[Editor's note: This article comes courtesy from our friends at UCAN. Check out the information at the bottom of the page for more details on what makes UCAN nutrition products unique, as well as an exclusive offer for members of the #feltfamily.]
By Matt Bach
“I just can’t do it.” That’s what I said to myself at seven miles into the run leg at Kona, my fourth IRONMAN triathlon. I was three bottles of sugary sports drink down, and six gels deep. The first gel went down easily, but even the thought of something sugary was making me sick, and I’d already stopped at two porta-potties on the run. “What do I do!?” I couldn’t stop taking in fuel or I’d bonk and join the IRONMAN death march. But I couldn’t take in any more nutrition because my stomach hurt and it’d probably just come back up anyway.
Sound familiar? This all-too-common dilemma is experienced by somewhere between 30% and 90% of triathletes (depending on the study’s methodology) during their races, and often during longer training sessions. But the good news is that GI (gastrointestinal) distress can be a thing of the past.
After three years in the sport, I had tried nearly every sports nutrition product out there, and failed to meet my potential at my first four IRONMAN events due to nutritional issues. I was fed up. So I reached out to a sports nutritionist in 2014, hoping to get these issues nailed down for good. She worked with me on daily diet adjustments, a different carb source, and designed a new race nutrition plan for me. Three months later, I put my new nutrition plan to the test at IRONMAN Maryland, and for the first time ever in an Iron-distance event, I had zero GI distress and zero bonking issues. I was able to run strong the whole way, like I knew I could: 20 minutes faster than I ever had off-the-bike, running 3:00. I had a 51-minute PR for a total time of 8 hours 51 minutes, and I won the race.
Part of your training should be determining what nutrition products work best for you. So make sure you're dialing in your hydration and nutrition plan during your training rides and other workouts—never try out any new nutrition products on race day.
When I had this nutritional breakthrough, I was not aware why it worked, simply that it did. I wondered if it was just in my head or maybe I got lucky, but over the coming months and experiencing several more GI distress-free races, I came to understand the science behind GI distress. Let’s explore some of what we know about GI distress, and why it happens.
Author Matt Bach in competition.
Finding a nutritional solution that addresses these points is the key to becoming what one might call “GI Blissed”—when one no longer has to worry about GI issues, your triathlon becomes a blissful experience. Imagine not having to go to the bathroom at the most inopportune times. Imagine never having pain in your stomach during a 9-15 hour period of intense physical activity, when you previously knew it was coming, always dreading just when that moment would be. What a monumental change, and what an extraordinary feeling, to not have that worry.
Here are three key recommendations to help you prevent GI issues:
While I can’t promise you will win an IRONMAN by heeding this advice, you are now armed with the knowledge of why GI distress happens, and what to think about to prevent it. So go forth and conquer your goals, whatever they may be.
This article is brought to you in collaboration with UCAN, the nutrition company with the go-to nutritional solution used by over 400 pro and college teams, many Olympians, and many triathletes, cyclists and athletes of all levels in many sports to keep their energy and their stomachs steady.
Want to try a unique nutritional solution designed to eliminate GI distress? We have worked out a terrific deal for you to try any of UCAN’s products, which contain their proprietary, patented, natural carbohydrate – UCAN SuperStarch. UCAN offers energy powders, protein with added energy, hydration and bars.
Visit ucan.co to learn more about UCAN SuperStarch, its really cool origin story (it was only developed originally to keep children with a very rare blood sugar disease alive) and use the code FELT at checkout to save 20% on your first purchase of any of their amazing products.
We're a proud supporter of US Military Endurance Sports, and we're excited to showcase several of the organization's athletes who inspire others to strive for a healthy lifestyle. Adam Popp is a triathlete and ultramarathon runner who also aids other amputees in pursuing athletic endeavors.
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