How to Effectively Train Your Gut for Race Day

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Compeat Performance

How to Effectively Train Your Gut for Race Day

Gut issues are rampant through endurance running & cycling, triathlon, and even intense team sports. Everyone seems to have their own memorable experience with needing to find a toilet quick smart. But experiences like these don’t have to be your normal. You can have happy guts! You can push yourself to higher intensities without the fear of keeling over in pain (unless it’s the good kind of pain, like you just finished your last hill repeat).

Even if you’re not experiencing gut troubles, gut training can help you get more from your sessions because you can absorb more energy!

Training your gut is just one of many possible solutions to your gut troubles, so let’s get into it.

What Causes Gut Issues During Training?

The answer isn’t always clear, but there are 3 main factors that might impact your guts.

The 3 main reasons for gut issues during exercise. Physiological (reduces blood flow to the gut), mecahnical (bouncing effect of running) or nutritional

By training the gut, we get to address some of the physiological reasons for gut troubles during your training.

Have you ever eaten a meal before training and then immediately regretted it when you hit the intense part of the workout? Or maybe your gels don’t seem to sit well for you?

One reason this could be is because your gut is untrained. When we eat carbohydrates during training, they have to be absorbed from the stomach and into our circulation so they can actually be used for energy. The infographic below shows how we need transporters to do this.

Carbohydrate absorption during exercise is due to transporters. Transporters move carbohydrate from the stomach, into the blood stream to be used for energy.

If a large amount of CHO is consumed when our gut is untrained, there are not enough transporters to absorb all the CHO. So the unabsorbed amount is left sitting in the gut, causing discomfort & upset.

This also means you’re literally not getting all the energy you possibly could from your fuel! So you’re more likely to be fatigued even if you’re eating the recommended amount of carbohydrates.

Why Should You Train Your Gut?

Training the gut has some pretty phenomenal outcomes in reducing gut symptoms, but also in improving performance. An increased capacity to absorb carbohydrate can lead to less fatigue and more energy throughout your training and event. So gut training is something you could benefit from even if you are not experiencing gut symptoms.

Outcomes of training your gut include improved performance and reduced gut upset due to better absoprtion of carbohydrate

So How Do You Train Your Gut?

There are actually a whole range of ways to train your gut in the lead up to your event. And don’t worry if you feel like you’ve left it too late! You actually only need a minimum of 10 days to train your gut. But in an ideal world you have 2+ weeks training at an intensity similar to your race day.

We recommend trialling a few methods of training the gut, and even a few at once.

For instance, you can be increasing the carb content of your overall diet while also simulating your race day plan and eating high carbohydrate amounts during training.

Increasing the carbohydrate content of your overall diet is particularly important if you naturally eat a relatively low carbohydrate diet day to day.

There Are Many Other Reasons For Gut Issues

Training the gut won’t solve everything (unfortunately) but it can be a good step in the right direction.

If you are still struggling with symptoms after giving training the gut a red hot go, it’s time to reach out for some individual support.

The no so fun gut issues to look out for: reflux, heart burn, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, cramps, bloating, stitches, diarrhoea, blood in stools, wind

You can start by filling out our free Nutrition & Wellbeing Survey that looks at your risk of low energy availability. This can be another physiological factor in ongoing gut issues.

Otherwise you can download our app or if you’re using a desktop then you can sign up here. Upgrade your package to get started with your own amazing Compeat Dietitian for more individualised support.

Did you find this information useful and want to know more about all things triathlon?

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