Running & GI Distress

Dear Nell,

Could you talk about running and GI Distress a little?  I know it might be a really Paleo question, but I’m asking you nonetheless!



Actually, Mike, it IS a Paleo question.


Unfortunately, many of the sports nutrition products on the market right now are packed with junk.  Soy protein isolate, peanut butter, whey protein and sorbitol are but a few of the toxic culprits that wreak havoc on one’s system and end up with training days and races being sabotaged by unexpected pit stops in the porta-loo…or worse!


Not only is what you’re eating during training and racing an issue, so, too is what you’ve eaten the night before and the morning of.  Again, commonly consumed athlete fare tends to include, unfortunately, bagels, pasta and cereal, all of which set the stage for indigestion, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and nutrient malabsorption.


Rather than listing what you should NOT eat, as that would take pages, here is what a Paleo endurance athlete SHOULD eat to avoid the all-too-common runner’s stomach problems.  Coming from someone who, pre-Paleo (me) always considered herself to have a ‘sensitive stomach’, this advice is particularly sound!


-Stick with liquids or ‘mushy’ textures for pre w/o.  I always make my signature homemade smoothie with either water or brewed, chilled tea, egg powder or egg, raw almond butter and a banana.  Easily digestible and tasty, it goes down well and sits equally perfectly even if consumed not too long before workout.  If it’s going to be a longer day out there, over 2:00, I’ll also have some baked yam or sweet potato.

-Become a savvy hawk about reading labels. Even though most of our foods are NOT coming in packages, for those that are, we need to be absolutely vigilant about label reading.   I’ve seen almond butter made with cane sugar and soybean oil, for Heaven’s Sake!

-KEEP YOUR TRAINING PLAN SIMPLE.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  There is no good reason to have some bar, some gel, some block, some drink and some fruit.  As many of you already know, the single non Paleo food in my own diet is Power Bar gel.  I’m not endorsed by them, I simply feel they have the best product on the market because:

  1. They use a dual carb source so there’s a constant flow of it emptying from the gut into the blood.
  2. They have an excellent electrolyte profile.
  3. There are no fake sugars, flavors or colours.
  4. There is no dairy.

I eat ONLY gels for training and racing from anything as short as a 10k to as long as Ironman or ultra running.

-Be careful about what you eat the night before, too.  While you might think that Rosemary, sun dried tomato bread smells good, you’ll pay dearly for consuming gluten in the morning.  Remember, the starch of choice for paleo athletes is YAM or sweet potato.


Hope that helps!  Happy & healthy running to you!