async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Book Review: The Athlete's Gut: The Inside Science of Digestion, Nutrition, and Stomach Distress

Friday, June 19, 2020

Book Review: The Athlete's Gut: The Inside Science of Digestion, Nutrition, and Stomach Distress

Disclaimer: This post contains an affilate link.

Long time readers of this blog know that I've struggled with GI issues on the run more than any other running issue. So you can only imagine my excitement when I saw the new release The Athlete's Gut by Patrick Wilson, PhD, RD. A whole book dedicated to GI issues on the run? Has Wilson been reading my blog? Or is it really a thing? I clicked over to Amazon quicker than it takes me to find a porta-potty and bought the e-book.

Who knew that there was so much information about tummy troubles? I poured over the information he presented. Let's just say that this science nerd wasn't disappointed. But did I find any answers?

Dr Wilson, a registered dietitian with a PhD in exercise physiology, is a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He knows his subject well, having published many papers on gastrointestinal conditions, diet, and exercise. Throughout The Athlete's Gut, he shares his insights, all backed by research and sprinkled with a sense of humor. He notes that athletes may be more predisposed to GI issues, 'poohaps' because they don't want to lose precious time stopping to use the toilet and because athletes are used to pushing through discomfort. While no one knows for sure how many athletes struggle with GI issues during a run or a race, estimates are that between 40-70% of long distance runners struggle with the the 'urge' while running long distances.

The Athlete's Gut is loaded with science. For background, Wilson provides an in-depth review of the function of the parts of the GI tract. This information is helpful as he discusses possibilities of why certain diets may or may not contribute to GI distress for athletes. He also provides information about fueling, which I found really helpful. He even expands his exploration into proper fluid intake for athletes during competition, which he calls the 'Goldilocks zone':
"Ultimately, the goal is to consume an optimal volume of fluid that minimizes the risks of dehydration and gut discomfort at that same time...Both over- and under-estimating fluid during exercise carry certain risks, including gut distress, and each athlete may need to use trial and error to find their own Goldilocks zone." ~Patrick Wilson
Isn't that what we should be focusing on during training, along with our miles? Looking for that balance between too much and too little? Wilson makes the claim that we can train our GI tract to behave. But what if your GI tract is rebellous?

Wilson also delves into electrolytes, ie sodium, as well as supplements and their effects on performance and GI issues. With a disclaimer that he isn't an expert in psychology, he devotes an entire section of the book to psychology and the athlete's gut. There is such a strong mind-gut connection and many of us (me included) have had those pre-race jitters which send us multiple times to the porta-potty! If you haven't experienced this, I'm jealous. Again, he backs up all of his information with science. 

I found The Athlete's Gut to be thoroughly researched and highly informative. I loved Wilson's sense of humor--just because you're a scientist doesn't mean you can't laugh about farts and poop. I also loved that Wilson also provides real life examples of athletes who have experienced GI distress during competition. Athletes! They're just like us! Does anyone remember Paula Radcliff's dash into the bushes on her way to setting the womens' world marathon record in 2005? 

Glad to know I'm in good company, although I won't be setting any records. As I prepare for my first 50k, I'm happy to have Wilson's book for reference. If you experience GI issues, this is a great book of the why and the how. Even if you don't suffer from running-related tummy problems, the nutrition advice is worth the read.

Do you experience GI issues on the run? If so, what have you tried to prevent problems? Do you believe that you can train your GI tract to handle the demands of a long-distance race?

I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.


Tummy troubles on the run? Check out this new book that tells you poohaps everything you need to know /via @oldrunningmom @velopress @SportsRD_PhD #runchat #running #runnerstrots #tummytroubles

24 comments :

  1. Interesting! I don't have mid run GI issues but I do have the nervous stomach. I do believe in the mind body connection especially for stomach issues. Looks like an interesting read thanks for the review

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  2. I saw the title and already knew I had to add this to my Kindle read list. I've been struggling with GI issues for a while now and wanted to get it figured out before Boston. Hopefully this book holds the answers I need. Thanks Wendy!

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  3. Luckily I don't have issues while running. I swear my body knows when it's race day! I hardly ever drink during long runs. I guess I have my body trained to go longer distance and not feel the need to drink much.

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  4. Oh my. I SO need to read this book. I've learned that I have about a 2 mile limit on my early morning runs before I need the facilities. So all of my runs are a 2 mile out and back from my house, a potty stop at the house, and then I'm set for the remainder of my run, whatever distance it may be. But it would be so nice to find the magic formula to eliminate that stop.

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    1. I wish there was a magic formula. I just keep looking for answers.

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  5. Sounds like an interesting read! I agree with the Goldilocks zone principle.

    I'm not sure about training my GI for long races - I think I've just trained myself not to eat certain things the night before a long run or race. I've got to have easily digested carbs the night before. A meat heavy meal, or one eaten too late, is going to give my GI major distress.

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  6. I do not for the most part. I know what to eat the night before and before a race. When I cannot, it's trouble.

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  7. I don't struggle with the urge during a run, but I sometimes do right after the run, and I mean RIGHT after, as in, I better plan to end my run at a place where there is a toilet available. I need to read this book too.

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    1. I wouldn't mind if my tummy would hold out until I was done with a run.

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  8. Ooo, yay for exercise science! I don't have GI issues when I run (just general all-around suffering, ahahaha) but I'm gonna have to check this book out! :] It sounds like an interesting read!

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  9. It's been a long time since I've run long! And I don't anticipate running long in the near future, either.

    For the most part my gut is pretty well trained, although I know that can often change as we get older, too.

    Just like training, information is never wasted either -- it's the sorting through what's right -- more importantly, right for you -- that's hard!

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  10. Thankfully, this one of the runners' issues I have not experienced. I do have that pre-race thing, though, where I swear I have to pee about three times before I cross the start line.

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  11. Just reading this makes me go! Haha!
    That must be a great book, thanks for the review. I clearly remember Paula Radcliffe's pit-stop. It only took 10 seconds, but she will always be remembered for that.
    I don't have any issues (lucky), but my husband has to go a million times before a race. Talk about pre-race jitters!

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    1. It's always a good idea to lighten the load before a race!

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  12. This title is amazing, lol. I *almost* had a GI issue around mile 5 of my 9 mile run last weekend. Luckily I avoided an epic crisis, but I was pretty close. That experience makes me think I need to read this book to learn more about GI distress.

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    1. I've had more than my share of incidents and I hoped to find answers here. Not sure I did, but the quest continues!

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