GI Issues?

Gastrointestinal Issues (GI) are not new but this topic has surfaced in a few tweets and email messages recently and so I thought to myself what does cause this for people and how can it be prevented or at least controlled?

I have had GI issues during training and had my first experience with it at the Dallas White Rock Marathon.  You can read how I handled my situation by reading my race report [HERE]

GI issues are something that at some point or another you are going to face and you are going to want to know what caused the issue.  I found this article on that addresses the issue.  I wanted to share it with you along with my thoughts on their points:


By Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD

Solutions for Intestinal Rebellion

To help alleviate undesired pit stops, try exercising lightly before a harder workout to help empty your bowels. Also experiment with training at different times of the day. If you are a morning runner, drink a warm beverage (tea, coffee, water) to stimulate a bowel movement; then allow time to sit on the toilet to do your business prior to exercising. When exercising, visualize yourself having no intestinal problems. A positive mindset (as opposed to useless fretting) may control the problem.

The following nutrition tips might help you fuel wisely and reduce the symptoms:

1) Eat less high fiber cereal. Fiber increases fecal bulk and movement, thereby reducing transit time. High fiber = High risk of distress. Triathletes with a high fiber intake reported more GI complaints than those with a lower fiber intake.

Obviously this is an individual item because every morning I eat a slice of whole wheat toast with nut butter and sliced banana over top of that.  Sometimes I add honey and pumpkin spice.  On a day when I am going long I will also add in a bowl of granola with soy milk.  I’m not sure I can have less fiber since that is what I eat and you should not change routine the day of the race.  For me this rule would not apply.

2) Limit “sugar-free” gum, candies and foods that contain sorbitol, a type of sugar that can cause diarrhea.

I have never heard of this before and I don’t typically chew gum or sugar-free gum so maybe that is why I don’t have this as a pinpoint for GI issues.

3) Keep a food & diarrhea chart to pinpoint food triggers. For a week, eliminate any suspicious foods–excessive intakes of juice, coffee, fresh or dried fruits, beans, lentils, milk, high fiber breads and cereals, gels, commercial sports foods. Next, eat a big dose of the suspected food and observe changes in bowel movements. If you stop having diarrhea when you cut out bran cereal, but have a worrisome situation when you eat an extra-large portion, the answer becomes obvious: eat less bran cereal.

This makes complete and total sense to me, but since I am tracking all kinds of other things I’m not sure I can start tracking my bowel movements as well.  That being said I did notice that recently I have begun having regular timed movements as I did prior to IMCA but not since.  I believe it’s because I was out of my routine and my eating habits were slightly thrown off with the lull in training hours.  Now that I am back to training 12-15 hours per week and my caloric intake is back along with my timing all is right in the world.

4) Learn your personal transit time by eating sesame seeds, corn or beets–foods that can be seen in feces. Because food moves through most people’s intestines in 1 to 3 days, the trigger may be a food you ate a few days ago.

Even for an intense person, like me, this goes way over the top.  Looking into the bowl after I’m done to try and see if I can actually see seeds, corn or beets just strikes me as odd.  And I say this because I am typically moved to the bathroom about 15 minutes into my swim training and at that point I want to get out of the pool, do my job and get back in as quickly as possible without taking notes of what was in the feces.  Sorry but this is never happening.

5) Stay well-hydrated. GI complaints are common in runners who have lost more than 4 percent of their body weight in sweat. (That’s 6 lb. for a 150 lb. athlete.) Runners may think they got diarrhea because of the sports drink they consumed, but the diarrhea might have been related to dehydration.

I stay hydrated, and sometimes, over-hydrated because I am always going to be found with a glass (jug) of water by my side.  I wake up in the middle of the night to relieve myself so I don’t think this is an issue for me.  As a matter of fact on Sunday I ran 8 miles in just over an hour and lost close to 6lbs (I weight less than 150 lbs) and had no GI issues.

6) When all else fails, you might want to consult with your doctor about timely use of anti-diarrhea medicine, such as Immodium. Perhaps that will be your saving grace.

I don’t go to the Doctor for any reason other than my yearly visit, which is never done exactly on its anniversary but only when Karen reminds me.  Since I don’t have many issues I don’t think this pertains to me.

The Bottom Line

You are not alone with your concerns. Yet, your body is unique and you need to experiment with different food and exercise patterns to find a solution that brings peacefulness to your exercise program.


So do you have GI issues often?  What have you done about it?  And isn’t being an endurance athlete great?  You can talk about GI issues and peeing on the bike and/or run and think nothing of it.  So let me hear how you have battled your GI issues.  Share a success story with my readers.

Print Friendly

Related posts:


  1. Jon says:

    Oh I thought I was the only one when I first started to experience these issues when my runs started to get longer than 30 mins a few seasons ago. Fortunately my coach at the time calmed my fears by saying “everyone deals with this!”

    I have mostly conquered the issue by “going” before going and “going” on a regular basis the same time of day.

    I have also learned that eating a black bean burger is bad ju-ju if you are a runner :)

    Won’t say any more!

    P.S. You know you have met a triathlete or runner because you are talking about poo within the first 5 secs.
    Jon recently posted..Am I Dreaming Did I just do all of THAT!!!My Profile

  2. Years ago i had terrible problems with hypermotility. Once i did some investigations into my food/fluid intake and made appropriate changes, things have gotten much better. timing intake with runs is tricky, still, but for times when i won’t be able to hop into the pucker-brush or for races, i take 2 immodium tablets about 45 mins before i head out. so far, this little strategy has worked well. for me. to each their own, of course, but i’ll just toss that one out there.

  3. Scott says:

    I love when you break down an article.

    Everyone deals with this and everyone is different

    I would add to #1, if fiber is the cause of your GI issues, it goes beyond cereal in the morning, it also includes the amount of veggies you ate the day before that finally have broken down, I bet that has more to do with it then the cereal.

    #2 is weird, but I am sure some study was done somewhere.

    #4 I am NOT doing that

    #5 is a given for anyrace

    I have GI issues, I can not take high sugar nutrition at a race, it has to be low in sugar and nautral sugar helps my stomach better, like honey. Like I said everyone is different, what works for me, might not work for someone else, this is why we practice nutrition intake while training.
    Scott recently posted..Ohio University – Athletes in Action Triathlon – Race ReportMy Profile

  4. Patrick says:

    I used to get them really bad a few years ago, both GI distress and heartburn. My doc had me on a strong antacid for a year. Eventually, things mellowed out mostly (I think) due to me naturally gravitating towards better eating habits. But then there are the exceptions like last years Dana Point 10K Turkey Trot. At Mile 4 I was about to explode. So what did I do? Sped up and handily PR’ed. Of course, I crossed the finish line in a full sprint and kept going another 1/4 mile or so to the porta-potties.

    And earlier this year I had a few problems but switched to soy protein from whey and that sorted itself out too.
    Patrick recently posted..Zen &amp The Art Of Hardening The F UpMy Profile

  5. Chris says:

    I haven’t had to deal with this (yet), but I also haven’t done any longer events yet outside of bike rallies. I suspect it will be an issue for me when I start running more than 4mi. Immodium has worked in every other scenario so that would be my initial solution.
    Chris recently posted..The Hootys Kids TriathlonMy Profile

  6. Nora says:

    What causes me a prb is if I ever take ibuprophen during race or long run. Then I’m sure to have a prb!
    Nora recently posted..Girls Bring You FlowersMy Profile

  7. MissZippy says:

    I used to deal with GI problems quite a bit–ruined many a marathon for me. Finally found that taking a peppermint oil tablet before my long runs and races, combined with the right intake of food for me, did the trick. It takes a lot of trial and error!
    MissZippy recently posted..The year of the meet-upsMy Profile

  8. Matt Oravec says:

    Currently going through the itemized removal of diet items.

    The one that strikes me is dehydration. I sweat a lot when I run… but I drink a gallon of water straight every day… DO NOT think I am dehydrated… but I can practice this… I have taken fluids on the run and still had GI issues….

    Itemized food removal will be my cure. In all honesty, I think it might be dairy related. NOT ready to remove dairy from my life though… I might die.

  9. lindsay says:

    i used to take gu’s fine, but i am starting to wonder if they are now “not sitting well”? is that possible? or maybe it’s just the timing… it’s not like i’ve actually done a lot of long runs to experiment this haha.

    lol’d at your comment earlier. very punny metal-medal. i’m not drunk, that is the marathon-death-march :)
    lindsay recently posted..swamp rabbit 5kMy Profile

  10. Terzah says:

    This is an ongoing issue for me. I have made it *much* better by eliminating sugar substitutes, high-lactose dairy (as opposed to yogurt, which I still eat) and by switching to lower-fiber choices the day before a long run or race (e.g. when I choose pasta, I eat whole-wheat most of the time but the day before a race I switch to refined). But I still have issues. Like Miss Zippy said, it’s a lot of trial and error and I’m still in the error phase. Wish this was “behind” me (ha).
    Terzah recently posted..Mothers DayMy Profile

  11. Kevin says:

    I thought the one about gum was odd because I usually chew gum to relieve any issues. It works great at helping with both GI issues and acid reflux.

    I do a lot of weird things as a triathlete, but there is no way in hell I am doing #4. haha
    Kevin recently posted..Race Report- Tulip Time RunMy Profile

  12. I think almost everyone has dealt with GI issues are one point or another! I don’t get GI problems that frequently, but I have learned what I can and cannot eat before a long training run (no pizza/chipotle for me!). Also, about the fiber thing, as a vegetarian I eat a lot of fiber, so like you, that point doesn’t apply to me either.
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..A Perfect Day!My Profile

  13. Chuck says:

    Ugh, the sugar free and fake sweeteners are the worst. Sugar alcohols just put my stomach in crazy knots!

  14. katie says:

    I am so pleased to not have intestinal rebellion, but this was still a very useful post!
    katie recently posted..wordless wednesdayMy Profile

  15. Marlene says:

    Great tips here – thanks! Definitely will try some of these.
    Marlene recently posted..Three Things Sleeps ThursdayMy Profile

  16. I rarely have GI issues, but just reading this made me need to poop. I shall read this before every race. ;-) Back in a few!
    Lesley @ racingitoff recently posted..25 DaysMy Profile

  17. tribeccato says:

    I am lucky that I don’t have this problem when running. But my hubby does. The comment about the local sweetener just might be contributing! Thanks for the post!

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: