Runners often spend hundreds of dollars on running gear to ensure that they’re in the best possible shape out on the road. Shoes, inserts, socks, shorts, shirts, heart rate monitors — it’s actually impressive how much deliberate planning can sometimes go into a run before you even step out your front door.
However, not all runners put as much thought into what they’re putting into their stomachs before a big run, and as a result, many suffer from stomach and gastrointestinal problems.
To reduce the chances of a stomachache (or worse) while running, you might want to steer clear of the following foods:
1. Energy drinks
Energy drinks might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re running first thing in the morning and you need a bit of a pick-me-up before you head out the door. Unfortunately, energy drinks can increase your resting heart rate to a dangerous level, especially if you aren’t used to drinking them, which puts you at risk for cardiovascular problems, including poor blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract (which, in turn, causes stomach cramps). Skip the faux energy altogether to be on the safe side, or at least wait until after your run to indulge.
Like energy drinks, coffee can be tempting in the morning if you can’t keep your eyes open. However, coffee contains a large amount of caffeine, which stimulates the intestinal tract. Sometimes a little gastrointestinal stimulation is helpful, but when you’re out on the road it’s likely to be more of a problem than anything (and could mean a necessary and embarrassing bathroom break midrun). Steer clear of coffee, tea, and other foods and drinks that contain a lot of caffeine until your run is over and you’re safely back at home and in range of a convenient bathroom.
If you can’t drink energy drinks and you can’t drink coffee or tea, it seems like juice is the obvious beverage of choice, right? Wrong. Although juice doesn’t affect your heart like energy drinks do and won’t stimulate your intestines like caffeine-loaded beverages would, juice contains a very high concentration of carbohydrates, which can cause stomach cramps during your run. Your best bet is to stick to plain old water until you get back home.
4. High fiber foods
Foods that contain a lot of fiber make the intestines work harder to process them. Although this is usually a good thing, an excess of fiber does cause an excess of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, which means gas pains and bloating. Fiber can even lead to loose, uncontrollable stools if you take too much of it, so save the fiber for a post-run meal.
5. Broccoli, peppers, and melon
This might seem like a weird combination to you, but these three foods all contain a lot of fiber, as well as other indigestible carbohydrates, which means they get a special mention. Eat these and you’ll end up bloated with painful gas during your run. Who needs that?
6. Ice cream
Not a lot of people load up on ice cream before they go on a run, but just in case you decide to indulge in your sweet tooth and then take a long run to burn the calories you just inhaled, think again. Of all the dairy products, ice cream is the most problematic for the gastrointestinal system because it is very high in lactose, a food byproduct that many people have trouble digesting. Ice cream is also very high in sugar, which can lead to a peak in energy and then a crash, whether you’re midrun or not, so save the sundae for after your run (or better yet, save the calories and enjoy a low-fat popsicle instead!).
7. Anti-inflammatory drugs
Although these technically aren’t a food item, they’re a major culprit for stomach problems on the road and are definitely worth mentioning. Ironically, many runners take anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen because they believe that the drugs will help their performance by keeping swollen joints and muscles at bay. However, the drugs are more likely to irritate your stomach and, if your stomach is particularly sensitive or you’ve taken a large dose of the medication, these drugs can sometimes cause bleeding in the stomach and intestines. It’s best to wait until after you’ve finished your run (and you’ve gotten something into your stomach) to take any anti-inflammatory drugs.