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Solving GI Issues for Athletes: FODMAPs

Posted by Field Work Nutrition Co. on
Solving GI Issues for Athletes: FODMAPs

Triathlon coach and nutrition expert Jesse Kropelnicki breaks down how to properly fuel for competition, and explores the topic of FODMAPs, a special group of nutrients that may be causing you GI distress on competition day.  Read below and take the 30 or so minutes to watch his webinar to learn how to overcome your race day fueling issues!


Do you experience GI distress on competition or race day?  Many (read: most) athletes do to some extent.  There are quite a few reasons that this is the case, first and foremost is probably nerves, especially true in the hours leading up to your event.  But some athletes experience an extraordinary amount of GI distress on race day, which can even be completely debilitating or race-ending.  

Ok, so here is the disclaimer: before jumping to the assumption that FODMAPs, which are relatively niche and affect a small number of athletes, are indeed your problem, you need to make sure the rest of your nutrition, including day to day fueling, fueling during training, and your overall race fueling plan are completely buttoned up!  If you have full confidence in all of this and STILL experience GI issues during racing and many training sessions, FODMAPs may be your answer.  (Note: in the following webinar, Jesse strongly reinforces this point and takes time to cover off on basic nutrition and fueling tenants before getting into FODMAPs).

We all know that the nutrition world, and performance sports world, can be fairly alarmist!  Let's not jump to the conclusion that FODMAPs are causing GI distress, making them the new villainous buzzword, before examining the many other things that could be causing you proper fueling, proper sodium intake, keeping fats and fiber low, not subscribing to ridiculous miracle fueling magic bullets (we've heard them all!), practicing your race day nutrition during EVERY workout to train your gut, not trying new things on race get the picture!

If you are a regular reader of the Field Blog, you may remember back to the Wattie Ink article with professional triathlete Rachel McBride, and how she has used our Primo Smoothie along with some strict dietary regulations, including the elimination of FODMAPs, to overcome her race day GI issues.

So what are FODMAPs?  FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:

Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols

Simply put, these are short-chain carbohydrates that the body does not absorb well, which in turn can lead to GI distress.  Many foods are rich in FODMAPs, and if you THINK they may be causing you problems, the idea is to eliminate them from your diet, slowly reintroducing them one by one until you are able to identify which, if any, are in fact causing your GI distress.  It's science, people!

The most common FODMAPs are 

Fructose: the sugar in fruits and vegetables

Lactose: the sugar found in dairy products

Fructans: carbohydrate found mostly in grains

Galactans: complex carbohydrate in legumes

Polyols: sugar alcohols found in sugar-free mints, gums, and dried fruits

Which can be found in high concentration in the following foods:

Fruits: apples, pears, peaches, mango, watermelon, apricots, cherries, nectarines, plus, blackberries, dried and canned fruit

Veggies: artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, garlic, leeks, okra, onions, peas, shallots, sugar snap peas, avocado, cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas

Grains & Legumes: wheat, rye, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soy beans, butter beans, cashews, pistachios

Dairy: cow, goat, and sheeps milk, ice cream, yogurt, soft cheeses, buttermilk, cream

Sweeteners: fructose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, xylitol, mannitol, malitol, sorbitol

Beverages: alcohol, coconut water, fruit juice, Kombucha, soda, soy milk, sports drinks, herbal teas

Again, the key thing to remember here is that FODMAPs affect a pretty small percentage of athletes (less than about 1%), while GI distress is pretty common...which means if you are experiencing GI distress, it is likely being caused by some other weak link in your nutrition and fueling lock that down FIRST!

But...if you feel that you have literally tried everything, and are still wracking your brain on how to get to the finish line (or through a long run) without making it a tour de porta potty...consider looking more extensively into FODMAPs, what they are, how to experiment with sensitivity, and how to avoid them so you can race with a happy gut and put up the results you deserve!

A great place to start is with Jesse's will be approximately 37 minutes well spent, no matter how locked in you think your nutrition and fueling may already be!


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