You’re not alone if you worry about potty breaks while running. In a recent poll of runners, 59 percent cited needing to take care of business in the bathroom as the biggest prerace stressor. And with good reason: During hard effort, your system prioritizes blood flow toward your muscles and moves blood away from your GI tract. This means your digestive tract will have a tougher time handling fluids and fuel. To avoid sprints to the potty, try these tips.
- Be a GI detective. As you’re training, take note of when GI distress occurs. After you observe a pattern, you can change your eating habits.
- Eat proven winners. Stick with tried-and-true foods the day before and the morning of an event or a run in an unfamiliar place. Feeling queasy? Prerace or travel anxiety can cause GI issues, so avoid fiber, which can make it worse. If you’re racing, aim for your big prerace meal at lunch the day before. You can still carbo-load at the prerace pasta dinner, though. But opt for a dish smaller in volume, rich in carbohydrates, yet bland.
- Go small. Your stomach may better tolerate small amounts of fuel, such as one energy chew, rather than a larger energy gel. Try to take in smaller meals while still meeting your carb needs by fueling early and often.
- Drink early. Being hydrated is key, especially for longer races, so up your fluid intake the week before an event. Hydration also helps fuel to be absorbed by your body instead of dumped through your system. Drink a glass of water when you wake up and quit sipping a half hour before you run, so there’s time for a final pit stop.