Runners Trots are a real thing and can have a significant impact on your performance. I experienced severe gastrointestinal distress for many years as an ultra-distance athlete, and on occasion, this led to me having to withdraw from races. These are my top tips for preventing Runners Trots from sabotaging your big day.
The Golden Rule always is to NEVER TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY – you should have practised nutrition in your training! A good probiotic 9 strain supplement taken daily will also help to keep your gut health in tip top shape.
The day before
- Eat regular, small meals throughout the day – include low fat, medium protein, low fibre and high carb items like pasta, rice, potatoes and oats in your meals.
- Add salt to your meals – you will sweat and lose sodium, especially in warmer weather, so boost these levels by sprinkling a little extra salt onto your food.
- Keep hydrated – drink 2 to 3 litres of water over the course of the day.
- Avoid alcohol – although alcohol like beer contains carbs, these carbs do not fuel your glycogen stores the same way as food does. It negatively affects your REM sleep and your digestive system too.
- Avoid creamy, oily and greasy food – higher fat foods often lead to tummy problems on race day. I find nut butter, cheese and yogurt affects my tummy so I avoid these for 3-4 days before any long runs.
- Manage stress – collect your race number early, prepare your running kit in advance, keep your feet up and try to get a good night’s sleep.
The morning of
- Have a nutritious breakfast 2-3 hours before your race – include protein and carbs to keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid adding fat to this meal. E.g. banana with an egg on toast. (You should have tested what works for you during training)
- Real food instead of liquid calories – avoid consuming gallons of sports drinks and too much water before the race. There are hidden sugars in many drinks and this can cause distress in your tummy. If you have enough breakfast a few hours beforehand there is no need to take in more calories just before you start running.
- Go to the loo – go to the loo when you wake up and again before the race starts.
During the run
- Consume electrolytes and carbs – take in carbs and electrolytes every 45-60 minutes to fuel glycogen levels and to maintain fluid levels. E.g. banana and 50g lean biltong or 2 baby potatoes with salt (Again, you should have practised what you eat in training)
- Sip on water – from the start and before you feel thirsty, sip on water every 15 minutes.
After the run
- Prioritise carbs – choose a high carb item like fruit to replenish lost glycogen immediately after your run with LGlutamine and water.
- Don’t forget your protein – within 2 hours of finishing your run, enjoy a nutritious meal including lean cuts of protein (meat is perfect) to prepare your body for muscle repair.
- Avoid fats – avoid overindulging in a greasy cheat meal until 4-6 hours after finishing a run. Focus on the hydration, protein and healthy carbs first, and then enjoy your cheat meal!
- Hydrate – keep sipping on water with electrolytes for the remainder of the day.
Christine is a running coach and nutrition specialist based with Sole Buddies #LiveLife in Cape Town. She is also the co-anchor for the GerhardandChristineLiveLife podcast, and co-founder of For The Long Run, a social upliftment project and registered NPO in Fisantekraal. Read more about Sole Buddies here.