinks and energy gummies/gels that are high in fructose!! i. Try to use drinks and chews or gels that do not contain fructose: Skratch, Huma, Tailwind, Clif, UCan are some brands to try
4. Lack of regular eating habits and a strong routine around nutrition for training
Prevention: Our bodies like to create and maintain a state of balance… changing routines can have a HUGE impact on how we feel and perform. Avoid introducing new foods and or
drinks on or near race day. Start introducing any new fluid replenishers, gels, bars, race breakfast, etc. weeks or even months prior to race day and during training days to get your
body used to them. Plan and practice eating and drinking for your race day routine around a similar time you would for race day so your body is more likely to be optimally prepared.
Keep a journal of foods you try and your bowel movements so you know what works best.
5. Relying on bowel prep and anti-diarrhea medications can be risky.
Prevention: Using drugs such as chemical laxatives, enemas, bowel preps, and colonic irrigations to purge their intestines can cause altered electrolyte levels and have side effects such as nausea and cramping. Avoid taking ibuprofen before a race as it can aggravate GI bleeding and potentially cause leaky gut which could interfere with fluid balance and cause dehydration, as well as potentially interfere with recovery. INSTEAD… try eating a few mint TUMS roughly 20 minutes before higher intensity workouts and long runs. This can help slow down GI issues. ALSO…consider taking a prebiotic/probiotic product each morning oftaper week to help improve gut integrity which can help when the gut is stressed due to increased body heat and lower oxygen levels in circulation during exercise.
6. Lack of food intake and nutrition/hydration in the days leading up to the race
Prevention: DON’T STOP EATING!!! The last thing you want to do is stop eating during the build up to your event and long training runs – your body needs that fuel! It can take anywhere from 24-72 hours for food to travel through our digestive system (and this tends to be faster with runners) so continuing to consume food throughout training and up until ~ 3 hours before the race will help maintain the natural cycle of food absorption and digestion. If worried about bowel movements during long runs or race day, start keeping a journal of foods you consume and how your body reacts to them (positive or negative) so you know what you want to eat during training and pre-race.