Last week, we found that higher carbohydrate intakes (90-120g/hour) during ultra-endurance exercise are beneficial for optimising performance and recovery.
This however is only beneficial if the gut can tolerate this quantity of carbohydrates during exercise.
It’s been very well established that high amounts of carbs and fluid during exercise can cause gastrointestinal distress (GI) and subsequently ruin performance.
The good news is that the GI tract is highly adaptable through changes in the diet, and can therefore be trained to tolerate higher carb intakes – meaning that GI symptoms (bloating, cramping, diarrhoea, and vomiting) decrease.
i.e. the feeling of ‘I need to shit myself’ should be a thing of the past.
Carbohydrates can be absorbed via two transporters in the gut (SGLT1 and GLUT5) – see these as doors that allow the passage of carbs from the gut into circulation.
If we have too many carbohydrates per hour of exercise, these transporters (doors) become saturated and you get a bottle neck situation in the gut – Carbs begin to pool and you get the feeling of fullness and additional discomfort.
The good news is that we can increase the number of gut transporters (doors) within 3 days-2 weeks on a high carb diet – again, the gut is highly adaptable to diet.
The goal of ‘training the gut’ is to improve rates of gastric emptying, perception of fullness (bloating), tolerance to larger volumes and increase speed of absorption.
This can be achieved through ‘training the gut’ in the follows ways (Jeukendrup, 2017):
– Training with relatively large volumes of fluid to ‘train the stomach’.
– Training immediately after a meal.
– Train with a relatively high carb intake.
– Simulate a race day plan in training.
– Increase carb content of the diet.
Long story short, if you need to consume higher amounts of carbs and fluids during competition – perhaps start training under these conditions so your gut can adapt to the nutritional stimuli.
In return, we’ll have increased delivery of carbs to the muscle, reduced gut issues and most importantly, improved performances.
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