Some runners have stomachs of steel. I’ve seen it. They can shovel in pretty much anything before, during and after running with seemingly no ill effects.
My stomach is, shall we say, of the more nervous type. Figuring out what to eat while (and before) running has been a major undertaking with more error than success.
I learned a new term when I started running: “runners trots.”
It sounds so benign. I mean horses trot. That means they’re moving decently fast. In human runners, something else is moving fast. Definitely not benign. Apparently when we humans get in a good groove of movement, our blood starts pumping to the areas it’s needed. As runners, this means the blood flows to our gorgeously muscled legs. Unfortunately, this means the blood flows away from our poor gut and intestines. Without blood, the intestines get hungry for oxygen and water starts to build up. This causes nasty cramps and potentially a fart that isn’t really a fart at all. This is an urgent situation for runners.
Preventing this malady can be tricky and requires tweaking the diet before running…as well as during. Fickle stomachs beware that much error is required in order to find the sweet spot of success in killing the brown bear that chases you on your run.
I, of course, looked for the easy answer to start with and began popping Imodium before each long run and every single race. Sometimes it seemed to work and sometimes it didn’t. A pill wasn’t my quick fix. I did seem to swap out the trots for nausea when it worked. Fair trade?
There had to be a better way.
I downloaded MyFitnessPal on my phone and started looking at my diet. This handy app can track not only calories but also macro-nutrients, vitamins and even fluid intake.
OH! DANG! Hold your trotting horses. I was inhaling over 100g of fiber per day. It was shocking that I wasn’t in adult diapers. Could this be my problem? I cut back to 50g/day.
I was still plagued…though I seemed to be able to get 5 miles into a run before I doubled over rather than 2. Progress?
I experimented further on the fiber front and cut it out entirely for 24 hours before my long run. I did not alter anything else. For the first time, I ran a full run without racing to a bathroom.
This was success, but not success. I learned fairly quickly that I was still plagued by some sort of poop demon, even if I cut fiber. It wasn’t as bad as before, but a situation nonetheless.
I trialed and erred multiple times (read: greasy meat pizza, Applebee’s, and other bad choices) until I landed on plain simple carbohydrates for 24 hours the day before any important run. Fiber was allowed but only to 10g. Also, I learned that I have to drink copious amounts of liquid for 48 hours to truly avoid tummy troubles.
I still get attacked by random stomach cramps, but now it’s due to my own choice. I at least know what to do to avoid it and can self-flog when I don’t.