Anyone who's run a half or full marathon knows there's one unpleasant subject that tends to come up time and time again: digestive issues. No one wants to be stranded at mile nine looking for a Porta-Potty—or worse, the real-life nightmare that results from having nowhere to go. There's already a lot of information on the right (and wrong) foods to eat before a long run, but even the best precautions can lead to digestive woes. Sports nutrition expert, trainer, and triathlete Ben Greenfield is no stranger to the scenario and has learned some solid ways to navigate a tumultuous tummy on race day.
What Can Help
1. Soda water: Feeling a little bloated or uncomfortable before the gun goes off? Trade your glass of still water for one with bubbles. Carbonated water acts as a natural antacid and can help reduce painful feelings of a gassy stomach.
2. Peppermint Tums. To ward off any stomach issues during the actual race, Ben advises carrying a small roll of Tums with you. These fast-acting tablets can put a quick end to most woes.
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3. Ginger tea. If an upset stomach is something you deal with often, make ginger your new morning friend. This root is widely used to treat nausea and improve overall digestive health, and the tea is easy to make by simply boiling water with the root.
4. All-natural laxatives. Worried about what could happen out on the course? A natural laxative is the way to go. Oxygenated magnesium (in the form of "MagO2") and magnesium citrate (in the form of "Natural Calm") are Greenfield's top choices. He suggests taking either the night before or in the very early morning. "Then simply get up, have some hot tea or coffee, and take your time waiting for things to move along," he says.
What to Avoid
1. Too much food. You might be eating the right foods, but chances are you're eating too much. "Eat less fuel," Greenfield suggests. "That's the number-one cause of tummy aches during a run." He also suggests fueling up before a run with a smoothie since liquids are much easier for the body to digest (and require less energy to do so). Try sticking to a meal that falls somewhere close to 300 calories. You can reward yourself with a big meal once you cross the finish line.
2. Caffeine, sugar, or fiber. The day before the race, cut out fiber and any artificial sweeteners. Race day is also not the day to indulge in three cups of coffee in the morning. Instead aim for one small cup at least two hours before the race. Not doing so "can lead to an upset stomach and GI issues during the run," Greenfield says.
3. Painkillers. Unless you've experimented before and know your body can handle it, Greenfield's warning is simple: "No Advil or ibuprofen. Period." Stomach issues are a common side effect from taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID); if you have any pain on race day, reach for acetaminophen (Tylenol).