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Avoid stomach problems when running

runner wearing the New Balance TCS London Marathon kit

Official kit by New Balance

Check out the official TCS London Marathon clothing and footwear range from our partner New Balance – it's ideal for both your training runs and the big event itself.

Tips to ease stomach problems when running

  • Doing a short warm-up run before a race, or a warm-up loop around your house before a training session, can help to get things moving. Alternatively, having a little food or a warm drink before a morning run may have a similar effect and enable you to empty your bowels before you head off. Experiment with training at different times of the day to find out what works best for you.
  • Reduce your intake of high-fibre and gas-producing foods the day before, as well as on the day of, a race. Common culprits include bran cereals, cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli), beans, lentils and caffeine. For some people, energy gels and bars can cause problems, as can high-fructose foods and drinks. Fructose is absorbed relatively slowly from the gut and, in high concentrations, (especially in the form of a drink) can cause GI symptoms.
  • Start your workout or race fully hydrated. Some athletes avoid drinking in the misguided belief that it causes GI symptoms whereas, in fact, dehydration may be to blame.
  • If you experience any discomfort when using sports drinks, experiment a little. You could, for example, make them more diluted during training runs, although this approach isn't practical during races, unless you plan to carry your own fluids.
  • Train your gut by regularly consuming carbohydrate foods or drinks during long runs (more than 60 to 90 minutes). Start with very small amounts then gradually increase the amount and frequency. It is possible to increase the number of carbohydrate transporters in your gut so that you become better able to digest and absorb carbohydrate during exercise.
  • Experiment to find what works for you. During training and racing, sports nutrition products such as bars, gels and chews are designed to boost your energy, but if you consume more carbs than you’re used to, you may increase the risk of stomach problems.
  • It may take quite a bit of trial and error, but by practising your race fuelling and hydration strategy during training there will be less risk of problems on Marathon Day.

Anita Bean is a registered nutritionist, specialising in sports and exercise, a health writer and former champion athlete. She is the author of more than 20 books, including The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition and The Runner’s Cookbook, and a regular speaker at our Meet the Experts event.