There is no hiding behind the fact that numerous athletes experience gastrointestinal problems during exercise even when adopting optimal fuelling strategies for during exercise. The problem, it seems, is most likely related to poor food choices in the days leading to a specific exercise bout and not practicing nutritional strategies used during races. Hence, below are some guidelines that will help you reduce the incidence of those very annoying gastrointestinal problems. And yes - the main part involves training the gut.
Step 1 - Identify the problem
The first step towards solving the problem is to identify it - find its cause. You can do this by doing a few things:
- Reduce the amount of fibre in your diet for a few days and see if the problems persist.
- Remove FODMAP foods from your diet and see if the problems persist.
- Try training without carbohydrate intake or try using different products.
Step 2 - Deal with the problem
Once you know what is causing the issues, it is time to solve the issue. Some issues are very easily solved, like using the products that you know are working for you.
However, sometimes even training without any food intake causes gastrointestinal issues. In this case, try the following (move to the next step once you don't have any issues):
- Reduce the amount of fibre 1-3 days before the training session or a race
- Design training sessions so that you are able to execute them without any additional food.
- Only reduce fibre intake on the day and the day before the training session.
- Do not eat in the last 3-4 hours before a training session. If training in the morning, do the session fasted.
- Introduce carbohydrates at the rate 15 g every 15-20 minutes in the second half of the training session (i.e., after 30 minutes).
- Start adding more carbohydrates during training sessions.
- Slowly start ingesting larger meals prior exercise sessions.
- Reintroduce fibre into the diet the previous day.
- Ingest up-to 2 energy units per hour even during short and less intense training sessions.