Endurance athletes are often shocked when I tell them the amount of carbohydrates they should consume during exercise. Most athletes feel that they would experience some serious GI issues such as bloating, cramps or diarrhea if they consumed this amount of carbohydrates. However, the alternative option isn’t much better. Under fuel and athletes will run out of energy and hit the wall.
What most athletes fail to realize is that the gut must be trained just like our muscles for race day success. Increasing carbohydrate intake increases the ability to absorb carbohydrates. Athletes must train their guts to adapt for race day nutrition strategies. The exact adaptation time needed for the gut is unknown. It’s recommended to start practicing in-race nutrition strategy at least once per week for the 5-10 weeks before an event. I recommend using the weekly long workout to practice in-race nutrition strategies and consequently, train the gut for optimal carbohydrate absorption.
What we eat outside of exercise can also impact the gut’s ability to optimally absorb carbohydrates. Those with a daily low intake of carbohydrates have a consistently low carbohydrate absorption rate. When they enter competition and all of a sudden start eating high carbohydrate foods their guts are not prepared and they end up with GI issues. If athletes are following a low-carbohydrate diet (not that I recommend this), they should have some days of high carbohydrate consumption to help the gut properly adapt.
For all the time and energy put into training for an endurance event, don’t let an out of shape gut sabotage your race. Anyone who has experienced GI issues knows that it can make the different between race day success or misery. The alternative of hitting the wall because you have not consumed enough carbohydrates is not any more conducive to race day success.
If you’re training for a long-distance race, now is the time to start training your gut for race day nutrition. If you are interested in working with me to create an individualized race day nutrition and fluid plan please contact me at megankuikmanRD@gmail.com for more information.