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How to Effectively Train The Gut for Race Day

Gut issues are rampant through endurance running & cycling, triathlon, and even intense team sports. Everyone seems to have their own memorable experience with needing to find a toilet quick smart. But experiences like these don’t have to be your athlete’s normal. Endurance athletes can have happy guts! You can help your athletes push themselves to higher intensities without the fear of keeling over in pain (unless it’s the good kind of pain like they just finished their last hill repeat).

Even if your athletes aren’t experiencing gut troubles, gut training can help them get more from their sessions because they can absorb more energy!

Training the gut is just one of many possible solutions to your athlete’s gut troubles, so let’s get into it.

What Causes Gut Issues During Training?

The answer isn’t always clear, but there are 3 main factors that might impact your guts.

The 3 main reasons for gut issues during exercise. Physiological (reduces blood flow to the gut), mecahnical (bouncing effect of running) or nutritional

By training the gut, we get to address some of the physiological reasons for gut troubles during your training.

When athletes eat carbohydrates during training, they have to be absorbed from the stomach and into their circulation so they can actually be used for energy. The infographic below shows how we need transporters to do this.

Carbohydrate absorption during exercise is due to transporters. Transporters move carbohydrate from the stomach, into the blood stream to be used for energy.If a large amount of CHO is consumed when an athlete’s gut is untrained, there are not enough transporters to absorb all the CHO. So the unabsorbed amount is left sitting in the gut, causing discomfort & upset.

This also means your athletes are literally not getting all the energy they possibly could from their fuel! So they’re more likely to be fatigued even if they’re eating the recommended amount of carbohydrates.

Why Should You Train Your Athlete’s Gut?

Training the gut has some pretty phenomenal outcomes in reducing gut symptoms, but also in improving performance. An increased capacity to absorb carbohydrates can lead to less fatigue and more energy throughout your training and event. So gut training is something they could benefit from even if they are not experiencing gut symptoms.

Outcomes of training your gut include improved performance and reduced gut upset due to better absoprtion of carbohydrateSo How Do You Train The Gut?

There is actually a whole range of ways to train the gut in the lead-up to an event. And don’t worry if you feel like you’re clients have left the event prep too late! You actually only need a minimum of 10 days to train the gut. But in an ideal world, you have 2+ weeks of training at an intensity similar to race day. But we all know, the ideal world is very rare in the world of sports nutrition.

We recommend trialing a few methods of training the gut, and even a few at once.

For instance, you can be increasing the carb content of your athlete’s overall diet while also simulating their race day plan and assisting them with eating high carbohydrate amounts during training.

Increasing the carbohydrate content of their overall diet is particularly important if they naturally eat a relatively low carbohydrate diet day to day.

There Are Many Other Reasons For Gut Issues

Training the gut won’t solve everything (unfortunately) but it can be a good step in the right direction.

The good news is that we have an entire course dedicated to assisting athletes with gut issues.

Join Compeat Academy