When Running Makes You Keel Over

I still remember my first long, to me, run.  It was a nice summer day and I went 8 miles.  It was awesome, except for when I swallowed a bug, and the hacking on the side of the road that ensued.  But it was after that run that I experienced one of my first runner’s highs.  I felt amazing.  And then….I felt like my stomach was turning into knots.

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(This is actually a picture my niece took of me and she asked me to pose in a sad face.  But I am pretty certain this is what I looked like after that first long run.  Despite the fact that I have no future as a model, we may have a future photographer in the family!)

When I got back from my run I took a quick shower and as soon as I left the warm water a horrible sensation overcame me.  I felt suddenly weak with chills and I feared that I might throw up.  I curled up on the couch as waves of nausea overcame me.  A few hours later I felt like myself, but the memory stayed with me for a long time.  It wasn’t the last time it happened either.  It probably will happen again too.  This usually happens unexpectedly and without warning after a run.

Many runners experience stomach issues and they come in all different forms.  We have all heard of runner’s trots and if you run long enough you realize they are not a fable, this is real stuff we deal with!  Another form of stomach issue is also called sour stomach or runner’s stomach.  While each person has different symptoms or issues there are a few that seem to be the most common.

These stomach issues tend to come in the form of general upset stomach, nausea, acid reflex, diarrhea, or even throwing up.  Not all runner’s experience this and many only experience these issues on occasion.  Whether it happens often or not doesn’t matter.  It stinks!  So here are a few things to keep in mind to help ward off or ease your symptoms.

First, I have noticed that after I do have these stomach issues and look back at what I have had to eat or drink in the past few days, I tend to have missed out on hydration.  I always have a large glass of water every morning so I thought that I was hydrated.  But generally I get nausea on runs when I didn’t hydrate enough the night or even day before a run.  For all runners it is important to hydrate pretty much all of the time; before you run, after you run, and throughout the day.

Try a few mint flavored Tums or Rolaids before a run.  Not only are these great at settling your stomach but they can actually help you at the end of your run.  When you run for long periods of time your blood flows to organs that are directly involved with your running.  Therefore blood flows away from your stomach and there is a lot of acid on the stomach lining and it can’t handle this overload.  This is often what causes runners to become sick.  Antacids work as buffers to balance that out and in turn keep you from getting sick!

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After your run try sipping on a nice sparkling water.  Avoid waters that are artificially sweetened and stick to something like Perrier, Pelligrino, and LaCroix.  I am a big fan of LaCroix.  They have several flavored sparkling waters that are not sweet and yet delicious.  This water can help to settle your stomach and I find that I can sometimes get one of these down easier and faster after a run than plain tap water.

I am in love with this new cherry lime flavor!

I am in love with this new cherry lime flavor!

Take a look at what you are eating in the morning.  Some runners prefer to avoid eating anything and if that works for you that is fine.  I personally need a little something in my stomach and have found over the years that a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal works best for me.  I know that eggs make me sick and certain cereals make my stomach do bad things half way through my runs.  Knowing what to avoid will work wonders.  If you need a little something that sticks with you try bland foods like plain toast, bananas, or even plain rice.

Consider your dairy.  I hate to admit it but dairy and I have issues.  I have said goodbye to ice cream, milk and most cheeses.  I actually don’t miss it at all because I discovered how awesome almond milk is.  It has twice the calcium of cow’s milk and far fewer calories.  Try the unsweetened vanilla and you might never go back.  When I need my cheese fix I go for goat’s milk.  I have also found that I can have small amounts of frozen yogurt so I certainly can’t complain.

Try it in your morning coffee.

Try it in your morning coffee.

Many adults find that dairy causes all sorts of issues for them from stomach issues to skin ailments.  If you think this might be the culprit try using alternatives for a while and see how they work.

Running and your diet is a constant experiment to find the right combination of what works.  Be patient with yourself and your body.  Try to be aware of what you are eating and drinking and you will find the perfect combination along the way.  Remember that this happens to all sorts of runners and it is ok to discuss and seek out answers.  Odds are you aren’t alone.

We even took Flat Stanley out for frozen yogurt last night.

We even took Flat Stanley out for frozen yogurt last night.

48 thoughts on “When Running Makes You Keel Over

  1. I remember this too well (often because I still get this) but mostly because when I started running, this happened more often than it ever should! For me, it was definitely all about hydration. This is such a good post! I think it’s important to remember that our stomach is also a muscle – we have to train it too!

  2. Too much coffee before evening runs and I’m running back quick! On a slightly different note, sparkling water or a light fizzy drink help me with motion sickness. There’s something about the bubbles which help settle it.

  3. After running for a few years I am STILL figuring out what food works and doesn’t work. Oats are the best option for me (I think) before a long run, but I’m still trying to figure out the days leading up to it! I’ve come to realize that dinner the night before also matters and I think I need a good portion of protein. PS I love that new cherry lime flavor too!

    • It is definitely an ongoing process. I find it changes at times too. What worked for months might suddenly stop working one day midrun. Yes that cherry lime is a welcome newbie!

  4. This is crazy as I just recently started dealing with getting what feels like heart burn after some runs. I had it really bad on Saturday after my 6 mile run, I felt like my throat was sore because of the acid reflux I was dealing with! Didn’t realize it happened to others!

  5. Very good topic for a post. I don’t usually have stomach issues, but most of those suggestions are still applicable to me. It’s always good to get a little reminder of how to do things the right way.

  6. These are great tips! I used to have issues like this that went away after awhile. But then after my run on Sunday which was my longest in more than a month, I had some serious problems. I’m saving these suggestions for this weekend. Thanks!

  7. Great post! I’ve just recently made the connection between hydration and stomach issues… those days when I feel like I just can’t eat after a long run are usually the ones where I didn’t drink enough before or during. Makes a BIG difference!

  8. Great tips! I will be trying some of them. I do get a bit nauseous on long runs. I am one of those people who has to eat the morning before a long run. I usually make is a bagel, peanut butter and banana. That helps but my husband doesn’t eat anything before a long run and does well. Also, I have never got the trots but I get the “need to pee” often haha . Getting that runner’s high is why I run! I only get in occassionally but strive for it every time! 🙂 Great post and thanks for sharing it!

    • I’m with you Charlotte. I need the food and for a long run I actually need quite a lot. But then I don’t need as much fuel mid run so it works out well. Always fun working towards that high, whether you get it or not!

  9. Running and fueling have been a work in progress for me these last couple of years. Since I have no problem with eating the same things over and over again, I can just shift my fueling strategy … but I would still like to find a non-Gu based mid-race fueling strategy.

    My biggest issue is that I dehydrate easily and have the bladder the size of an acorn … (TMI? 😉 )

    • Yes mid race fuel options aren’t optimal. I find that during a marathon I can get by on about 3 Gatorade chews around mile 15 or 16.

      Also, not TMI it happens to a lot of runners and it is very frustrating!

  10. I wish I had known all this stuff when I had started running as I struggled with all of it. Oddly enough, my body must have adapted as I rarely have issues now and can pretty much eat anything prior to a run. However, on long runs (>12 miles) or if I race fast for that distance my stomach will be off for a few hours which sucks as I really just want to eat after those runs. I should try taking tums before long runs again.

    • I think my body has definitely adapted too, which is awesome for beginners to know that it will get better! But it sure stinks when it happens. I have the unfortunate issue of being starving after a run and eating to much. Too bad we couldn’t balance each other out!

  11. Great post. Fortunately I don’t have these types of issues except the occassional trots.
    Post run nutrition is important. If you are running hard or a race or doing a long tun, it is important to re-hydrate and get some nutrition. severl companies make recovery foods and beverages. Chocolate milk is also supposed to have the right balance of carbs and fat. Plus is tastes great.

  12. Thanks for the tips! I need to run/exercise on an almost empty stomach. There were times even cold water gave me heartburn. I need to drink room temp water. I exercise in the morning a few hours after I had a couple cups of coffee, but before I’ve had anything to eat.

  13. It’s taken me about five years of running to work out what works, and what hurts. Hydration, every day, is a huge must. A small meal with protein and some carbs for me on run days, and a little bit of coffee. Thanks for the tips!

  14. Nice post! Post long run my digestion always seems run just a bit too smoothly if you know what I’m saying. I find that not having anything heavy before the run (including the day before) usually helps.

  15. Really nice posts.
    I had to cut my orange juice every morning because it was killing my afternoon workouts.
    I have to be extra careful of what I eat before a race, otherwise I’m miserable. Crackers and bananas 4 hours before a long run/race do it for me.

  16. Great post! I think anytime I have stomach issues it’s down to hydration. I live at elevation in a dry dry place so need to drink a ton of water in the days leading up to a long run/race or I will have a bad time.

  17. Great post! Definitely an issue that I’ve experienced before and you provided some great tips for getting over it / preventing it. My best friend in the mornings now is my NutriBullet! I drink a blast in the AM before a run and feel great! I do stay away from putting too much citrus fruit in my blast before the run, but greens, beets, bananas, apples, berries, etc. all work well!

  18. Thanks so much for posting this! I know after my first marathon I had stomach issues so this really hit home for me!

  19. Hydration… Why is it so hard to remember to drink a glass of water a few times a day? Lol. Good reminder. I’ll fill up my glass now. Bananas are my pre-run friends 🙂

    • I have learned over the years to drink throughout the day. But it took some misses to learn my lesson. Bananas seem to be the one good thing most of us can handle. Thank goodness!

  20. Whenever someone mentions hydration, I always nod knowingly- it’s probably the most important thing to do as a runner that I always forget. These are great tips!

  21. Pingback: Not sure I’d call it “sweet,” but it was 16! | Despite My Pancreas...

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