There’s nothing worse for a racer—you’re trained, amped, and ready to compete, only your gut is a mess. It’s not only a major inconvenience, it impairs performance in a big way when your body isn’t absorbing the calories, nutrients and liquids it needs to work. Frequent gut issues are your body’s way of telling you it needs something—often that something is careful attention around daily nutrition and stress-management. But if you’re already to race day, and you just need a few shortcuts to convince your gut to cooperate, read on.
This is a tough one for the coffee lovers, but it’s wise to be conservative with intake of caffeine and NSAIDs (Advil etc.) on race day. Both can pack a punch to the gut, which is already under stress. Also consider your environment in the hours leading up to your event—we can do a lot to calm nerves and decrease blood pressure and heart rate simply by taking 5 minutes to ourselves for deep breathing and visualization. Watch what the pros do during their warm-up.
During your race:
It’s best to test your race day fuel choices in training to truly know what works best for your body, but if you’re still tinkering to find your perfect race-day fuel, consider the ratio of fructose: glucose. For those suffering from gut issues, opt for fuel sources that have at least a 50:50 ratio between glucose and fructose (no higher on the fructose). It’s not uncommon for our body’s ability to process fructose to decrease as we age (this is especially common for female athletes), so for some it’s best to avoid fructose altogether.
Erring on the safe side:
If you’re particularly nervous, pack Tums in your race day bag and pop a couple 30 minutes before your start. This coats the stomach and intestinal tract with a protective lining to boost resilience (this lining is normal, but is degraded during times of stress, physical exertion, and in extreme heat). The calcium in Tums won’t hurt either, as it is a key component in neuromuscular contractions, which can also degrade over time in endurance events as we become fatigued.
Once you’ve finished your race and celebrated, commit to addressing your gut issues head on with more attention and care to your daily nutrition. Gut issues—though not uncommon for athletes—should not be seen as normal! Only when your body is fully processing the nutrients from your daily foods will you truly break through to being your best.