I’m often asked how to avoid a sick stomach during ultraruns and adventure races. Here are some thoughts.
I don’t know of anything that will magically eliminate that “sick stomach feeling” when you’re out there pushing your limits. But people often get nauseous because most of the blood is being sent to hard-working muscles, with very little sent to the stomach to aid with digestion. Adequate hydration and electrolyte (including salt – I always use Sustain tablets, which you can order online from Zee Medical) intake will help to eliminate hydration issues that contribute to the problem. Digestive aids, like Pepto-Bismol, can coat the stomach, but are unlikely to help, as it’s doubtful that acid is the cause of your sick stomach.
The best cure is prevention. Eat a good, high-carbohydrate meal at least 2 hours prior to your race so you have calories to burn early on. Eat small amounts of food – often – as you race so you don’t go low on blood sugar. If you experience early signs of nausea, that’s the time to eat and drink, despite not wanting to. Use foods that are high in calories—simple sugar works well for me, like candy (especially chocolate). A liquid diet, if available, is easier to digest and will give you needed calories, keep your blood glucose level stable, and help with hydration. My favorites are Muscle Milk (vanilla or chocolate powder, mixed with whole milk) or Ensure. Most important, remember to drink, drink, drink … and replace electrolytes!
Sometimes, despite all that we do to try to prevent it, we will throw up during an event. As my wife says, yes, it’s a “glamorous” sport. If you do get sick, back off some and drink plain water for awhile. Be sure to take electrolyte tablets as soon as you can tolerate them. Then, slowly add in bland food, like crackers. Your body will recover with time and the right care.
Even if you feel sick, or even actually throw up, stick with it. You can put your dreams in action, and discover what you’re made of … it’s more than you think!
Note: I am not sponsored by Sustain, Zee Medical, Muscle Milk, or Ensure; nor do I gain financially if you find that these products work for you, and you decide to make a purchase. I recommend these products because I’ve found that they work incredibly well for me, and may for you, too.