Q. Help! What’s the solution to intestinal problems during long runs?
A. Upset stomachs, nausea, cramping, and urgency to take a pit stop are common problems among long distance runners. Because each person has his or her personal response to long runs, I can only ask you lots of questions, but perhaps they will help you find an answer. Here goes...
• Are you running too far, too fast too soon and your body is telling you it isn’t ready for that distance?
• Are you stressed and anxious on long-run days, and your nerves are creating the problem?
• Do you eat too much food the night before? If so, try having your big meal at brunch the day before and eat lighter at night.
• Do you eat too much breakfast before the long run? Try eating part of the breakfast the night before, at bedtime, so you’ll be less hungry in the morning.
• Do you eat fatty, heavy foods (like a sausage, egg ‘n cheese biscuit) before the long run?
• Do you drink too much pre-run coffee?
• What do you use for fuel during the long runs? Gels sometimes cause GI problems. So can commercial sports drinks or candies with the wrong kind of sugar for your gut.
• Are you chewing sugarless gum? The sweetener (sorbitol) can cause GI distress such as gas and diarrhea.
• Do you eat yogurt, kefir, or take probiotics? They can help resolve bowel issues.
• Do you get dehydrated? Lack of fluids contributes to diarrhea.
• Do you eat a high fiber diet? “Healthy” diets with abundant whole grains, fruits and veggies can become problematic for some runners.
• Is the problem limited to during runs or do you have intestinal issues at other times of the day? Perhaps you have latent Irritable Bowel Syndrome that gets aggravated during long runs?
• Do other people in your family have intestinal issues, like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or colon cancer? Perhaps you have problems digesting gluten (a genetic tendency) and should be tested to see if you have Celiac Disease?
• Have you kept food logs to track potential culprits so you can pinpoint, or at least narrow down, the problem?
Good luck being a food detective! And don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if all of the above suggestions fail to find a solution. A consultation with a local sports dietitian for a nutrition check-up can be very helpful! See www.SCANdpg.org for a referral network.
Please add your comments if you have found a solution not mentioned above!
NOTE: If you live near any of the workshop locations, please share this announcement with coaches, athletic trainers, personal trainers,dietitians, nutrition educators, and yes, serious athletes themselves.
An estimated 0.6% of Americans have a peanut allergy and need to avoid peanuts. Thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, peanuts—and other top food allergens including milk, eggs, treenuts, shellfish, wheat, and soy—must be listed on food labels. Be sure to read those labels—especially on commercially baked goods including granola and protein bars.
What can kids eat to replace peanut butter?
almond butter, cashew butter or other nut butters (if no allergies to tree nuts),
sunbutter (from sunflower seeds)
Hummus and low fat cheese are other options that, like peanut butter, are convenient, easy to make into a sandwich, and are inexpensive.
In schools, educating kids and parents is preferable to banning peanuts and peanut butter, because bans can give a false sense of security. Students need to be taught:
• do not share food.
• do not bring peanut-containing foods into classroom activities (like birthday parties).
• do not eat on the bus.
Schools can set aside an allergen-free table in the cafeteria.
Researchers are currently trying to figure out if early introduction of peanuts in childhood is preferable to avoidance, and if kids with allergies can become more tolerant by being given small amounts of peanuts over the course of months and years until they can safely tolerate a standard serving.
Nancy, which brand of amino acids should I buy? On amazon.com, there are 16 brands, ranging in price from $18 to $40. Help…!”
Answer: What makes you think you even need to buy essential amino acids? You can easily get them in protein-rich foods like eggs, yogurt, milk, chicken—any animal-based protein has all the essential amino acids your body needs.
The protein supplement industry has done an excellent job of making consumers believe they need to buy essential amino acids. Wrong! If you fuel-up your workouts with a protein+carb combination, such as a yogurt and banana, and then recover afterwards with another protein+carb combination such as lowfat chocolate milk followed by real foods at the next meal, you’ll be doing a fine job of getting all of these building blocks of protein. Rest assured, you could more wisely spend your money on protein-rich foods, not amino acid supplements, and get the results you want from your workouts.
Just to define the “lingo”: Proteins are made from many amino acids, just like words are made from many letters. Some of these amino acids— the essential amino acids—need to come from food, because the body cannot make them.
Here are a few ways to get two of the essential amino acids, isoleucine and leucine. Because pure amino acids taste nasty, I’ll get mine from yummy chocolate milk and real foods at meals any day!
If your skinny high school son is pestering you to buy a weight gain supplement because he’s sure it will create bulging muscles by breakfast, think twice and save your money!
As you can see from the chart below, all weight gain supplements are expensive and offer nothing you cannot get via food. A hefty peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a tall glass of milk aids weight gain at a far lower price tag than an equal amount of calories from Muscle Milk.
Food-home based Calories Price Cost/100 calories
Granola (1 cup) + 500 $1.00 $0.20
8-oz 2% milk
Sandwich: PB & J 650 $0.95 $0.15
(3 Tbsp PB, 2 Tbsp J)
Chocolate milk, 16-oz 300 $0.60* $0.20
Instant breakfast 250 $0.80 $0.32
Grape Juice, 16-oz 280 $1.00 $0.36
Muscle Milk, powder 310 $1.78 $0.57
Drinks-on the run
Nesquick, 16-oz bottle 300 $1.79 $0.60
Ensure, 8-oz bottle 250 $1.75 $0.60
Muscle Milk, 14-oz bottle 230 $3.59 $1.56
As you can see, buying bottles of read-to-drink meal replacements can quickly get expensive.
A money-saving alternative is to make your own weight gain drink:
In the morning, blend 1 quart of 2%-milk with 4 packets of Carnations Instant Breakfast and 1/2 cup powdered milk (1,000 calories total). Toss in a banana or other fruit for more calories. Drink half at breakfast and take the rest with you in a travel mug. Yummier than most commercial products—and no vitamin-fortified taste or smell.
Among my clients, I’ve observed that skinny athletes who have trouble gaining weight tend to be good fidgeters. They twiddle their fingers, swing their legs backand forth while sitting, and seem unable to sit still. All this involuntary movement burns calories. In comparison, the folks who complain about their inability to lose weight generally sit calmly, barely blinking their eyes. They may complain they have a “slow metabolism.” Doubtful. Their metabolism is likely normal, but their propensity to sit calmly is the problem. Compared to the fidgeter, they save themselves a lot of calories!
The technical term for the spontaneous movement often seen in skinny people who have difficulty gaining weight is Non-Exercise ActivityThermogenesis or N.E.A.T. NEAT includes not only fidgeting but also pacing while you talk on the phone and standing (not sitting) while you talk with a teammate. If you overeat, activation of NEAT helps you dissipate excess energy by nudging you to putter around the house more, choose to shoot some hoops, or (yikes!) feel motivated to vacuum and clean the house. If your body’s ability to activate NEAT is low, then you likely gain weight easily. NEAT can predict how resistant you'll be to gaining weight.
If you are overfat, the next time you start to complain about your slow metabolism, think again. Maybe you should start fidgeting and moving more throughout the daytime?
If you are skinny, the next time you complain about being unable to gain weight, think again. Can you try to stop fidgeting and pacing?