Another question that always comes up has to do with what to do when we experience GI (Gastrointestinal distress) during races and long workouts (that includes bloating and feeling that the food and or supplement used is being poorly digested). First of all we need to take account for a few factors;
1) The reduced blood flow to the intestines as it gets concentrated towards the working muscles.
2) Rise in body temperature.
3) Presence of local irritants on the GI mucosa such as high osmolarity supplements, food intolerances, viruses, use of NASAIDS (a category of anti inflammatory drugs). All of these factors just described can weaken the intestinal membrane. A condition also known to the public as “leaky gut”- which, in turn, can impair performance and recovery. When talking about supplement osmolarity, one means it’s density (it doesn’t need to be dense with just glucose, it can be dense with other molecules). As water flows from less concentrated to more concentrated gradients, it may make the hydration process more difficult if the supplement ingested has a higher osmolarity than the blood. In relation to food intolerances, one good example would be about someone intolerant to corn. This person might not feel well when consuming corn based liquid and gel supplements made from maltodextrin.
The local inflammation caused by food intolerances may cause vasodilation and, in turn, may make it harder to hydrate and properly absorb crucial nutrients for recovery.
Are Solid Foods an Alternative?
Solid foods usually take longer to digest as it gets liquefied before it leaves the stomach. There are pros and cons. One of the cons is that it gets more difficult to get as much carbohydrate as the liquid and or gel like supplements but, on the other hand, as it empties the stomach at a slower rate, it doesn’t overwhelm the small intestine with a high number of concentrated mass of partially digested food and high density liquids (as said before, water tend to flow towards the more concentrated gradients therefore causing bloating and GI distress).
The slower emptying rate gives the small intestine a way to keep up with the nutrient transport which also help to have sustainable energy. The hydration process gets easier. Example: As you eat during a long workout or race, the water will get absorbed at a faster rate than food. On the other hand, athletes do need energy sources that pass the stomach as quickly as possible. The ideal concentration rate should be about 4-5%.
Here are a few recommendations;
1) You should always try your plan during practice before you attempt to use at a race.
2) Short, intense races and workouts demand a rapid energy absorption/ supplementation (as long as it’s not too concentrated so not to cause dehydration and GI distress).
3) Longer workouts and races need more time released energy. Most likely a solid snack will help.
4) It’s always important to keep a weight log from before/after practice so your health care practitioner can propose an individual hydration an energy plan for you. The same hold true as far as getting a support from a physician so he/she can check your overall health and certain hormones related to water retention.
5) Be on the lookout for possible food intolerances. They can affect how you feel during practice/races and also recovery from workouts as constant inflammation may impair nutrient intake and fluid retention.
Think that it might be beneficial to eventually have a hybrid combination of solid foods with liquids/gels. Always seek the advice of a trained health care professional for an individual practice/race nutritional plan.