[This is the continuation of a post. To read part i, click here.]
So how do you avoid runner’s Diarrhea?
Avoiding Runner’s Diarrhea starts by understanding what’s causing the diarrhea in your particular case and then dealing with it. The first place to start is to back off your training intensity and mileage to see if that helps. If it does, then slowly increase the mileage and intensity and hopefully it won’t come back.
In many cases, however, the problem will be strictly nutritional, so here you’ll have some work to do. There are many items in the diet that can cause diarrhea in athletes, such as Sorbitol (used in sugar-free gum), Aspartame, Caffeine, and insoluble fiber. In addition, you could be intolerant of one or more of the sugars used in any of the foods that you’re using during your training. Also, the concentrations of sugars in your stomach may be too high, because you may not be drinking enough water to dilute those sugars and keep them from upsetting your stomach. Finally, it may be a matter of when and how much of what you’ve eaten causing the problem.
Here are some things to try to root out the causes of Runner’s Diarrhea:
– Start a journal capturing everything that you’ve eaten and when, along with the start and end times of your workouts, and when the diarrhea started. Try replacing any foods that you’ve eaten prior to a bought of diarrhea or adjusting the amount of time before your workouts to see if this makes a difference.
– Try different brands of gels/bars/energy replacement drinks and note which ingredients are contained in the brands that do and don’t work for you. Pay particular attention to the sugar contents: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltodextrin, and glucose are common sugars you’ll find in exercise related foods.
– If you are mixing foods, or foods and fluids together, isolate these and use them separately to see if this helps. A common issue that I see are athletes mixing a sport drink like Gatorade with an energy gel like PowerGel. Stick with one product at a time until you find out which one (or which interaction) may be causing a problem.
– Try natural rather than packaged or engineered foods – for example switching to bananas and PB&J sandwiches rather than energy gels to see if that helps.
– Drink more fluid along with energy gels to ensure that you’re properly diluting the sugar in your stomach.
– Cut out suspect ingredients in any food that you’re eating, including Sorbitol, Aspartame and caffeine.
– Reduce the intensity and duration of your workouts and slowly rebuild these, noting how this impacts your diarrhea.
– Ensure that you’re not adding anything new that you haven’t tried before on race day.
Finally, with all of this in mind, don’t panic. When diarrhea strikes, you need to deal with it. If you’re in the midst of training, make sure to experiment with the factors above to understand what’s causing your problem. You may want to consult a sports dietician for help. See the links below to find one.
If you’re in the midst of a race, take corrective action immediately. Stop eating any particular food that might be causing a problem and drink more fluids to prevent dehydration from worsening. Don’t lose your head.
Runner’s Diarrhea is not much fun, but you can deal with it. Just stick to the basics: understand what you’re eating, how much, and when and find the cause of the problem. Through experimentation and trial, you can find the culprit and make the Porta-potties a thing of your past.
Related articles & links:
Ten things you need to know about hydration
Find a sports dietician
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News