Picture it! Race day is here! You’ve done your training, watched your diet, and slept well. You get to the start line and everything is looking great. Cut to 20mins into the race and your stomach feels ready to explode. All you can think about is running to the next aid station and hoping that they have a Port-a-Potty.
Runner’s trot, bubble guts, indigestion, or upset stomach, whatever you call it, can ruin a race just as easily as wearing the wrong pair of shoes. While it might be impossible to eliminate it fully what if we could lower the chances of it happening again? Well, we interviewed Dr. Keith Anderson from Novant Health to get his thoughts on keeping your stomach in check for your upcoming training runs and races.
Who is Dr. Anderson?
Keith Anderson is a Novant Health Doctor that specializes in Family and Sports Medicine.
Dr. Anderson has been involved with sports throughout his life and is currently the team physician for the U.S.A. canoe and kayak team. He has also been a doctor for the Olympics, Pan Am Games, International soccer games, for the World Championships for Ironman and World’s Strongest Man.
These credentials are more than enough for use to take his word, but if you still needed some convincing Dr.Anderson has also trained for and completed an Ironman race. So when you get advice from Dr. Anderson you can trust that it is not just a theory. He has been exactly where you are.
Without further adieu let’s talk Runner’s Trot with Dr. Keith Anderson.
What is Runner’s Trot?
This term can mean different things to different people. Some runners refer to this as the urge to use the bathroom once they have started running. Others are referring to having diarrhea while running.
What is happening in our bodies when we start to feel the dreaded runner’s trot?
The urge to have a bowel movement is typically triggered because stool has moved through the intestines and is now in the rectum, the terminal part of the digestive tract. This tells the body that it is time to go!
What Causes Runner’s Trot?
This is typically caused by ongoing or increased digestion while running. Digestion can be increased through several different mechanisms, including cortisol release, bouncing of the organs while running, and change in blood flow to the digestive tract.
Other causes include:
- Dehydration and Overhydration
- Eating too close to the start of your run
- Anxiety and Stress
- Even tight clothing
Are certain foods more likely to cause stomach issues?
Certain foods and drinks can also contribute. It might be best to avoid high-fiber, spicy, high-fat foods and caffeine before a race. Fructose has also been known to cause problems in some athletes.
What should we eat the day before? Not eat the day before?
Most importantly, try and find foods that work for you. Practice with different foods the night before a long run and if they are successful eat those the night before a race.
We’ve also found that eating at least 2hrs before strenuous physical activity will reduce the likelihood of runner’s trot.
Does carb loading help or hurt?
It depends on the person. But you should absolutely avoid overdoing it the day before which can add to GI distress.
Are certain sports drinks or nutrition more likely to cause us stomach issues?
Each person needs to find out what works for them. Some runners don’t do as well with fructose. When you train, ensure that you are testing things for yourself because your friends have the best intentions, but what works for them might send you sprinting for a bathroom.
What do we do if we start having stomach problems in the middle of a race, but still want to perform well?
Sip water. Slow down for a bit. Go poop. Plain and simple! You might think that stopping in a race will ruin your PR, but you may end up saving time overall.
We all know the feeling when the Runner’s Trot starts to sneak up on us. But now you also know how to take some control over it! As Dr. Anderson noted in his interview, there is never going to be a surefire way to prevent it but with a few simple tips, we can all have more races without the fear of Runner’s Trot.