Tips for the low FODMAP Athlete

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As a FODMAP sensitive runner, I know that food choice can make a big difference in your running experience.  Adequate and healthy fueling is important for the endurance athlete. When intolerant to FODMAPs, diet for the serious athlete can be a bit challenging as many commercially available or commonly recommended re-fueling options contain FODMAPs. Having a calm and satisfied belly allows the athlete to focus on the activity at hand rather than a focus on their unpredictable gut.running shoesWith the Boston Marathon under a week away, I thought I would delve into this subject with the help of 2 of my colleagues who are both athletes and dietitians. Internationally known, sport nutrition guru, Nancy Clark (Boston Red Sox Team nutritionist) shares her thoughts on the re-fueling needs of athletes, “Athletes who workout for longer than 60 to 90 minutes will perform better if they fuel up, fuel during and then refuel after they exercise. They want to practice fueling during training sessions, to learn what foods work—and what foods do not settle well.”

Here’s Nancy’s tips with my added FODMAP oriented commentary in bolded font.

  • One to two hours pre-exercise: have a small meal or snack, 200 to 400 calories, more or less, as tolerated. Grains, fruits and starchy vegetables are good sources of carbohydrate—the fuel your muscles use for energy. You can also include a little protein for satiety, such as hard boiled egg, peanut butter, or lowfat cheese. {FODMAPers:  Swiss, Parmesan, Provolone and Cheddar are great low lactose cheese options.}
  • During extended exercise, you want to target about 200 to 300 calories per hour to both fuel your muscles and feed your brain. Start fueling after the first hour (which gets covered by the pre-exercise snack). Some popular carb-based options include: gummy bears, gels, chomps, sports drinks, dried pineapple, maple sugar candy, and bananas. {FODMAPers: Try maple sugar candy, bananas, Gatorade made with sugar, Gu chomps avoid sports drinks or gels made with fructose, honey, high FODMAP fruits or high fructose corn syrup.) 
  • After extended exercise, the sooner you refuel, the sooner you’ll feel better! You want to consume carbs to refuel depleted glycogen stores and protein to repair damaged muscles. Popular choices include chocolate milk {FODMAPers use lactose free milk} or fruit smoothies (made with Greek yogurt) {FODMAPers use Greek yogurt per tolerance or try lactose free yogurt and limit to 1 cup or 1 serving of low FODMAP fruit in smoothie}.
  • Or, more easily, just back your workout into a meal and enjoy a nice breakfast (oatmeal + banana + peanut butter + lactose free milk)  or dinner (chicken + rice +  low FODMAP vegetables).

Niki Strealy, dietitian, author of The Diarrhea Dietitian, and marathoner (She’s running Boston Marathon this year!!) has the following rule: “No New is Good New.” Don’t try anything new! That applies to shoes, socks, clothes, and race fuel! I will bring foods I know my body tolerates to eat the day before, the morning of the race, and as my fuel while on the course. My tummy does not need surprises on race day. niki half1 Niki shares the FODMAP-friendly recipe she’s using for breakfast this week:

Niki fuels her runs with Infinit drink mixes. These appear suitable for the low FODMAP athlete.  Learn more about these powdered electrolyte-rich drink mixes here.  Per the manufacturer the Infinit drink mixes are made with lactose free* whey protein  and all their drink mixes are gluten free. *May contain .001% lactose–which is very very low!!

Although carb loading can be a be difficult on a low FODMAP diet, it is possible to minimize FODMAPs while carb loading for an endurance event.  Although it is recommended to consume about 3-4 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight for a day or two prior to your event, do your best to up your carbs to your body’s tolerated limit.  High carb low FODMAP food choices to help maximize your carb stores pre-event include: Oatmeal, gluten free/low FODMAP breads, cranberry juice (avoid those made with apple juice or high fructose corn syrup), baked potatoes, rice, bananas, lactose free milk, lactose free yogurt and other low FODMAP fruits. Drizzling pure maple syrup or maple sugar over your oats and yogurt is a simple way to boost carbs. But… don’t forget to keep your plate well-balanced with nutrients from all food groups for good nutrition.  Here’s a simple handout to help you plan a low FODMAP nourishing meal. And remember to taper down your exercise pre-event to keep your muscles fueled and ready for your big event!

For other re-fueling commercial options, check out my Pinterest board for the FODMAP runner here.

My best to all upcoming Boston Marathoners…may you enjoy your run, soak in the glory of your accomplishment and enjoy the city I am proud to call home.  #BostonStrong.

June 8th Addendum:  Monash University researchers discuss how low FODMAP diet for 3 days prior to endurance event may decrease risk of runner’s trots.  For more on this, click here!

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