The runner’s trots are every runner’s worst nightmare. Running is hard enough without having to worry about dashing to find a toilet at less than a moment’s notice!
The “runner’s trots”, also called “runner’s gut”, “runner’s diarrhea” and “runner’s colitis” is a common problem and nothing to be embarrassed about.
What causes runner’s trots?
Although it affects people in a multitude of ways, runner’s trots. are predominantly down to a combination of gut irritation, timings of those pre-run snacks, and ultimately the fact that the physical act of running creates an atmosphere in your bowel ideal for passing stool!
There will be some reading this (the jammy sods!) who have never experienced their stomach rebelling 2 reps into a session or halfway along the proms, who can happily go about their active lives without hesitation. But for those of you who find yourselves in a constant state of poo panic during long runs, this article is for you. Follow these simple steps to prevent the runner’s trots and avoid toilet breaks during runs and races.
Prevention is better than cure
1. Steer clear of certain food groups
Stay away from foods which cause gut irritation the night before and the morning of a run/race. High intakes of fat, protein, fructose and fibre, especially pre-run, can encourage bowel movements and should be avoided. High-fat foods digest slowly and sit in your stomach. They can also affect the way your body digests other foods you may have eaten.
Refined carbs are a great alternative to whole grain and fibre-rich foods (like bran flakes). I tend to find a slice (or three) of white toast with lashings of nut butter does the trick pre-run.
Dairy is a big no no for me. A key one to curb to skip the pit stops. Obvious for the dairy intolerant among us, however, applicable to the masses too. This is because our stomachs naturally become more sensitive during times of high-intensity activity or stress – AKA marathon day! Try alternatives such as rice, soya or oat milk which don’t contain lactose, a sugar known to give your stomach a headache, when it comes to digesting it.
2. Keep a food diary
Find out what works and what really doesn’t work, and stick to it. Solids or wholefoods, as an alternative to energy gels during a longer run can reduce your likelihood of running for the nearest secluded bush! If you have a key race approaching, practice your morning breakfast routine, as well as your race nutrition, before the big day over the course of your training. Then stick to it.
I was always taught to wait 2 hours after a snack or a meal, before going for a run. A rule I’ve always found to work. However, no two runners are the same and what works for one may not work for another. A team-mate of mine is renowned for having crisps and snacks on the actual start line! Take from this what you will… but don’t be trying something new on race day, it’s really not worth the risk.
Dehydration is proven to exasperate the problem so stay hydrated! And not just on the morning of a run/race. In the days leading up to your long run/race, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol. Not only does alcohol dehydrate you, but it can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
View our full range of electrolyte sports drinks and energy drinks in our Running Nutrition category.
4. Try to curb caffeine
Not best pleased with my own advice here as I LOVE CAFFEINE. You don’t need to quit coffee altogether (phew!). Just make sure you time those morning caffeine hits correctly. A big black coffee an hour before a session will end up being your worst nightmare a mile in.
5. Anti-diarrheal medicines
This is a funny one. For most, the last resort, but for many, a training and race day essential. Depending on how unpredictable your bowels seem to be, if you don’t want the hassle, or you’ve simply had ENOUGH, taking anti-diarrheal relief tablets to kill that worry is not a bad thing. I just wouldn’t recommend depending on it, as it’s not the best for your body and can stop you ‘going’ for days.
6. Have a plan
Plan toilet breaks. Obviously knowing where and when you’ll need to go can be hard to predict, so don’t be afraid to get creative mid training run. I’ve blagged my way into an old people’s home before – no shame here! Make sure you know the location of the toilet block or Portaloos at the start of a race and go early – nobody likes waiting in a queue. Going for a little jog usually loosens things up, so plan a potty break post-warm-up!
Lastly, relax (ironic, eh?!). Probably the most important advice I can pass on. Stressing about needing to poop will most likely make you need to poop! So relax, stick to the advice given above and enjoy anxiety-free, blissful running! Remember, this is a VERY common problem. Don’t let it embarrass you, talk to people, you are not alone. You never know, they may have a funny story or two to tell and even some advice of their own wrapped up in all that poo talk.