Staying free of stomach pain means you can focus on the course.
Running a marathon takes a toll on more than your legs -- it can also wreak havoc on your stomach. Race jitters, poor nutrition choices, dehydration, physical stress and the diversion of blood from your gastrointestinal tract to your heart and working muscles all mean your stomach is super-sensitive. Don't let a race-day digestive disturbance ruin your months of hard training. Simple strategies can help you prevent multiple trips to the port-o-potty during your race so you can sail to the finish with a good time.1.
Test specific foods during your 12- to 20-week training plan. Experiment with specific brands of bars, gels or drinks during your long training runs. Note any that cause you stomach distress and remove them from your race-day strategy. Use only the foods and drinks that did not cause problems during training for race day. Do not experiment with new products offered by the race organizers. Carry your own products in a fuel belt -- a belt that has attached water bottles and pouches for gels or other sports foods.
Consume sports drinks only if solid food such as energy bars and gels cause you problems. Your stomach may not react well to a mixture of sports drinks and gels or bars. Choose a sports drink without fructose, which can cause diarrhea, and that has lower concentrations of carbohydrates and added ingredients.3.
Eat familiar foods that don't cause you stomach upset during the week leading up to the race. Focus on carbohydrates, but keep your intake of fiber moderate -- especially the night before the race.4.
Have a pre-marathon breakfast at least three hours before the race starts, even if this means you have to get up at an early hour. Test your marathon breakfast prior to training runs. Go for foods that are easy to digest but offer energy in the form of carbohydrates. Skip foods high in fat and protein, which can be hard to digest. Bananas, plain bagels or toast and cooked oats without added sugar are good choices, but you ultimately have to find what works for you. A smoothie made with fruit and water offers liquid nutrition pre-race, which can be easier to digest.5.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, high amounts of vitamin C, dairy, sugar substitutes and fruit juices the day or two prior to the race and race morning. These foods, explains running coach Mindy Solkin, can aggravate stomach problems on race day.6.
Drink small amounts often during the race. You need to hydrate while running a marathon, but you don't have to guzzle an entire cup of water or sports drink at every aid station. Take just a sip or two as often as you can, which is why carrying your own hydration in a fuel belt can be beneficial.
- Sports drinks
- Sports foods
- Fuel belt
- Your friends and running coach may give you advice on products they like, but you have to find what works for you. If you find the sugar in traditional sports gels and drinks overwhelms you, consider using whole foods such as potatoes or bananas instead.
- If you experience severe cramping, diarrhea or weakness, find an aid station immediately.