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Consuming carbohydrates during prolonged exercise (lasting over an hour) is recommended to maintain blood glucose levels, provide energy, reduce fatigue and improve sports performance. On the other hand, if your digestive system has not been accustomed to absorbing and digesting carbohydrates during exercise, carbohydrates can be poorly absorbed, leading to digestive symptoms. So, it is essential to practice consuming carbohydrates during workouts. The type of carbohydrate is important, which means that during your workout, you should the same supplements (gels, drinks, etc.) that you plan to use in competition. Generally, your tolerance to carbohydrates during exercise should improve from week to week. If this is not the case, you should try other kinds of supplements. When choosing a supplement, look at the ingredient list. A supplement that contains fewer ingredients is generally better tolerated. It should be noted that consuming carbohydrates during exercise can also help reduce digestive disorders by increasing blood flow to the intestines. Thus, consuming a small amount of carbohydrates more often during exercise (for example, taking a sip of a sports drink or an energy chew (Clif Blok, Sport Bean) every 20 minutes rather than a gel every 45 minutes) can potentially help increase carbohydrate tolerance during exercise in people who have more difficulty tolerating them.
The term FODMAP* is an acronym for certain categories of sugars that are not completely absorbed by the small intestine, and instead ferment in the colon, which can thus produce digestive symptoms. More specifically, the sugars concerned are lactose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are particularly sensitive to FODMAP. On the other hand, studies suggest that during prolonged and intense effort, tolerance to fermentable carbohydrates may be reduced, leading to malabsorption and digestive discomfort in some individuals who generally tolerate these types of sugars. Thus, if you have experienced severe digestive symptoms with exercise, it may be worthwhile trying to reduce your intake of fiber and FODMAP-rich foods for a few days before an important sporting event. So, for example, instead of eating spaghetti with tomato sauce and garlic bread the day before a race, you might want to choose rice with chicken and a small amount of vegetables instead. Visit SOSCuisine to obtain low FODMAP recipe ideas and meal plans. Also don’t hesitate to consult a Sports Dietitian.
*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.