Over 80 per cent of endurance athletes find nutrition and hydration during training and racing challenging. A third says it’s hard to find products that suit their diets.
Stomach issues are common among runners, cyclists, triathletes and other endurance athletes. In our survey, we found that 28% of endurance athletes suffer often and 51% suffer sometimes from different kinds of gastrointestinal problems. 3% said they have stomach issues every time they do a workout.
We surveyed over 430 runners, triathletes, cyclists, adventure athletes, orienteers and other endurance athletes in Finland. The most common stomach issues were bloating, heartburn and different kinds of fluid and food absorption problems. Many told they must have a bathroom break several times during a workout.
We also found that nutrition and hydration is a challenge for many athletes. 45% said planning what to eat and drink during a workout or a race is challenging. Over 80% felt that it was difficult to follow a plan and make sure they eat and drink enough.
Over a third said that it is difficult to find products that fit their dietary needs. The most common products to use during a workout or a race were different kinds of sports drinks, energy gels and chews and bananas.
You can train your gut for racing
“Your performance is defined not only by your conditioning but also by what you eat and drink during the race. Months and even years of hard work can go to waste due to poor nutrition choices or stomach problems,” says Kaisa Sali, a former top-level triathlete, coach and nutritionist.
One of the causes of exercise related stomach issues is that your gut is not used to absorbing energy during exercise. Also fluid loss or excess fluid can lead to stomach troubles. During long endurance events, the gut can suffer from micro damages that further cause problems.
Luckily, you can train your gut the same way you can train the rest of your body. Make sure your stomach is used to the products of your choice and test how much food and drink you can take in during a workout.
“When you are choosing what to eat and drink during a race, pay attention to getting enough fluids and energy as well as their efficient absorption. If you know you’re prone to stomach issues, it’s better to avoid products that include a lot of FODMAPs. It’s also wise to pay attention to the carbohydrate makeup of the product: absorption is more efficient if the product includes both glucose and fructose”, Sali says.
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