The use of a low FODMAP diet has been well-established as an effective dietary approach to help manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Recently, the use of a low FODMAP diet to manage exercise-induced gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms has become more topical in the world of nutrition.
Exercise-induced GI Symptoms
Exercise-induced GI symptoms can impact anyone from your weekend warriors to elite athletes. Experiencing GI symptoms during a sports event can significantly impact performance. Gastrointestinal conditions have been identified as the most common illness reported at international sporting events, and have been estimated to impact 30-50% of athletes.
Exercise-induced GI symptoms are similar to that of IBS. This can include symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain and gas. It is particularly common to experience exercise-induced GI symptoms in strenuous endurance exercise such as running (which is where the term ‘runners gut’ comes from).
Low FODMAP diet and exercise-induced GI symptoms
The use of a low FODMAP diet to manage exercise-induced GI symptoms is a new area of research and is still in it’s early days. Some studies have found the use of a short-term (24-48 hours, though other studies recommend 3-6 days) low FODMAP diet can be effective in reducing exercise-induced GI Symptoms. Some individuals may be aware of what specific FODMAPs exacerbate their symptoms. These individuals may therefore only restrict one or two groups prior to an event. For example, some individuals may know that specific FODMAPs such as lactose and wheat fructans exacerbate their symptoms, and will avoid these in the days leading up to a big event. This less-restrictive approach would be a more ideal management strategy, particularly for those who regularly compete in endurance events.
Low FODMAP pre-event options
For long endurance events such as marathons, it can be beneficial to increase your carbohydrate intake 1-3 days prior to the event. Low FODMAP carbohydrate options include:
- Gluten-free pasta, noodles and gluten-free gnocchi
- Rice, quinoa and buckwheat
- Low FODMAP bread (see our recent article on bread choices here)
- Rolled oats (1/2 cup serve)
- Low FODMAP cereals
- Low FODMAP fruit
On the day of the event, it is ideal to consume a meal 3-4 hours prior to the event that is high in carbohydrate, low in fibre, low in fat and moderate in protein. Some suitable low FODMAP event day meal options include:
- Low FODMAP cereal with milk and low FODMAP fruit
- Low FODMAP chicken stir-fry with jasmine rice or rice noodles
- Low FODMAP wraps/sandwiches
- Low FODMAP tomato-based pasta
For those who wish to include a top-up snack in the hour leading up to their event, low FODMAP options include:
- Low FODMAP fruit such as orange, rockmelon or unripe banana
- Low FODMAP muesli bar
- Pretzels (1/2 cup limit)
- Plain rice crackers
If you experience exercise-induced GI symptoms, it is recommended you seek individualised advice from an Accredited Sports Dietitian. For a list of Accredited Sports Dietitians, check out Sports Dietitians Australia .
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Wiffin M, Smith L, Antonio J, Johnstone J, Beasley L, Roberts J. Effect of a short-term low fermentable oligiosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide and polyol (FODMAP) diet on exercise-related gastrointestinal symptoms. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2019 Dec;16(1):1.
Lis DM. Exit Gluten-Free and Enter Low FODMAPs: A novel dietary strategy to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms in athletes. Sports Medicine. 2019 Feb 15;49(1):87-97.