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Strategies for managing gastrointestinal distress during endurance events

by | Feb 20, 2023

This article was read 3652 times. Enjoy!

Strategies for Managing Gastrointestinal Distress During Endurance Events

Endurance Running Tips from an Experienced Runner

Endurance events are physically and mentally demanding, and gastrointestinal distress is a common problem faced by many endurance runners. During an endurance event, your body is under stress and your digestive system may not function optimally. This can lead to stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues that can negatively affect your performance. In this post, I will share some strategies that have helped me manage gastrointestinal distress during endurance events.

1. Manage Your Pre-Race Nutrition

Your pre-race nutrition plays a critical role in managing gastrointestinal distress during endurance events. Avoid high-fat, high-fibre, and high-protein foods that can take longer to digest and may cause stomach upset. Instead, focus on consuming easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods that can provide your body with the energy it needs to perform.

Some good pre-race meal options include:

  1. Oatmeal with banana and honey
  2. Toast with peanut butter and jelly
  3. Yogurt with granola and fruit

Make sure you consume your pre-race meal at least 2-3 hours before the start of the event to allow enough time for digestion.

Hydration is also crucial in preventing gastrointestinal distress. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid consuming large amounts of water right before the start of the event, as this can cause stomach discomfort and cramping.

2. Pace Yourself

Starting out too fast can put a lot of stress on your body, including your digestive system. This can cause stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea. It’s important to pace yourself and start the race at a comfortable, sustainable pace.

Listen to your body and adjust your pace accordingly. If you start feeling uncomfortable or experience any gastrointestinal symptoms, slow down and take a break if needed.

3. Use Digestive Aids

There are several over-the-counter digestive aids that can help manage gastrointestinal distress during endurance events. These include antacids, which can neutralize stomach acid and reduce heartburn, and anti-diarrheal medications, which can help alleviate diarrhea.

It’s important to note that these medications should be used with caution and only when necessary. Consult with your doctor before using any new medication, and be aware of potential side effects.

4. Practice Good Hygiene

Endurance events often involve close contact with other runners, and gastrointestinal infections can easily spread through contaminated surfaces or food and water sources.

Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, avoiding sharing food or drinks with others, and carrying your own water supply if possible. If using a communal water source, such as a water fountain, avoid touching the spout with your mouth or hands.

5. Experiment with Different Fueling Strategies

Every runner is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different fueling strategies during your training runs to find what works best for you and your digestive system.

Some runners find success with consuming small, frequent meals throughout the event, while others prefer larger, less frequent meals. Some runners may benefit from consuming liquid nutrition, such as sports drinks or gels, while others prefer solid food.

It’s important to find what works for you and stick with it. Don’t try anything new on race day, as this can lead to unexpected gastrointestinal distress.

6. Manage Your Mental State

Endurance events can be mentally and emotionally taxing, and stress and anxiety can manifest as gastrointestinal distress.

Practice stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and positive self-talk to manage your mental state during the event. This can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing gastrointestinal distress.

7. Seek Medical Attention if Necessary

If you experience severe gastrointestinal distress during an endurance event, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Severe symptoms can include vomiting, dehydration, severe diarrhea, and blood in the stool.

Don’t try to push through severe symptoms, as this can lead to further health complications. Stop running and seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Managing gastrointestinal distress during endurance events is a common challenge faced by many runners. By following these strategies, you can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing gastrointestinal distress and perform at your best.

Patrick Michel

Endurance Runner – Marketing Strategist

Patrick Michel is a Montreal-based endurance runner specializing in long-distance multi-stage charity ultra runs. For almost two decades, he has inspired many to engage in running, get fit and grow stronger physically and mentally. He has also written many articles about running.