Health and Lifestyle

Energy Gels Can Cause Post-run Diarrhea

Gels, chews and power waffles have become very popular among both amateur and professional runners over the last few years. Sportsmen seem to always have at hand these convenient and light, yet powerful snacks both during training and competition. There are, however, a number of drawbacks associated with using these quick fixes for body fuel during long exercise sessions.

Gels, chews and waffles are snacks which, in this particular case, are designed to serve a very specific purpose: to give athletes energy and allow them to go the extra mile. With this goal in mind, these snacks are formulated so that they are literally jam-packed with energy. In other words, almost all this products are essentially made of high concentrations of sugar, electrolytes, carbs and sodium. This makes them great for those who need a quick supply of energy, but not very healthy overall.

If that wasn’t concerning enough, however, using these products also comes with certain side effects. Those who use this kind of snack on runs have been known to experience cases of diarrhea afterwards.

It is not the ingredients in these products that cause the disruption to the gastrointestinal system, but rather the unusually high concentration of nutrients used. Since the intestine is not used to processing such high levels of carbohydrates, sugars and electrolytes, it will not absorb them as it should, resulting in a disorder of the whole system.

The chain of reactions that occurs might be quite serious, and it is likely to have consequences. First, water is drawn from your blood to help break down and absorb the abrupt, large supply of nutrients. This may cause dehydration, which is an undesirable state to be in during a long workout. Blood is then drawn away from the digestive tract to ensure you keep moving, which means part of the excessive sugars and carbs will be left unprocessed.

As these nutrients reach the large intestine unabsorbed, they are consumed by the bacteria that lives there, and that ultimately causes bloating, gas and, unsurprisingly, diarrhea.

The good news is that there are ways to avoid these problems while continuing to use the gels. First and foremost, it is very important to read and follow the package directions carefully, as they will explain how much you can and should take according to the duration of your session. It is also important to initially start using these during training so that your body can adjust to the product and you can avoid unpleasant effects while competing.

Finally, you should always make sure to drink water during exercise, as it will keep your body hydrated and help dilute the concentrated nutrients, which should help keep gastrointestinal disasters from happening.