In endurance sports, exogenous sugars, contained in gels, bars or beverages, are essential to delay fatigue and save energy.
The gastrointestinal tract plays a critical role in the absorption of nutrients, and its functionality can be one of the factors that most affect performance during intense and long-lasting activity. If gastrointestinal tract is not optimal, we can experience nausea or abdominal cramps, which inevitably compromise the result of our competition.
Gastrointestinal disorders derive from different causes, and depend on several factors, including tolerance for supplements, the nutrition in the days leading up to competition, the dehydration or hyper-hydration, and psychological factors.
But don’t despair! I have good news! Indeed, gastrointestinal disorders can be prevented, simply by training the gut to absorb the sugars contained in energy supplements and liquids to tolerate them better.
Secretes to Train your Gut
What are the secrets to train your gut and avoid gastrointestinal issues?
- Plan ahead your integration strategy
- Read supplements’ nutritional labels carefully
- Train “full”
- Balance your hydration
Find out all the tips in the next paragraphs!
Integration Strategy: Plan Ahead
Planning your race energy and hydration strategy several weeks before the event is a good starting point to prevent gut disorders. Try different types of supplements, test your intake ranges, choose the flavor and texture that suits you best. Trying new products for the first time on the competition day is the worst mistake you could make. Therefore, avoid eating new supplements or energy bars contained in your race package, or the ones you can find along the way.
Read Supplements’ Nutritional Labels
Gels, bars or liquid supplements are different and can be formulated with sundry types and amounts of sugars. On average a pack of an energy gel can contain about 20-25g of sugars, but there are gels that stem more or much less, and they can be very diversified from a qualitative point of view. Consequently, start to know them understanding which ingredients they contain, in terms of quality and quantity, so that you can learn how to use them to the fullest. On average the intestine can absorb about 60g of sugars per hour, but this amount varies from subject to subject and also depends on the type of sugars taken. In general, supplements containing mixtures of different sugars are absorbed more easily at the intestinal level, and therefore they are better tolerated than those stemming only one type of sugar.
Choose at least one workout per week to test your race feed in the period preceding the event. Once you have selected the type of supplements and plan your integration strategy together with the intake times, take a little more sugars if your goal is to take about 60g of sugar per hour during the race. In this way, your intestine will slowly adapt to an increased sugars absorption. Scientific research shows that adaptation takes about 6-10 weeks, but it is possible to experience an increased number of molecules’ activities responsible for transporting sugars through the intestinal membrane after just 15 days. Hence, only after a couple of weeks our molecules allow for greater use by the muscles. Experiencing a discomfort in training may not be pleasant, but you will definitely benefit from it during the competition.
Balance your Hydration
Hydration is key to preventing gastrointestinal disorders. Hydrating properly means regularly taking the right amount of liquids, neither defect, nor excess, not only to prevent dehydration, but also to avoid the excessive introduction of liquids. For this reason, just as it is fundamental you train to feed, you must remember to take fluids regularly during workouts and prevent the sense of thirst that is already a symptom of dehydration.
Author: Nutritional Coach Francesca Deriu.