Nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps during exercise can be largely attributed to gastric emptying syndrome. During periods of physical performance, the heart, lungs and muscular system demand up to 80% of the blood flow to ensure optimal oxygen delivery to working tissues. This results in limited effort being made available to the digestion of the food or fluid from the stomach.
Most of the time, anything that is consumed will be emptied from the stomach largely undigested which leads to the abdominal cramps and nausea. The ingestion of fat, fibre or protein are most likely to cause gastric discomfort followed by liquids that contain these compounds. This basically means that any drink high in carbohydrates/electrolytes/sugar could also create gastric discomfort.
Avoiding the nausea and cramps is fairly easy. No protein or fatty foods should be eaten during an event. Stick to basic carbs and easy to eat foods. One bite at a time. Consuming too much will also cause the exact same symptoms and it will be a waste as your body won’t be able to convert the food into energy before you have finished the event (however long it may be). Choose lower sugar drinks that do not over-exaggerate the carbohydrate content. Something with a combination of glucose and fructose is a wise choice. And finally, don’t be a typical endurance athlete, eating and drinking to hunger and thirst are super important. Loading the body with nutrition ‘just in case’ is the very worst thing you can do. Your brain is well developed and you will be signalled by this little computer to eat and drink. Guzzling up ‘’fuel’’ to try and avoid crashing will not help you. The body has four internal stores of energy – the blood, muscles, liver and fat. If you have trained and recovered in the right ratio then these four sources will provide you with enough energy to get you through an event.
Taking in fluid is more about replacing the liquid lost to sweating, and to support temperature control. True dehydration is very unlikely in any event, despite what the officials say. You would need to lose 8-15% of your body mass for there to be a true concern of dehydration. Guidelines are unique to the individual and vary quite a bit depending on level of performance and tolerability but drinking to thirst is the best advice. Making sure you drinking the right fluids will ensure you perform optimally.
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