Stomach Trouble

Stomach Trouble July 06 2015, 0 Comments

How often have you been out on a long run and suddenly had the urge to use the restroom? Gastrointestinal distress can occur whether you’re running for a few miles or a few hours, but it is especially common when training for a marathon. Everyone’s digestive system function a bit differently, but here is some general advice that might help you avoid pausing or cutting a run short.  

Gastrointestinal Distress

So what exactly is gastrointestinal distress? This term refers to issues such as bloating, cramping, abdominal distention, heartburn and constipation. When you exercise, more blood flows to the muscles rather than the stomach, which can disrupt the digestive process. Exercising also boosts hormones that encourage the stomach to move contents through digestion. When running, your digestive organs experience slight trauma from the up and down motion of your body as well.  

You also need to be aware of your diet and how that might be causing gastrointestinal distress. Fiber and caffeine stimulate digestion, which can lead to discomfort. For that reason, you should be careful about eating high-fiber meals or suddenly adding more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet. If you suffer from constipation, add more fiber into your diet slowly—too much fiber can cause uncontrollable diarrhea.  


Regulating your diet and taking in the appropriate amount of fiber is one of the first steps in preventing gastrointestinal distress. In general, you need approximately 14 grams of fiber in your diet for every 1,000 calories you take in according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That means 28 grams of fiber for an average 2,000-calorie diet. Introduce more fiber into your diet slowly. For example, eat high fiber snacks such as apple slices or carrot sticks, and if that goes over well, add high fiber foods to your meals.  

Adequate hydration then helps move the fiber through your digestive system. You can stay well hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of water throughout the day. If your run will be longer than an hour, consider drinking energy or sports drinks through the day in addition to water to restore electrolytes.  

On the Run

While it is important to get enough fiber in your daily diet, you’ll also want to keep the amount of fiber you eat prior to a long run in check. To be on the safe side, avoid high fiber food 24-48 hours before your run. Also, eat foods that are low in fat and sugar, both of which can disrupt digestion. Eating familiar foods is also a wise choice. Give your system at least 1-2 hours to properly digest a meal. If you can use the restroom before your run, that is ideal.