Reducing Stomach Issues on Morning Runs

Dear Running Profs,

I’ve just started a new job which means that if I want to do any running it’s going to have to be done early morning.

I love smoothies (usually milk, banana, berries, almonds and spinach) as I don;t really have a taste for solid food first thing in the morning but when I try to run after having my breakfast smoothie I find that I have toilet ‘issues’ early on in the run. Are there any changes that I can make to my smoothie to prevent this? Or do I have to look for other breakfast options?

Janet, via email

Ah yes, the morning run – figuring out what works for you before a morning run is as tricky and personalised as figuring out your race nutritional strategy.

Some runners find that they can eat a huge bowl of cereal and feel fine running just 30 minutes late while others struggle if they eat anything two hours before a run.

Working out what your tummy can tolerate so that you have the chance to maximise your running performance and minimise any gastric upset, bloating or feelings of heaviness. Smoothies are a great way to get a balance of carbs, protein, fiber and healthy fats in one quick and easy blitz – yet pre-run we don’t necessarily want or need the same as when we’re just heading to work!

Many of the ingredients in your smoothie could cause gastric problems if consumed too soon before a run – protein, fat, fiber and dairy products all increase gastric symptoms during exercise. Although the smoothie is not particularly high in fat, the combination of fruit, nuts and spinach will mean it’s high in fiber and with the addition of milk, it’s going to increase gut problems. As well as this, having a large amount of liquid sloshing about in the stomach can also trigger the relaxation of sphincters in the digestive system which is certainly not what you want when running.

If you really can’t stomach a more solid breakfast then how about:

Switching to non-dairy milk such as oat, rice or almond milk.
Use just one fruit or vegetable – perhaps just stick to using bananas as they are most easily digested.
Add sweetness and some more carbs for energy with a teaspoon of honey.
Add flavour without irritating the gut with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Reduce the quantity of liquid
Avoid nuts, leafy veg and fibrous fruits like pears, apples and raspberries.