You’re halfway through your race, miles from home and hitting your stride—when it sets in. The dreaded stomach cramp. The bowel discomfort. The nausea. Long, grueling endurance workouts can take a major toll on your body, and the last thing you want is an upset stomach derailing your training. Here’s how to take care of your gut health so you can stay on track:
NURTURE WITH BACTERIA
Your digestive tract is teeming with flora—a vast community of microorganisms that play an important role in your digestion and overall health. It’s important to make sure these good bacteria are healthy and in ample supply to promote gut health and normal digestion. That’s where probiotics come in. Probiotics (namely acidophilus and bifidobacterium) are gut-nurturing bacteria that support digestive tract health and keep your bowels in check. Try taking a probiotic supplement regularly for benefits, and boost your diet with probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi, are also delicious sources of these stomach-friendly bacteria.
REGULATE WITH FIBER
For a winning combination, compliment your probiotic intake with fiber intake. Regularly incorporating both insoluble and soluble fiber into your diet can help promote gut health and keep your digestive tract on pace with your mileage. Consider adding prebiotics, a type of non-digestible fiber that is considered fuel for probiotics. But, keep in mind, timing is important. Ingesting fiber too close to a long workout or endurance race can mess with your stomach and sabotage your performance.
SMOOTH IT OUT WITH FLUIDS
Staying hydrated keeps your bowels moving smoothly. Water and fluids help you get rid of waste and clean out your digestive system. Regular water does the trick, but if you need a boost, look for sports drinks packed with electrolytes like potassium and sodium, which are lost through sweat during intense workouts. As a baseline, men should aim for 13 cups of water daily, and women should aim for nine—so it’s no surprise that endurance athletes should be aiming for even higher levels; in just one hour of intense exercise the body can lose significant amounts of water.
FUEL WITH CARBS AND PROTEIN
To fuel for the long haul, make sure your pre-race or pre-workout snack comprises mostly carbs and some protein—think, a bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal with nuts or a turkey sandwich. Carbs help give you the energy you need to keep chugging, while protein provides the amino acids your muscles need to repair and rebuild. This winning combo will supply you with energy and may be less likely to disturb your digestive track.