Tips for digestive health of athletes

Many athletes suffer gastrointestinal complaints such as gas, bloating, pain and / or diarrhea in their sports practice . These discomforts lead them to follow strict diets in which they frequently eliminate, almost entirely, vegetables and fruits. So they end up basing their diet only on carbohydrates such as refined pasta, bread or rice and protein foods, something not recommended. Solution? If you are an athlete and suffer from this type of discomfort, the solution will be to read this article in which I will explain how to improve your digestive health and, therefore, improve your performance.

If proteins and carbohydrates are the true protagonists of your diet, this can lead to a deficit in vitamin C, fiber and substances of plant origin with high antioxidant power (phytochemicals). In addition, it is also possible that constipation and an impoverishment of the microbiota or intestinal flora that can affect the immune system and your body, in general. All this can also harm your athletic performance .

Vegetables and fruits help to maintain a healthy intestinal microbiota or flora and at the same time a good general functioning of the body. Keeping this general aspect in mind is important but it is also essential to learn when to promote a type of fruit or vegetable. This will depend on the health or performance goal we are looking for and also according to the characteristics of the athlete.

Nutritional recommendations for athletes with digestive complaints

Symptoms such as gas, bloating, pain and / or diarrhea affect a good part of athletes and can even cause them to fail to complete a training or an important test. Therefore, when faced with these symptoms, it will always be advisable to consult a registered and experienced dietitian-nutritionist so that they can diagnose the causes of the symptoms and treat them with an adequate diet.

breakfast with kiwi

Relationship between carbohydrate consumption and gastrointestinal complaints

If you are an athlete, you probably already know that before an important test , the day before you should avoid dairy products because they are rich in lactose , as well as legumes because they are rich in galactans and also whole foods because they are rich in fructans . They are all short chain carbohydrates that can be fermented in the large intestine by bacteria and increase gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, pain and even osmotic diarrhea.

Currently, it is known that there are also two other types of short-chain carbohydrates that can cause the same effects: fructose, present in juices, honey, sports gels , etc. and polyalcohols such as mannitol and sorbitol present in light foods, pears, plums, etc.

Detecting these reactions to the consumption of carbohydrates was the step prior to the development of the diet that we now know as the FODMAP diet .

Digestive discomfort and the FODMAP diet

With all this knowledge, in 2004 Monash University designed the diet low in FODMAP (acronym for all the carbohydrates mentioned: fructoligosaccharides, disaccharides, mono-saccharides and polyalcohols ). The objective of this diet was to reduce these unpleasant symptoms that condition the quality of anyone with intestinal problems , also if they are athletes with greater intestinal sensitivity to this type of carbohydrate.

What is the FODMAP diet?

Foods rich in FODMAP are eliminated for 2-6 weeks and then a progressive reintroduction of these foods begins. During this reintroduction, the nutritionist determines what is the tolerance level towards this type of carbohydrates.

These dietary recommendations apply to patients with digestive problems and in the case of athletes with similar symptoms during competition, this diet is applied but for a shorter time: for example, the day before a competition, although it will always be the nutritionist the one who supervises the application and duration of this low FODMAP diet .

What foods are low in FODMAP?

Ok, now we know a little more what the application of the FODMAP diet in athletes consists of , but what foods are low in FODMAP and could they be consumed during these periods? If we talk specifically about fruits and vegetables , in the following list you can see the recommended foods in these cases since they are low in fodmaps :


Kiwi, blueberries (*), coconut (*), strawberries, pomegranate (*), clementine, lemon, lime, tangerine, cantaloupe (*), banana, grapefruit (*), papaya, passion fruit (*), pineapple, orange , grapes.

Vegetables (for garnish)

Olives (*), chard, chicory (*), avocado (*), bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, whole broccoli (*), aubergine (*), zucchini (*), kale (*), Brussels sprouts (*), Japanese pumpkin, endive, endive, spinach, green beans, kale, lettuce, corn (*), turnip (**), cucumber, pepper, ginger, radish, arugula, tomato, carrots, palm hearts.

(*) (*) Quantities less than 50 g 

As you can see, there are foods in which the FODMAP content is very low so they can be consumed more frequently. For example, the Zespri kiwi, which is also rich in fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients, can be very useful in cases of constipation, reducing bloating and gas.

On the other hand, when you do continuous and intense physical activity you can cause an increase in intestinal permeability . This permeability of the intestine is related to local inflammation and can affect your defenses and general immune status. In these cases, you have to pay close attention to food and avoid an overload of work for the intestine.

Finally, it is important to note that intestinal health should not only be taken into account before a competition, as is usually done, but also throughout the training period. In this way you can get to know in depth the athlete’s response to all foods , including those foods rich in short-chain carbohydrates that in this article we have seen were so important in controlling these digestive discomforts .
These types of hydrates are not only present in common foods but also in supplementation (isotonic, gels, bars, etc.). In other words, it is very important to know individual tolerance and personalize the diet .

Article sponsored within the framework of the #kiwisZespri #alimentatuvitalidad and #saluddigestiva campaign. At you can discover tips and perfect recipes for your digestive health before and after exercising.

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