Get through races or key runs without emptying your stomach.
Nausea and vomiting can have all sorts of causes, but for runners the major one is the shutting down of the digestive system with increasing intensity/duration of your long/hard run or race.
If you are so unfortunate to be a runner that gets already nauseous before a key training run or race, then stress or anxiety leading to spikes of adrenaline (which disrupts the digestive process) are often to blame. These runners will typically need to establish a strict pre-run routine they can then use to focus on to stay calm on race day.
What can you do then, to mitigate getting nauseous and/or throwing up?
Well, there is no magic bullet, but there are a few key techniques you should try.
We’ll split this into actions for the runners affected before the big run, and thereafter for the ones that mostly suffer during their hard runs or races.
Nausea and vomiting PRE-Race.
Paying special attention to your pre-race diet will pay dividends. You’ve probably read our post on what to eat (and not eat) before your run or workout, but we’ll add more specifics here.
- Switch to a low-fiber diet two to three days prior to race day; reduce fruit and vegetable intake and have more juices and processed low-fiber foods.
- Runners who struggle with throwing up before races should test themselves for food allergies or general food intolerances. What sits well in the stomach of your running partner might not work for you. For example, runners with mild peanut allergies, who might not otherwise notice nausea symptoms, can experience significant stomach distress if they put peanut butter on a bagel when nervous or before running hard.
- Runners who suffer from pre-race nausea should consider a liquid pre-race breakfast, which is digested quickly and doesn’t sit in the stomach, as opposed to more solid foods like a bagel and a banana.
- Avoid the use of anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil and Ibuprofen. Recent research points to a strong correlation to NSAID use and vomiting during endurance events.
Nausea and Vomiting DURING a race or hard workout.
The most effective way to avoid nausea-related systems during a race is to pay close attention to what and when you eat before and during your run. We’ve already covered some pre-race dietary tips, but if you plan on consuming fluids or fuels during a run, make sure you have a carefully orchestrated strategy that you’ve practiced in training.
- When taking gels or other simple sugars during a race, make sure to take them with water and not another carbohydrate drink. In the absence of water, the digestive system will have to work harder to break down the gel into usable energy
- If you take an energy gel with a sports drink, you run the risk of ingesting too much simple sugar at once. Taken together, a gel and sports drink could be delivering close to 60 grams of pure sugar. Even when fully functioning, the digestive system can have hard time processing that much simple sugar.
- Likewise, don’t consume gels too quickly. Simple sugars are absorbed into your blood stream as glucose. The sugar will stay in the blood stream until absorbed by the working muscles or other organs. Too much sugar in the blood stream will make you sick, the same as it would if you ate too much candy.
- In addition, dehydration can lead to overheating and can also slow stomach emptying. However, excessive intake of sodium, potassium, or other electrolytes can lead to bloating, nausea, and vomiting. Therefore, you need to develop a detailed hydration strategy that you implement and experiment with in training while running hard.
If normal dietary precautions don’t seem to help, you can try antacids or pepto bismol. If that doesn’t help, research on ultramarathoners has shown that 800mg of Cimetidine alleviated nausea and vomiting symptoms when taken one hour prior to the race. Disclaimer: when considering medicine, doctor’s advice is recommended.
By 2:22 marathoner Jeff Gaudette.
And just because it’s so important, we’ll repeat it: get your hydration right.
Overdrinking (hyponatremia) can be as disruptive as not drinking enough.
Getting enough salt/sodium in your system without overdoing it can be a challenge. This is again something to practice on your long runs!
If you’ve got a specific strategy that works really well for you, please do let us know by sticking a comment in!