Wednesday, April 15, 2015
How-To: Training Your Stomach to Tolerate Fuel During Exercise
Many athletes that walk through my door report difficulty tolerating food or even fluids during workouts. But, fueling during exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes is hugely important to overall performance and body composition goals. So, training the stomach like athletes train muscles needs to happen. The question is, how exactly does one DO that? Well, I'm glad you asked....
1. Start with your easiest workout
By easiest, I mean the workout that is either lowest intensity or during which you seem to tolerate fuel best. It may mean a cycling workout instead of running, a lifting day instead of speed or a long swim day instead of dry land.
2. Start with an easily digestible food
The foods that are digested most easily and quickly are carbohydrate-based foods such as fruit or grains. A common favorite to start with is a banana, as many athletes tolerate this well. Athletes that are extremely nervous about getting sick or simply don't want solids during exercise may instead begin with small sips of a sports drink, honey sticks or perhaps a gu or gel. Choose something you are comfortable with because believing you will tolerate a fuel choice is sometimes half the battle.
3. Start with small quantities
If you have never fueled during exercise or do so on a limited basis, don't drink an entire 20 oz. bottle of sports drink during your first trial run. That is sure to upset your system. Start small: 1 cup fluid, 1/2 of a piece of fruit, 1 or even 1/2 of a gu packet. And be sure to include plenty of water when using solid or semi-solid fuel. Enough water will trigger the stomach to empty, leading to better digestion and overall tolerance.
4. Give yourself plenty of time
If you have a competition in 3 days, today is not a good day to start trialing fuel. Give your gut a period of weeks or in some cases even months to get used to the type of fueling you need to do to enhance performance. Just like you wouldn't start training your muscles only a few days out, don't start that late with your gut either.
5. Takes notes
If you find something that works well, write it down. Something that doesn't? Write that down too. Note flavors, brands and quantities used. All of these variables can make or break your ability to tolerate fuel.