Hate gut bombs? Then you’ll love Tailwind.
RUNNER’S GUT. GUT BOMB. GUT ROT. We all know it by one name or another.
No matter what you call it, the struggle is real and most runners have been there. In fact, according to a 2009 study, up to 50% of all runners have experienced that dreaded kicked-in-the-stomach feeling that accompanies a long or high-intensity run. Not only that, GI (gastrointestinal) issues are some of the most reported reasons why many runners drop out or underperform in a long race. Many runners walk a tightrope between taking on enough nutrition whilst running and risking the GI distress, or not fuelling enough in order to avoid those gut problems and risk bonking altogether.
Why The Gutastrophe?
The array of unpleasant symptoms that can plague runners from nausea and vomiting to painful cramping, wind and diarrhoea. The unfair thing is that runners are twice as likely to experience gut bombs than other athletes like swimmers or cyclists. That’s mainly due simply to the repetitive up-and-down motion that tumbles your guts around and irritates the bowel.
Another cause of these problems are the way that during exercise, the body diverts blood flow from the GI tract to provide oxygen to those hard working muscles. The intensity of the exercise is important too since the harder your heart, lungs and legs are working, the more blood will be redirected to them from your gut.
Dehydration is important – as we all know – but it is also a major cause of GI complaints. In fact, one study showed that about 80% of runners experiencing body fluid loss of only 4% or higher reported suffering gut problems. Hot weather obviously exacerbates this as blood then gets diverted away from internal organs to the skin in an effort to help cool you down.
How Can We Avoid Gut Bombs?
# 1 HYDRATE
First and foremost – keep hydrated! Drink plenty of fluids that include electrolytes to maintain your balance as far as possible. Look for drinks with electrolyte contain of around 600mg sodium for a 600-700ml serving.
# 2 LIMIT CALORIES
Don’t be tempted to overload your gut with too many calories. Aim for around 200-250 per hour. Experiment during training to find your optimum i.e. a fairly steady flow of energy without the bloated stomach feeling.
# 3 CARBS, SIMPLE AND OFTEN
Consuming a steady flow of carbohydrate is essential if you plan to keep running for hours. Fuel containing simple carbs such as glucose are the best since they are already in the form that your body uses for energy. This means your body doesn’t have to waste any additional time or effort converting the fuel for processing.
# 4 AVOID FRUCTOSE
If you are susceptible to GI issues, try and avoid food and drinks high in fructose, which can end up causing fructose malabsorption and further stomach issues.
# 5 LIMIT (OR AVOID) PROTEIN
Avoid protein while running since it is very hard to digest and can even shut down your digestive tract. Studies also show no significat difference in performance between carb only and carb-protein drinks.
# 6 GET YOUR MIX RIGHT
If you are taking concentrated Tailwind fuel, be sure to keep up your hydration intake. It takes about 250-300ml of water to digest a 100 calorie scoop. So if you are taking 2 scoops (1 stickpack) per hour, you need 500-700ml of water.
# 7 AVOID LATE EATING
Try and avoid eating within the two hours before your run. This will help ensure you have no unnecessary food in your stomach which can contribute to uncomfortable guts.
In the end, GI issues are a way for your body to communicate with you. It’s important to hone in on your body awareness and pay attention to how different foods and drinks affect your gut. An easy way to do this is with a training diary where you record how long you run, what you eat and drink, and how it affects you. You might be surprised what you learn!