How To Swap Gut Distress For Personal Bests

It takes real guts to push yourself into getting fitter & faster.  But failing to look after your gut could lead you to be caught short in your PB attempt – literally.

Your digestive system plays a huge role in maintaining you at peak performance and when abused you’ll certainly know all about it.

Stomach cramps, bloating, general gut distress and pooping in the bushes mid run are all real possibilities if you’re not careful. I assure you that I don’t speak from experience on that last one though!

What can bring on these symptoms and what are the best ways to avoid \ minimise them? Great question. Read on my friend…



Your troubles could be a freakish one off occurrence but it’s reported that 90% of runners will experience some form of discomfort on a regular enough basis to be a real pain in the ass.

More regular upsets and it’s time to dig a bit deeper. Farting when you run is funny but you don’t want any more than that.

The easiest way to find a possible cause is to try and keep a record of what you eat & drink and when.  There is no right or wrong protocol with these things.  It’s all about what works for you.

Over the course of 2-3 weeks you will notice a trend linking your symptoms with your food & drink habits.



Staying hydrated will dramatically boost your performance vs being dehydrated.

Stopping mid-run for a wee break though evokes strong fears in runners.  They don’t want to wee in public (can’t blame them). Or worse still they don’t want to lose any time, especially in a race.

Either way this fear often means skimping on fluids which brings a whole range of problems.

Fluids help to keep your digestive system functioning efficiently.  Being dehydrated will slow down the digestive process, leaving food in your system which leads to indigestion or bloating.

The easiest fix is to drink little and often wherever possible as this will avoid that uncomfortable feeling you get when downing a huge glass of water just before you go for your run.



When you run the demand for oxygenated blood to your legs increases significantly.  In response your body reduces blood supply to non-essential areas – such as the digestive system.

This leave you more susceptible to irritation, but what causes irritation? Treating your insides like clothes in the washing machine ought to do it!  Just think of the forces and stresses that take place when you run.  Each stride jolting your organs one way then the other. Churny!

You can’t do much about the transfer of blood supply but improving core strength will help to minimise the forces your organs are subjected to as will ensuring you have suitably cushioned shoes.



Race day finally comes round – are you ready?

Of course you are. You’ve been training for this moment your whole life. Or at least the last few weeks.  Now it’s time for the epic Hollywood style montage to play out in your head. You think back to all your training – the tears, the sweat. You imagine taking the victory (or PB) and being carried to the podium by crowds of adoring fans.

Ok so maybe your goal is just to get a PB but either way you’re fired up and that means one thing.  Adrenaline. Lots of it.

It’s super useful for keeping you going at the end of the race but very unhelpful for your digestive system.

Adrenaline is the hormone that’s released by your brain when you need that fight or flight response.  It’s what helped man escape danger, or to club it to death and barbeque it for dinner.

The effect of adrenaline on the digestive system though is simply to empty it.  After all it’s much easier to out run a bear without a bladder or bowel full.

Try and frame the race differently in your mind. Don’t lose sight of your goal but equally it’s not a life or death thing.

Take time to familiarise yourself with the timings on the day to alleviate any anxiety.

Have a well rehearsed pre-race routine to help keep your mind occupied and calm.

Most of all just remember to relax and enjoy it. There’s no Olympic medal on the line here and no one (other than you) is judging your performance.



One of the biggest mistakes runners make is to think that they need to carb load for an event.

I would only advise this as a necessity for marathon runners and SOME half marathoners.

Runners being ever keen to be healthy usually means endless bowls of pasta, potatoes, oats and such.  The thing that most ‘healthy’ foods have in common is a high fibre content.  This means that they are harder to break down and they stay in your system for much longer.

This is handy in day to day life to keep you fuller, and slowly release the energy but not so good when you need to be at your best.

Strategies for pre-race \ run nutrition will vary massively depending on your experience, the distance and duration of your run.

Sticking to white bread, cereals and less nutrient dense foods will give you the carbs you want without the substance.

When to switch to your pre-race style foods will depend on the event but as a rough guideline this would be 72 hours before a marathon, 24 hours before a 5k or 2 meals previous to a long training run.



As with your shoes, clothes, race pace etc you should do a few race day simulations to see what works well for you on the morning of your event.

Ideally your breakfast on race day should be light but relatively (not excessively) high in carbs. A bagel with jam or peanut butter and a banana would be great options.

Things like porridge, cereal or fry ups are definitely best avoided or at least scoffed ferociously once you’ve finished.



You may not be old enough to remember that amazing phrase from the mid 90’s but let’s plough on regardless. 

As with carb loading, the need for mid race nutrition is only going to apply to marathon runners and SOME half marathoners.  Even then it should be treated with respect.

Energy gels, sports drinks, jelly babies and gummy sweets all seem ideal on paper but can cause a lot of problems.

For half marathons or less you may not need any additional intake of food or water.  If the event is going to take you in excess of 2 hours then maybe a few sips of water here & there are fine but be careful.



There is no excuse for coming a cropper on race day because you tried something new out and it didn’t agree with you.

You wouldn’t wear new shoes for the first time on race day and you should treat your nutrition and hydration with the same respect.

Neither that extra strong coffee or energy gel are going to make much of a positive difference to your finishing time.

You’re guaranteed not to get a PB if you’re stuck on the loo when the starting gun goes off though.

Stay safe, friends.


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