Whether you suffer with acid reflux or not, I’m sure the vast majority of you will have experienced the pain of eating too soon before a workout. My worst personal experience of this was during my stint as a rower at university. I ate an enormous plate of spaghetti bolognese two hours before a 2k test (for the unacquainted a 2k is one of the most painful and awful tests of endurance you can put yourself through). With every stroke, I felt like I was going to throw up a little bit more (definitely not my finest hour)! Thankfully I didn’t, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson about what my body can and can’t tolerate.
Whilst someone else may have been able to digest that meal and work out no problem, it obviously didn’t work for me. This brings me to my first bit of advice; don’t assume that something that someone else swears by will necessarily work for you as well. Everyone is different, and it will take time to work out exactly what does and doesn’t work for you.
Currently, I have to be even more careful with how I eat and run because of suffering with laryngopharyngeal reflux. Mostly I run in the morning first thing, before work, and I only have a little water before I run. I researched pre-running nutrition and reflux and the general consensus was that providing the run is shorter than ~60 minutes it is fine to run on an empty stomach. After my run, I then have a hearty breakfast to replenish my carbohydrate and protein levels e.g. some fruit and poached eggs on toast (https://runandspoon.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/perfect-poached-eggs/).
If I am running later in the day, things become slightly more complicated. I make sure to leave at least three hours after eating before running, and I avoid eating anything too high in fibre pre-workout- you really don’t want runners’ trots! For longer runs in the morning, I would have a small snack e.g. some dried fruit, at least 30 minutes before running. I’d like to stress again that whilst this suits me, it won’t suit everyone out there, so don’t take my words as gospel! So far I’ve found that being cautious about timing my workouts and meals prevents my reflux flaring up as a result of exercise, which I’m pleased about.
Another thing that unfortunately can make me reflux is drinking too much water pre-run. I did this recently, chugging ~500ml of water shortly before a run, and as a result spent the entire run with my stomach gurgling and being able to hear and feel the water sloshing in my belly. Additionally, this caused me to have one of the worst stitches I have ever experienced (and I have endured a fair few). Fortunately it only struck during the final kilometre of my run, but that kilometre was absolutely brutal. I tried everything I could think of to get rid of the stitch; slowing down, breathing more deeply, but nothing would make it ease up. The pain was so severe that at one point I thought it couldn’t be a stitch and I started to convince myself that I had suddenly come down with a case of appendicitis…Given that the pain eventually started to disappear during the final 100m, I think it’s safe to assume it was just a stitch, but it was pretty scary for those few minutes. The morale of the story is to do as I say, not as I do- and to make sure you don’t repeat my (quite frankly) daft mistakes!
Feel free to let me know if you have any tips or funny stories about eating and running!