Fermentable carbohydrates and stomach problems in runners

Many runners experience gastrointestinal problems during training and competition. However, it is awkward to talk about it in company, which is why few people admit to flatulence, diarrhea or constipation. At the same time, few of us pay attention to what we consume – we know, loading with carbon before the competition, a carbohydrate window after the competition, and during – isotonic drinks and gels. Meanwhile, some carbohydrates that are supposed to provide us with an energy boost may also cause us problems that we will not be happy to talk about at the finish line. In 2005, they were isolated by scientists from Monash University due to a common feature – instead of absorbing them in their entirety, our intestinal microbes begin to ferment them.

What are saccharides?

As an introduction, let me explain – carbohydrates are also known as sugars or saccharides. We divide them into four categories:

1. monosaccharides (simple sugars) – single molecules that do not break down into smaller ones. These include, among others: glucose, fructose, galactose,

2. disacharydy (disaccharides) – are formed as a result of the combination of two monosaccharides (the same or different molecules) with the simultaneous removal of a water molecule from the resulting disaccharide and the formation of glycosidic bond. For example, it is formed from glucose and galactose lactose (milk sugar), in turn, is formed from glucose and fructose sucrose (table sugar),

3. oligosacharydy – consist of many simple sugar molecules. For example, glucose, fructose and galactose form raffinose, which is found in sugar beets and soybeans,

4. polysaccharides (polysaccharides, complex sugars) – they occur in the form of chains made of many simple sugar molecules connected by glycosidic bonds. It belongs to this category starch, cellulose, or glycogenwhich we accumulate in the liver and muscles.

Speaking of sugars, it’s also worth mentioning poliolach. These are semi-synthetic sweeteners, which include: xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol or erythritol. They are practically indigestible in the human body. In the so-called diet Western diet, on average, as much as 40 g of carbohydrates enter the intestine undigested. Those that are only partially absorbed in the intestines undergo fermentation.

Sweeteners may cause gastrointestinal problems
Sweeteners may cause gastrointestinal problems.

Fermentable saccharides

And it is the polyols that ferment, but also certain disaccharides, oligosaccharides and monosaccharides that also ferment, that are collectively referred to as FODMAP (from English: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols). FODMAPs pass unchanged, practically undigested into the small intestine. They are characterized by high osmoticity, which leads to an increase in the liquid content of the intestines and stretching of its walls, which is often felt as “overflowing”. Excess water also goes to the large intestine and can cause diarrhea. Additionally, when FODMAPs reach the large intestine, they are fermented by intestinal bacteria, producing gases (carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane) and thus causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating or constipation. For many people, symptoms after consuming FODMAPs go beyond gastrointestinal symptoms.

Foods that contain a lot of FODMAPs include:

1. fruit – apples and their products, pears, plums, cherries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, mango, watermelon, dried fruits,

2. vegetables – onion, garlic, leek, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, asparagus, green peas, cabbage, corn, legumes (soy and soy milk, beans, lentils, broad beans, chickpeas),

3. dairy products (from cow’s and goat’s milk) – milk, cottage cheese, yogurts, kefir, buttermilk, cream, ice cream, cheese, halloumi cheese, mascarpone,

4. cereal products – flour, bread, cereals, groats, pasta made from wheat, barley and rye,

5. other – sweeteners, candy, honey, agave syrup, corn syrup, chewing gum, beer, wine, cashews, pistachios, most mushrooms, coffee, all carbonated drinks.

Why is calorie, calorie not equal?

Which carbohydrates are censored? Source: https://testosterone.pl/Wiedzy/fodmap-prewencja-przy-problemach-zoladkowo-jelitowych/

However, those low in FODMAPs are: oranges, lemon, tangerine, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blueberries, kiwi, melon, pineapple, cheddar cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, camembert, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, eggs, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, quinoa, tofu, stevia, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, macadamia, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, unprocessed meats, fish and seafood.

Pizza on censored

For most people, fermentable carbohydrates don’t bother them at all, in fact they do an important element for a healthy digestive system. However, for some people, their consumption may cause bloating and abdominal pain. This applies to people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome (SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), Crohn’s disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS – Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity). For these people, following a low FODMAP diet reduces or completely eliminates digestive system problems.

Is loading carbohydrates before a competition a good idea?
Is loading carbohydrates before a competition a good idea?

But digestive problems are also common among athletes. In a study conducted among marathon runners, ultramarathon runners and triathletes, as many as 9.8% were diagnosed with IBS or all symptoms resembling IBS, such as diarrhea, flatulence, and abdominal pain. However, up to 50% of runners experience milder or less frequent digestive system problems. According to a 2017 study, 84% of male runners and 78% of female runners experience at least one stomach symptom each month.

We often think that the ailments we experience are the result of intense exercise, because blood is diverted from the digestive tract towards the muscles, but in fact it is a combination of not only physiological, but also psychological and nutritional problems. Some gastrointestinal symptoms may be mild, but severe symptoms may impair training ability and performance.

Many people experience stomach problems during training and competition
Many people experience stomach problems during training and competition

Meanwhile, over 65% of athletes before the competition eats dinner and breakfast rich in FODMAPs, often as part of a conscious nutritional strategy (carb loading). A dietary survey conducted among cyclists showed that as many as 89% of participants consumed pasta, pizza or both in the 3 days before the cycling race. The same was true for many high-FODMAP breakfast foods, including wheat-based toast. Bananas were also a common breakfast food, which can be high in fructans depending on size and ripeness.

Additionally, most gels for athletes and carbohydrate sports drinks consumed during competitions (some in one portion, others in several servings) should be classified as FODMAPs, while as many as 36.5% of runners rely on food and drinks provided by race organizers. completely regardless of what they will eat during the competition.

Pizza before the start?  Not necessarily
Pizza before the start? Not necessarily

Low FODMAP in sports

Dietitians and athletes use various nutritional strategies to reduce exercise-related gastrointestinal discomfort, including limiting dietary fiber, lactose and gluten, and some “train” the intestines to tolerate higher carbohydrate loads. However, recent research has determined that it is It is a diet low in FODMAP products that alleviates gastrointestinal symptoms in athletes, even if used 24 hours before the competition.

In one study conducted among recreational runners, as many as 82% of them reported a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms on a low-FODMAP diet. It is even indicated that the improvement of gastric symptoms associated with the elimination of gluten may in fact be the result of the reduction in FODMAP content, which usually accompanies a gluten-free diet, and not necessarily the elimination of gluten itself (NCGS patients did not report a recurrence of symptoms after introducing gluten into the diet, if they remained on the diet at the same time). FODMAP-restricted diet).

Carbohydrate drinks may worsen stomach problems
Carbohydrate drinks may worsen stomach problems

Do I have to be on a diet again?

How to follow a low FODMAP diet? For conditions like IBS and SIBO, you first stop eating all FODMAP-rich foods for about two to six weeks, then slowly reintroduce them (one FODMAP-rich food every 3 days) to see which ones make you feel better. most problems and then only these products can be completely excluded or limited, enjoying everything else and at the same time avoiding painful bloating, constipation or abdominal pain. The goal of the low FODMAP diet is not to completely remove foods high in FODMAP, but only to remove those that cause unwanted symptoms. The low FODMAP diet is treated as a temporary eating plan, which is very restrictive and, like any restrictive diet, cannot be used for a long time.

In the case of athletes, this may involve: avoiding foods high in FODMAPs during more sensitive times of the year when you are training and competing. Such a diet can also be beneficial immediately before an important event to prevent unpleasant surprises during the race.

You don't have to be on a diet your whole life, just limit certain products before competition or training
You don’t have to be on a diet your whole life, just limit certain products before competition or training

However, it is worth realizing that products rich in FODMAPs are important components of the diet offering a beneficial effect on the population of microorganisms present in the intestines, increasing the absorption of microelements and improving the functioning of the immune system, therefore it is not recommended to limit them unnecessarily. Healthy people, without symptoms typical of people with IBS, will not benefit from limiting their FODMAP intake.


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