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If you have ever experienced an upset stomach during or after your run, you are not alone! An upset stomach is one of the most common complaints among runners, both beginners and masters. What causes this issue? A runner’s stomach is in part due to the jostling motion of our bodies bouncing up and down each time our feet touch the ground. Also, in an effort to provide nutrients and oxygen to our working muscles, the body diverts blood flow from the digestive system. This means the meal you had an hour ago is now sloshing around in your tummy, undigested.
While this ailment is extremely common, occurring in up to 90% of runners at some point, luckily there are a few foods and drinks to help soothe your upset stomach when this does occur.
When your stomach is upset after a run, start simple!
A warm cup of tea is a great place to start. The warm liquid can help relax stomach muscles to relieve tension and cramping. Starting with a liquid allows you to begin re-hydrating, which is most important following a run.
Tip: Try a lemon-ginger variety! Both have been shown to ease digestive issues, which further enhances the benefit of your warm drink.
A runner’s staple.
Oats are known for being warm, filling, and gentle on the stomach. This is why oatmeal is a go-to on race morning for so many runners! While we often add creamy milks, sweeteners, and toppings to our oats, opt for plain oats this time. By starting simple, you can add toppings your stomach is ready for and control exactly what is in your bowl!
Tip: Quick oats are easier to digest than other varieties. Save the steel-cut for another occasion.
For when you want something besides breakfast foods.
Soup can be a great option for a post-run upset tummy. Not only is soup warm and light, but it generally contains high levels of sodium. This helps replenish electrolytes lost during your run. Soup is the perfect comfort meal and can be a great option for lunch or dinner if your stomach is still upset from your run.
Tip: Choose broth-based varieties over cream-based soups. These are much gentler on the stomach. Soups like chicken noodle, vegetable, and minestrone are all good options!
Boring but effective!
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a rice person. However, when nothing else sits well, rice is a life-saver! A low fiber option, rice can help replace much-needed carbohydrates when your stomach is in distress.
Tip: Choose white rice which is lower in fiber than its alternatives. You can also try adding a pinch of salt to add flavor and electrolytes to the mix!
WARNING: Not for those sensitive to dairy!
If your stomach typically handles dairy well, try a few bites of plain yogurt. The probiotics can help aid in digestion, and unlike many other easy-tummy foods, yogurt has protein to help with muscle repair after your run. Definitely ease into this one and try 1-2 bites before consuming the whole container to see how your body reacts. If you find you can handle it, yogurt is an excellent choice!
Tip: Top with sliced bananas! Not only does the banana help add some flavor, but the potassium can help with electrolyte replacement as well.
Ready for something a bit more substantial?
Avocados are high in healthy fats to help keep you full and low in fiber, which can worsen digestive issues. Avocados are also rich in vitamin K, helping to replace electrolytes lost during your run. The bread itself is an excellent source of easily digestible carbohydrates. Stick with simple white varieties and save the seeded/garlic breads for another time.
Tip: Sprinkle with a pinch of course sea salt to add flavor and further replace lost electrolytes.
Though a runner’s stomach can be an unpleasant experience, refueling and hydrating after your run with simple, soothing foods can help you overcome this ailment. While nearly every runner has experienced a runner’s stomach at some point, figuring out a routine and practicing different fueling before and during runs can help prevent future occurrences. Talk to your runner friends for tips and tricks they have tried over the years to fuel their runs. But remember, every person is different, and what works for your friend may not work for you. With a little experimentation and practice, you’ll figure out a routine that works and your tummy will thank you in the long run.