Stomach pain when running: causes and prevention

Stomach pain when running: causes and prevention

As this happens, the body also moves up and down as we continue to run. This movement contributes to feeling like we need to use the bathroom, as waste material is pushed around the intestines and stomach acid overflows.

In addition, running causes the release of hormones such as cortisol These hormones can feel good when they hit, causing the familiar euphoria that runners know as a “runner’s high.” But they can also affect the digestive system and increase the confusion the body feels during an endurance activity like running.

Stomach ache or runner’s belly is common, especially among distance runners. Researchers estimate that 30 to 90 percent of runners and endurance athletes experience gastrointestinal symptoms during training and racing.

Is it dangerous to have diarrhea when running?

Symptoms of runner’s diarrhea will usually start during training and can continue for hours after you’ve finished running. Runner’s Diarrhea should not last more than 24 hours. If we have diarrhea while running and the loose bowel movements do not stop, it may be a sign of another medical condition.

In the two hours before the start of the race, it is recommended to avoid eating anything other than a quick energy-boosting snack, such as whole-grain toast or a banana. We will avoid caffeine of any kind in the period of time immediately before running, as it works as a diuretic. If we tend to get runner’s diarrhea, we’ll try to cut back on artificial sweeteners, sugars, and alcohol the night before the race.

Above all, be careful with packets of energy gel and supplements that are supposed to provide easy, portable “fuel” during a run. Many contain artificial sweeteners and preservatives that can cause diarrhea. Above all, we will always stay hydrated before, during and after running.


There is no cure for stomach pain and cramps when running, but there are several preventative steps you can take to try to minimize symptoms.


A change in diet can improve performance while running. It can also lead to less stomach pain during training and racing.

A diet low in certain sugars and carbohydrates, also called low FODMAP diet , has been shown to have a positive effect on gastrointestinal tract problems during exercise. A low-FODMAP diet avoids wheat and dairy products, as well as artificial sweeteners, honey, and many fruits and vegetables.

We can also take into account when we consume food and drinks. Eating and drinking just before exercising can cause severe abdominal pain during exercise.


A healthy gut and regular bowel movements may mean you experience less stomach pain during resistance exercises. Taking probiotic supplements can help strengthen your gut and make you less likely to go to the bathroom during training.

Just four weeks of probiotic supplementation helps improve runners’ endurance and digestion when running in hot temperatures. Probiotics have been shown to help decrease gastrointestinal symptoms in runners during a marathon.


Cramps, nausea and cramps in the abdomen when running can be the result of inadequate hydration. Hydration before and during a long run is important, but figuring it out can be tricky.

Drinking too much water could make cramps and digestive irritation worse. The safest bet is to develop the habit of drinking enough water regularly and using electrolyte-infused beverages just before and after running.


Even elite athletes who run multiple marathons each year experience a runner’s belly from time to time. Finding a routine that works for our system and sticking to it on training and race days can make stomach cramps less of an obstacle. It may take a bit of experimentation to get it right, but once you find what works, we’ll stick with it.

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Anecdotally, many runners rely on having a solid pre-race routine that involves the same pre-race snack and the same recovery foods after each event.

runner with diarrhea

Tips to avoid it

There is nothing worse than a stomach cramp while running. Whether you have a side stitch (side cramps) or feel the urge to run to the nearest portable toilet, stomach issues can really get in the way of running form.

Practice fueling

When training for a long-distance race, we will spend hours running each week to gradually build muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance. However, just like we train our legs for those long runs, we also need to train our gut.

Newer athletes skip fueling during training, but try to use a sports drink or energy gel during his first long run. The result is the appearance of stomach cramps, thanks to a belly that has never practiced fuel processing in such circumstances.

Fortunately, the fix for this is easy. We will simply practice the feeding strategy during training. This will help the stomach process fuel under conditions of decreased digestive blood flow along with the pushing motion of running.

Do not eat in excess

It can be difficult to determine the correct amount of fuel to consume during a long race. But it is recommended to try to replace every calorie that we burn. Instead, we’ll aim to eat around 30-60 grams of carbs (around 120-240 calories) per hour in races longer than an hour and 15 minutes.

If you’re training for a long-duration triathlon or ultramarathon, you can increase that range to 30 to 90 grams of carbs per hour. As we begin to experiment with fueling, we will start at the lower end of this range. If we feel like we need more energy, we can gradually work our way up to the top end of the range on subsequent runs and see how the stomach tolerates it.

minimize fiber

Fiber is key to digestive health every day as it helps bulk up your stool and prevents constipation. However, before heading out for a run, the last thing we want is a belly full of fiber that can lead to cramps and an urgent need to go to the bathroom.

Different people can tolerate different amounts of fiber in a pre-exercise meal. And if we’re used to it, a moderate fiber meal can help keep us well before a race.

For example, if we eat a bowl of oatmeal every morning and we know it will help us empty our bowels, we will do what works for us. But if we get stomach cramps or diarrhea during training, we’ll take a look at our pre-race meal and consider cutting back on fiber.

Wait to digest

Most experts recommend eating a meal one to four hours before running, although this is highly individualized. Some runners have iron stomachs that allow them to eat a hamburger 30 minutes before running, while others may need two hours to process a small sandwich and some fruit to avoid stomach pain.

If we normally experience stomach cramps when we run, we will try to eat a few three or four hours before of the training session or event. Allowing more time between eating and running gives you more flexibility for the type and amount of food, since the body has plenty of time to digest.