Eating, Running, Stomach & Nausea


Experience From - Jan Speed Turtle , Jeff Riddle , Bill LaDieu , Karl King , Dan Baglione , Steve Pero , Gerri Wales , Byron Chikinda , Scott McQueeney , Jim Kirby , Mike Farris , Mark Clement , Jan Speed Turtle#2 , Karl King#2 , Carey , George Beinhorn , Gordon Chace , Scott Rafferty , Karl King#3 ,


Need some advice on this eating thing during ultras. I've read a lot of information and listened carefully to others. I seem to have a problem with eating during a run...during an event. I can do OK during my training runs, but when I get into an ultra run I don't fare well. I take the Succeed! Electrolyte caps once every hour and drink water and Clip or Amino. I keep hearing the warning that I better keep eating to keep my strength up and make it through to the end. But when I look at the "eats" on the table at the aid station, I just want to run from it. I will force myself and grab a fig newton or pretzel and take off. But it may take me two miles or more to force the whole thing in my mouth!

This past weekend I tried some hot broth 'cause it was pretty cold and did eat some chocolate chip cookies (who can resist those) after 14 miles, but then my stomach started to rebel by 18 miles or so. I was nursing (read: dragging) a leg that wouldn't work right and was in pain. Question: if you are hurting pretty bad, does this cause the upset stomach so you can't eat. I seem to be caught. Should eat/but can't. (Note: I do not have the problem of not eating M&M's while not running - then the problem is eating them!)

Is this something everyone goes through when beginning on this ultra journey? Any suggestions would be very appreciated.

Jeff Riddle

I had a similar problem with eating in 50 mile or less races. This was finally solved by drinking the generic equal of "Ensure" high carbo drink (360 cal.) I now take 2-3 cans 15 mins before a race and also have some cans in drop bags for late in the race. I think they work for me because it goes down like milk and I have no problem with milk. I have never been able to eat the cookies and pretzels usually provided. Also, try the soft energy bars, they sort of melt in the mouth especially late in the race when a lot of us do mostly walking or much slower running. Or lately I can handle 1/4 power bars at a time with water as I walk, then run after finishing.

I tried all of this in practice before, of course. It took effort and planning to work this out.

It's interesting you note you have no problem during a run just during a race. You might check into this part a bit more.

Bill LaDieu

I to have problems eating on the run, especially during a race. I find that if I'm pushing the pace solid food has no appeal and will in fact send my stomach into somersaults. Its not a lot of fun being in the tank for hours on end.

What I have found that works for me is to take the electrolyte caps as needed depending on conditons. In cold weathger that maybe once every 3 or 4 hours and in hot weather 1 every hour or so. At the same time I take Clip as my primary source of calories and hydration. I supplement the Clip with fruit - oranges and melon are what I like best. Later in the run I find that coke really goes down easy and is nice change of pace from a steady diet of Clip. Used this strategy at the Haliburton Forest 100 last September with good sucess.

Karl King

If you have no problem in training runs, but can't stomach food during a race, the problem is probably related to a difference in pace or weather conditions.

If your pace is easy and/or the temps are cool, you have enough blood flow for acceptable digestion. When the pace is harder and/or the temps warmer, there's less blood available for digestion. The digestive tract senses the inadequate blood flow and tells the brain that food is not going to be processed if eaten.

There are a couple ways to deal with this: pick a slower pace on average, or walk for 5-10 minutes before you get to an aid station. If your stomach recovers during the walk, eating at the aid station will be easier. It would help to walk for a bit after eating to give some time for processing the food.

Such walking is generally not an option for those who are racing, but if your main concern is finishing in good condition you've got little to lose. Spending hours on the course with bad digestion is no fun at all.

Nerves can sometimes be a problem at the start of a run, and that won't help your stomach. In that case, you can do yourself a favor by walking the first half mile of the course. It's no loss to walk the first 10 minutes and run more later.

Jim wrote:

"At about 28 miles I started getting nauseated. I would back off a while, get better, push a while, get nauseated again, back off... and so on."
It sure sounds like inability to absorb the stomach contents. According to your information, you took in about 40 calories per mile. Do you train with that kind of intake? If you're used to running with weaker solutions it could be that it was more of a calorie load than can currently handle.

Did you drink at least a cup of water with each GU? High concentrations of carbohydrate can slow absorption. It could be that your caloric intake was ok, but you didn't have enough water to dilute it to an absorbable concentration.

Experiment in your training runs to see how best to use the products. The first thing to try would be more water along with the carbos.

Dan Baglione

We must all experiment to find what works for us.

The suggestion to get many of your calories in liquid form is a good one. Many use ensure or its equivalent. I use a souped up concoction with Ovaltine as the primary base with dry milk powder, malted milk powder, and sugar added; but even this will get tiresome after several hours. I also eat solid food in the form of cheese and a simple gorp consisting of dry roasted peanuts or cashews, raisins, and, sometimes, M&Ms.

It is, of course, best to experiment during training runs, not races.

Steve Pero

Karl has hit the nail on the head here.

2 years ago, my 1st Summer of ultras, I had decided to just enjoy them and finish...I never got sick, ate plenty and had a wonderful time... then... last Summer, my 2nd year of ultras, where I decided to try and race a bit, ended up getting sick at most of my runs to the point of vomiting AND ran slower times. Guess what I'll be doing this year.

Gerri Wales

I have had, am having, will probably always have the same trouble. The eats at the aid stations just make me want to gag until I am about 4 hours into a run. I know I have to eat but, the solution to my problem was the gels and Clip. I eat them exclusively during that time. After that I can take the peanut butter and jelly, the soups, and M&M's.

Byron Chikinda

My wife has started to have stomach problems lately. She tried all sorts of foods with no results. Then she read Scott Weber's idea of incorporating 1 ounce of Grade B Organic Maple Syrup per hour on runs. Shh found this was the solution! No problems and she has more energy from the syrup than sports bars. She also avoids wheat and dairy products two days before the race helps. Hope this helps!

Scott McQueeney

This topic makes me want to puke. I also have this affliction. At the Pacific Rim 24 hour run I was sick from mile 20 (first can of Ensure) to mile 90. The last 21 miles was ok but I was reduced to taking only Grade B maple syrup and red potatoes.

I was told later that it was because I drank Cytomax (20oz per hour) and was not drinking water in addition to this. Any opinion on this?

Jim Kirby

I think i finally found the silver bullett for my ultra sensitive stomach. Just completed the Crown King Scramble a couple weeks ago. I just did the fun run(50k) not to be confused with the Real Deal(50 mile) i did have some positive results! I stuck with Succeed Caps and ONLY ate potato's(dunk in salt) at the aide stations. This was the first time in 6 years doing this race that during and especialy afterwards that i felt fine afterwards and not at all sick to my stomach. I've broken away from gel's and stuck to very bland stuff like potato's or pretzels.

Mike Farris

I was contemplating the eating problem during a long training run the other day. My problem is that while I know that I need solid food during a 100, I can't seem to choke down dry foods (like sandwiches or bagels). Ramen and soup is usually too 'thin' and doesn't have the protein or bulk I crave.

So I'm going to try the staple food of big wall climbers- SpagettiOs and canned ravioli (all hail Chef Boy-ar-dee!). They are quite tolerable cold, have plenty of fat and (the ravioli) protein, and slither down quite easily. Easy to transport in the drop bag- a can, an opener, and a zip-lock for the trash.

I know it may sound nauseating, but you might find another canned product that does the trick. Stay away from Potted Meat Food Product, though (it's right next to the Vienna Sausages and SPAM).

Mark Clement

I used to stash baby food, all types, on long training runs (>35 miles). Don't know why I haven't done it in the last 20 years or so; to much new-fangled, hi tech food available now-a-days, I guess.

Jan Speed Turtle#2

THANK YOU to all who responded with your suggestions! After reading all the responses, I learned that I'm not the only one who has problems with eating on the run. I picked up several ideas I will try, including that it is not necessary for me to push solid foods. It won't do any good to eat "so I have energy at the end" if I'm fighting a bad stomach for the remainder of the run. Just need to keep trying to find what works and not get frustrated. I appreciate everyone's help and this turtle will keep on moving on down (and up, and over...) the trail.

Karl King#2

NOTE From UltRunR: This is a mixture of personal experience and product (Succeed!) recommendation from the products owner and creator (Karl) that I feel are relevant to this subject.

Chuck wrote:

"I have a few questions about "fuel" while running. I've used the various S! products and think they are great. Obviously, at least for me, having fat and/or protein works. That's where my questions arise, however. I've looked through the archives, and I'm not sure if I found my answers. I know there was some debate about training with just water, but that seems too spartan for me. "

  1. Question
    "In order for fat to be metabolized it must be broken down from a triglyceride to free fatty acids and glycerol. Also with chronic exercise, this process improves. Chronic endurance exercise also increases triglyceride storage within muscles. If a runner consumes fat during training, does he or she reduce the stress to the system that causes these adaptations, especially the part of the mechanism that "withdraws" the triglyceride from "storage?" Should a runner limit fat consumption during training even if he/she plans to consume fat during a race?"
    In order for fat to be metabolized it must be broken down from a triglyceride to free fatty acids and glycerol. Also with chronic exercise, this process improves. Chronic endurance exercise also increases triglyceride storage within muscles. If a runner consumes fat during training, does he or she reduce the stress to the system that causes these adaptations, especially the part of the mechanism that "withdraws" the triglyceride from "storage?" Should a runner limit fat consumption during training even if he/she plans to consume fat during a race?

    My personal experience is that using fat during training has not reduced my body's ability to store or utilize fat. If anything, it seems to have improved it. I base this on my experience using CLIP for a long time during field testing. I drank it on training runs of only 10 miles so that I could get a lot of real-world experience with it.

  2. Question
    "FFA metabolism produces more energy than glycogen metabolism, and there is a definite limit to the amount of glycogen that can be stored. Is there a way to encourage a greater rate of fat oxidation prior to glycogen depletion with diet? This is an effect of endurance training, but can reducing glycogen-sparing activities during training enhance it?"
    FFA metabolism produces more energy than glycogen metabolism, and there is a definite limit to the amount of glycogen that can be stored. Is there a way to encourage a greater rate of fat oxidation prior to glycogen depletion with diet? This is an effect of endurance training, but can reducing glycogen-sparing activities during training enhance it?

    Some studies show that eating a high fat diet will improve the body's ability to use fat. I think that Rich Schick has studied these matters and may wish to add comments on his findings. In the past he has posted re the advantages of reducing carbo intake while running to force fat burning.

  3. Question
    "Clip is formulated for endurance events lasting for several hours. Should it or other fat containing foods be consumed from the onset of exercise or only after several hours? What about recovery?"
    Clip is formulated for endurance events lasting for several hours. Should it or other fat containing foods be consumed from the onset of exercise or only after several hours? What about recovery?

    The fat ( medium chain triglyceride ) in CLIP will raise FFA levels and spare some glycogen if taken early. There is another reason to take it early, and that relates to keeping nausea at bay. One cause of nausea in ultras is that fat-free drinks ( carbo only ), reduce the pancreas' flow of bicarbonate into the small intestine. That screws up the pH and absorption of nutrients. The fat in CLIP will prompt proper flow of bicarbonate, and that will keep the pH of the small intestine in a proper operating range. Accordingly, I start a long run with CLIP and later see if I prefer Amino, which is fat free. Towards the end of the run, I go with Amino because the fat isn't as useful then. My stomach won't get messed up with no-fat for only a few hours, and the extra carbos help keep my pace up. As for recovery, I don't know that fat is all that important, and I don't crave it that much if I've taken in some during the run. On an all-carbo energy plan, I crave fat after a long run ( cheeseburger! ).

  4. Question
    "Should protein be consumed at the onset of exercise or only after several hours?"
    Early in a long run your body won't be burning much protein so it doesn't play much of a role. A small amount won't hurt, but large amounts could place a burden on the kidneys, especially if one is pushing the pace. Don't down a big piece of steak before an ultra.

  5. Question
    "Do you know of any references or texts suitable for someone who has a good grasp of the physiology involved but does not have a medical education?"
    Some of these issues get covered in Running Research News. A good college text on physiology, and one on biochemistry can provide more technical details. The general difficulty with such texts is that they are not written from the viewpoint of an ultra runner, so you'll find that they don't often address issues you're interested in. You could also try some of the on-line search engines to see what articles you can find on the Net. Your local university library probably has journals on phisiology and metabolism as applied to sports. If you go that route, be prepared to spend hours at the card catalog, digging out the journals that apply. Rich, Jay and Dr. Misner may have some good information on finding sources.


DeWayne Satterfield wrote:

It seems that no matter what I eat (or don't eat) I get violently sick in the latter parts of 100's and 24 hr runs (or after one loop at Barkley). I also tend to lose it a lot sooner in the heat. I have ordered Karl King's Succeed and electrolyte tabs and I am hoping that is my miracle cure. Is there any other advice you could give my ailing stomach?

I have had similar episodes Dwyane. My hypothesis is that I normally eat like a pig, and my stomach usually releases stomach acid (HCl hydrochloric acid). Even though I eat constantly during ultras, it is not nearly as much as I would during a typical day. Result...... excess acid..... also acid reflux. Eating MORE non-acidic foods during ultras would help. But it seems to me, aid-stations foods are often moderate-high in acid.

I am trying ginger root capsules, with some success For certain, they do not hurt or hinder. The secret is to take them early enough. I think the sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) in "King's Capsules" also help. Ordinary Saltines, ( nickname "soda crackers)(dry..., not those wimpy mushy things we too often get) helps neutralize the acid, producing CO2 product and a nice burp.

Prevention is the key. I think more solid foods, and a good replacement drink. Gatorade type drinks, I believe, are part of the problem..... way to acidic. Some people have success with yogurt, as a milk product would neutralize the acid, but some yogurts are too acidic too. Got Milk?

So.... try the ginger root. Take two at the start, and one every 3-4 hours. Take the electrolyte capsulate prior to the start too, then as needed.

George Beinhorn

It's been suggested that nausea in long ultras is caused by over acidification of the body's chemical environment. The immune system and energy production systems thrive in a slightly alkaline environment.

I find I feel best in any runs, from hard speedwork to ultras, when I take alkaline-forming foods during the event: fruit, veggie juices, veggies, and NO wheat, rice, etc. You can find lists of alkaline-forming foods in Paavo Airola's "How to Get Well" and Hermann Aihara's "Acid and Alkaline."

Gordon Chace

After Tom reported some discomfort living on CLIP, Karl responded with several comments including:

"mix Amino and CLIP 50-50"
Which is exactly what I have concluded from my own experiment-of-1.

For the recent Kettle Moraine 100, we had our initial pack loads plus five drop-bag opportunities, so I made up six "care packages" each of which contained six doses of sports drink powder. Since I like a bit of variety, each batch of six was:

3 doses of CLIP+Amino, 50/50 blend

1 dose of pure CLIP

1 dose of pure Amino

1 dose of a homebrew, which by calories is 60% Karl's Orange Succeed Ultra, 25% bulk maltodextrin (yes, I'm into bland flavors) and 15% Orange Metabolol Endurance, plus a bit of Karl's Electrolyte stuff removed from the capsule. This works out to about 93% carbo, 4% protein, and 3% fat. The protein component is a bit weaker on the BCAA than Karl's inventions, which is why this concoction was used only occasionally for flavor variety. I'll add that neither Ultra nor Met-E has just the Orange flavor that I'd like but in this blend I like the taste better than either alone. Personal preference...

At about 150 calories per dose, the 36 doses had 5000 to 6000 calories. It turns out I didn't use quite all of them, but that was because the aid station folks lured me into occasionally sipping some soups and stews which were wonderful on a chilly evening. Also, I had 4 gel packets that I used for more flavor variety and night caffeine, and by plan the occasional banana segment and potato chunk.

I probably could have gone ahead and used all of the sports drink even with the little bit of solid food that was improvised, as I was somewhat hungry for three days after finishing and co-workers commented on an apparent loss of weight. So while I can't say this energy plan was absolutely perfect, it was good enough as I finished happy&healthy with my clock time governed by something other than stomach (feet).

Scott Rafferty

Magnesium and calcium are also necessary electrolytes. My stomach probs went away when I started taking Rolaids.

Karl King#3

Bonnie Busch, Dana Roueche & Kevin Sayers, The three of you have used SUCCEED! products, the B/E Caps in particular, with good results in many runs. You also had one or two runs this Summer where you lost your appetite to the point that you could not eat certain foods, or any foods.

As you know, I bugged you all with a bunch of questions to try and figure out what was going on when you ran into problems. By combining the responses I have a good idea, but not proof of what was happening.

Kevin and Dana have used CLIP in many runs with great success. Was their problem related to CLIP? No, because Bonnie had the problem when drinking a Coke/Water mix. Was it an all-liquid diet? No, because Bonnie was eating various "real" foods with ample fiber when she experienced the problem. The problem can also be seen in many runners who aren't using SUCCEED! products of any type.

All of you used the B/E Caps. When the food problem came up, some stopped using the Caps. The problems did not get better. All were able to eat after the run was over. Kevin got revived at Leadville by a bowl of Ramen noodle soup with 13.5 miles to go. He was then able to run well to the finish.

The problem develops when there is a long run at fast pace and/or in the heat/humidity. While Leadville wasn't hot by most people's standards, I thought that the section from Sugarloaf to Halfmoon was warm and dehydrating in the direct sun and dry air.

The symptoms point to electrolyte imbalance in the digestive track. How that imbalance developed may not be the same for all of you, so it isn't clear that there is one simple answer that applies to all.

The gag reflex when looking at food or drink is the body's way of telling you that it can't digest what you're looking at. Normally, that is a sign of too little sodium in the blood, and/or dehydration. However, since the digestive track is controlled primarily by a suite of hormones, stress is probably a contributing factor. Nobody seems to have any problems in slower paced ultras or training runs, or when the temperature is low.

What to do? If the problem is totally related to stress, the only answer may be to back off the pace for awhile. That may not be an acceptable choice due to competitive situations or cutoffs.

Stopping the Caps is probably NOT a good idea. All of you were drinking fluids ( CLIP, water+Coke ) that are very low in sodium. If you had a sodium excess, continued drinking and running would have fixed it very quickly. If the problem is insufficient sodium, stopping the Caps will only prolong the bad stomach. Note that Kevin's Top Ramen soup was extremely high in sodium.

It may be that each of us figures out what is a workable Cap intake in training runs, but the requirement for sodium increases with the stress of hours on the trail and/or heat. In general, the suggested rate of Cap intake provides less sodium than is lost while running. That implies that somewhere down the trail the sodium level will fall below what is needed for good performance. If your run ends before that point, everything is fine. If not, you may need to spike sodium intake to get back above the level required for performance.

If you sense the gag reflex from food coming on, I'd suggest taking an extra Cap right away, and another 15 minutes later. Be sure to take them with water as the sudden load of electrolytes will give you a queasy stomach if taken dry. What we've seen is that if you continue on with same salt intake rate, or decrease it, the situation does not improve until the run is over.

Hope this helps. Please give me feedback on your future runs if you get the gag reflex again.