Up to 70% of triathletes experience GI problems during a triathlon.  The symptoms can cause mild discomfort or be so debilitating the triathlete has to withdraw. The reason GI distress is so common in triathlons is that, during intense exercise, 80% of the blood that normally goes to the GI tract is shunted to the muscles thereby affecting the movement of food from the small intestine. Here are five ways to minimize GI upset:

  1. Graze, don’t feast.Your body can absorb about 70g of carbohydrate per hour.  If you consume those 70g in the 59thminute, you will probably get sick. You can greatly reduce the possibility of GI distress by consuming smaller amounts more frequently.
  2. Consume only water in the last 15 minutes of the bike leg. This way, when you start your run most of the calories you’ve taken in during the race will have cleared your stomach.
  3. Consume high-glycemic sugars. High-glycemic sugars are absorbed from the stomach and into the blood stream faster than complex carbs.  As a result, they not only spend less time in your stomach but also get to your muscles more quickly.
  4. Use a sports drinkand/or energy gelthat contains two or more simple carbohydrates to speed transport from the GI tract to the blood by mobilizing multiple transport systems.  This reduces the buildup of calories in the stomach and lessens the potential for GI distress.
  5. Avoid carbonated beverages,which make you feel full and are often associated with gas and other GI stress, especially during moderate to intense exercise.

There’s nothing worse than blaming a bad race on a balky stomach. Follow these tips and it shouldn’t happen again.

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