Runner’s trots are uncomfortable, embarrassing and can affect the quality of your workout, but you can help prevent them by adjusting your pre-run diet, staying hydrated, limiting caffeine and bumping back your running distance and intensity. Know that you’re not alone in your discomfort, as about 65 percent of runners experience the nausea, cramping, gas, reflux, need to go the restroom and diarrhea that comes with the running trots.
Causes of Runner's Trots
Their are a variety of theories as to the cause of your runner’s trots. These include that your colon is being stimulated to contract, that there is an imbalance of electrolytes and that there is a lack of blood flow to your gastrointestinal tract. When you’re running, the bouncing and the food remaining in your digestive tract can stress your colon and cause it to contract, thus leading to the need to have a bowel movement. Your colon’s muscles can become irritated from the imbalance of electrolytes that results from losing fluid when you’re running. In addition, when you're running, your body diverts blood flow from your digestive system to your working tissues. This limited blood flow to your digestive system, which is even more restricted during long and high-intensity runs and when you're dehydrated, can exacerbate runner's trots.
Adjust Your Pre-Run Diet
What and when you eat before a run can be what’s causing you to suffer from runner’s trots. Make sure you finish eating two or three hours before a run to help prevent your digestive system from becoming upset. The morning before a run, avoid foods high in fiber, like beans, bran and fruit. If you’re running nearly every day, look to reduce your overall fiber intake and eat more foods that are naturally more constipating, like oatmeal, bananas, bagels, pasta and rice. Avoid high fat foods like pizza, cream sauce, fried foods and butter the night and morning before a run. If you’re lactose intolerant, refrain from consuming dairy foods and switch to lactose-free milk products.
Hydrate and Limit Caffeine
Caffeine is a natural diuretic so it contributes to fluid loss and the need to have to go to the bathroom. Try avoiding caffeine three to six hours before running. In addition, by drinking cold or room temperature fluids before, during and after your run, you can help to deter diarrhea that’s caused by dehydration. When you’re running, you’re already diverting more fluid away from your digestive system and to your working tissues. Dehydration further limits blood flow, and this can put excess stress on your colon and lead to trots. It’s particularly important to take in water when running in hot or humid temperatures when you’re losing more fluid via sweat.
Reduce Training Duration and Intensity
If adjusting your diet and pre-run routine doesn't address your stomach issues, try decreasing the distance or intensity of your runs. Registered dietitian Jackie Dikos recommends reducing the distance, intensity, or even both, by 20 to 25 percent for one or two weeks. By gradually building back up to your typical mileage and pace, you help reduce the chances of suffering from a return of symptoms. Runner's trots may be a sign that your body needs more time to adapt to the physical stress of running. Backing off on your distance and intensity and then slowly building back up in small increments allows for greater adaptation.
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