Running Stomach Issues

Recently, I was asked how to handle…err… gastrointestinal “issues” while running. Don’t be shy – it’s a given that all runners, especially distance runners, will have their bout with stomach issues. It’s a bit embarrassing, somewhat strange to talk about, but a reality in running and why I wanted to shoot the shit (no pun intended) about running GI issues.


What Is It & Why Does It Happen?
GI issues can range from hitting the port-a-potties all too often or feeling like you want to lose your lunch during or after a long run. Either way, it’s not comfortable. Runner’s World states that GI issues can be caused by blood diverting from your GI tract and rushing to the aid of your muscles, but the more than likely culprit is from running itself (how dare you talk bad about my beloved running, RW!). Apparently, running “jostles” the GI tract and based on various stress levels and the amount of bacteria in your gut, you’re body will signal you to hustle to do your business.

How Do I Make It Stop?
Here are a few of this tips and products that have helped me personally:

  1. Personalization
    I can’t stress enough how personalized the solution is – all bodies react differently so it’s imperative that you test all possible solutions on your long runs to see how your body reacts.
  2. Stick to the Tried & True
    DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY! I can’t stress this enough – even though it tasted great at the expo or it’s because it’s what they offer at the aid station, don’t use/rely on it during the race; your body may freak out and revolt against you. If you want to use the sports drink they offer during the race, make sure to find out in advance and train with it so your body is used to it come race day.
  3. Too Much Fuel
    I love “sports food.” I use Gu, Cliff Blocks and sports drinks to help fuel my long runs. However, at last year’s LA marathon, I OD-ed on sports food and drinks. By the time the race ended, all of my Gus, PowerBar chews, and sports drinks caught up to me and I yanked in the trash can (yes, all this happened right before I got engaged). Make sure to moderate how much you consume and have a plan of exactly what you will consume going into race day (for me, it’s about one Gu every hour). Then be sure to pack an extra just in case. Also, be sure to follow your “sports food” with water – not sports drink. That may be too much of a good thing.
  4. Real Food
    Since the LA marathon, I have learned that my body craves “real” food to help bring a sense of satisfaction and quiet the sloshing juices in my tummy. This may not be for everyone, so please test this before racing! While they are not the easiest to swallow (have to chug water after), I’ve recently discovered Jammy Sammies. These individually wrapped, organic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are perfect for the protein and carbs I crave without the “sports food” effect. I found them at Target in the snack section and they don’t taste too bad either!
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  6. Get It Out Early
    It’s a pain to get up earlier than you need to, but it’s worth the port-a-potty agony. Wake up early enough to allow yourself time to eat, drink and digest. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I always have this green tea with my breakfast. Give it 30 minutes and presto! You’ll be taking care of business at home instead of on the course. P.S. This is seriously the best green tea EVER! They sell it at almost every grocery store but it can be ridiculously expensive. I’ve found the best, consistent deal at Trader Joe’s.
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There are a lot of other tips out there on how to handle GI issues and all of them depend on your body. What are some of your tips for battling GI issues?

Happy Running!

Day 81 : Rest
Day 82: 6 miles

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17 Responses to Running Stomach Issues

  1. Katie says:

    Shoot the shit – love it! I find that I have at least one run during the week where my tummy just hates me and has it out for me to ruin my run. It doesn’t matter what I do, there is bound to be one!
    But your tips are spot on! Conistancy people, consistancy!

    I did my long run on the treadmill this weekend too, it wasn’t awful, but totally doable. I agree, make sure you have all the tools in front of you to keep going!
    Have a great week chica!

  2. katie says:

    bahahahaha. get it out early. INDEED.

  3. Kim says:

    THANK YOU for this post! I have been having some major stomach pains lately and I’ve been testing out a lot of different strategies. Those jammy sammy’s look so cute and delicious, I definitely need to try those!

  4. wonderful tips!! that was my least favorite part of my last marathon.

  5. danica says:

    As we know, I have insane GI issues, but it seems I finally have figured out my best friend in the situation is Imodium! 😛 It took so long to figure it out and get it down, but now I seem to not have problems at all anymore. Thankfully!

  6. Allison says:

    GI problems are definitely the worst! I agree with all of your tips, especially getting up early on race morning. No need to stress about the porta potty situation at the race – much better to be at home. :)

  7. Emily says:

    I’m all about the tea trick! I like the looks of your target find. I definitely ODd on gu last year and still can barely swallow it down. I’m going to need some new fuel choices to get me through this race season!

  8. Jessie says:

    Thank you for this post. I have recently had this subject on my brain. Ill be training for my first Marathon this summer and have been trying to absorb all information in this area. I want to start trying these new things on my “shorter” long runs ei- 10 milers and such.

  9. Yes, this is definitely the downside of longer runs, but I think your point about getting to know your body and not doing anything new on race day are key! I’ve definitely found myself ODing on Hammer Gel and Gatorade – and it’s not fun.

  10. Nicole says:

    best comment ever GET IT OUT EARLY! LOL

  11. Nelly says:

    agree with Nicole, haha

  12. RoseRunner says:

    Wait, when we say “stomach issues”, what we really mean is “I have to crap NOW” issues — right?

    Cause the latter is such a freakin horrible part of running that ails may wayyyy more than I’d like. On the other hand, my “stomach” itself (or GI… i dunno) never really bothers me.

    On mornings like today, in order to get a run in I literally am out the door within 8 minutes of waking up (clothes laid out night before, brush teeth, go). So even though like you I don’t normally drink caffeine, I will in the morning before a run, but on workdays I just don’t have that time!!

    And you can imagine…I quickly learned that all the park bathrooms are locked before 8:00 a.m. So what do I do? I ran back to my house, did my business, and then went back out to finish running.

    such a crappy (pun intended) but prominent part of running…

  13. J says:

    I remember after my last half I was puking up the gels so for this training cycle I haven’t used any yet for my long runs. I don’t know if that will be good or bad. I usually eat oatmeal before my long runs and that seems to work well.

  14. M says:

    Wow, yes, Yogi tea works! I like having a cup of their ginger tea on my off days to ‘take care of business’ ahead of time!

  15. My GI tract has been killing me these last few days! This post came at the perfect time for me.I need to start drinking A LOT of tea. And find out where I can get yogi tea in Toronto!

  16. Laura says:

    Okay, for some reason a bunch of your old posts showed up as unread in my reader…

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