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Dealing with bloated stomach on long rides

Old 04-18-16, 04:48 PM
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Dealing with bloated stomach on long rides

Hi, I'm in training for the Haute Route in August but am having real problems with what i can only describe as bloated stomach. During my rides (sometimes at 90 miles but sometimes as early as 30) I get a real bloating of the stomach and can't take in more food - resulting in my bonking, presumably from lack of energy. Energy gels especially make me feel sick.

When I finish my mates eat and eat. But I find I can't eat for around 4 hours after a long ride, my stomach just won't take it.

I've tried different foods before. Pasta the night before and porridge in the morning worked poorly. My best so far is chicken stir fry the night before and yogurt/fruit/nuts in the morning.

Is this familiar to anybody? Any ideas on how to overcome it, as its really getting in the way of enjoying long rides.
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Old 04-18-16, 09:39 PM
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Yup. Eat no closer to the start of the ride than 2-3 hours. If you can't do that, then nothing or a bar 15 minutes before. During the ride, no solid food, only liquid food like Hammer Sustained Energy or Perpetuem, and never more than 250 calories/hour. Don't eat on a climb, make it up after you top out. Hydrate enough so that you pee at least every 3 hours. If you still get a bloat, take 2 Endurolytes, then don't take anything in except plain water until the bloat goes away, but do drink plenty of water.

You may not be drinking enough water, especially with a gel. 1/4-1/3 bottle per gel is about right.

On rides of over a century, I'll eat some solid food. Ice cream works well, a muffin, a fruit pie, something like that to supplement the liquid food maybe every 50 miles or so.

After the ride, try a milkshake or just drink a quart of chocolate milk over a period of an hour or less. Then eat small amounts of carbs maybe every 15 minutes until you feel like eating a real meal.
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Old 04-18-16, 11:54 PM
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Just what is your drinking routine?

If you are ingesting lots of water without adequate electrolytes, you will end up with an imbalance in your stomach that will severely limit the absorption of nutrients from your digested food. If you have diluted that balance of electrolytes in your stomach, the food will sit there and remain virtually useless until you cut back on the drinking... which appears to happen after the end of your rides.

Maybe you need to moderate your drinking of water a little bit, or introduce more electrolytes as you drink, or use gels or soluble energy powders that have electrolytes incorporated into them. I suggest the latter because sometimes endurance cyclists aren't able to take in solid foods while undertaking intense output, and gels and drinkable energy are ways to overcome that.

Last edited by Rowan; 04-19-16 at 03:44 AM.
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Old 04-19-16, 02:18 AM
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Yep ... the thing that leaps to mind is ... electrolytes, as Rowan says above.
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Old 04-19-16, 02:00 PM
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If it hits at 30 miles, it doesn't sound like electrolyte problems to me. My guess would be drinking too much, too irregularly. For instance, if you drink one water bottle at the end of every hour, you'll run into problems like that -- even if it's a perfectly balanced electrolyte drink. Much better to drink a quarter of that bottle every quarter hour, and don't try to catch up with missed drinks before a tough stretch. If you're not familiar with the course, that means once you miss a drink, you take the drink you missed and reset the timer.
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Old 04-19-16, 04:01 PM
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Many thanks for the responses. carbonfibreboy, that sounds useful advice. It may indeed be that i don't drink enough water. I'll try your advice on my next ride.

I think its more likely i'm drinking too little water than too much - but may not be taking enough electrolytes.
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Old 04-19-16, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by HappyHenry
Many thanks for the responses. carbonfibreboy, that sounds useful advice. It may indeed be that i don't drink enough water. I'll try your advice on my next ride.

I think its more likely i'm drinking too little water than too much - but may not be taking enough electrolytes.
The real issue, which I've omitted for simplicity, is too high stomach osmolality. More dilution is helpful. More electrolytes may or may not be helpful, depending on what you've been eating, but usually helpful.
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Old 04-20-16, 08:56 AM
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You can get digestive enzyme tablets at your local health food store and some mega marts. Find chewable ones that contain enzymes for carbs, proteins and fats. Chew one with your morning meal and/or with your first on-bike snack. If you are touring or on a long ride, you can take another every 2-3 hours with a snack. If lactose is a problem (check labels for milk products) some tablets contain an enzyme for that as well, or you can get tablets specifically for lactose intolerance.

Make sure you are sipping, not chugging, water and avoid foods with high fiber content for on-bike nutrition. Some people like dates and prunes for high energy snacks, but too many, combined with excessive amounts of water, can cause bloating. The same goes for electrolytes, they are important but make sure they are adequately diluted. High concentrations of electrolytes, especially sodium can actually pull water into the digestive tract and away from the working muscles. In the 1960-70s on hot days high school and college athletes would pop salt tablets. Some, thinking more must be better would pop several during intense practice. This often resulted in bloating, nausea and sometimes vomiting. This was one of the big reasons that the first Gatorade was invented by a team of sports physiologists at the University of Florida.

Another problem some riders have is that they actually drink too much during rides. You want to stay hydrated, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing. As long as the veins in your arms are standing proud, and you are urinating a normal amount of pale yellow urine every couple of hours, you are adequately hydrated. When your veins look flat and you haven't peed in four hours, that's a bad sign, as is small amounts of dark (tea colored) urine. If you pee like a racehorse on the hour and your urine is clear or nearly clear, you might be overdoing it.

Last edited by GravelMN; 04-20-16 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 04-20-16, 09:15 AM
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I encountered the same thing last year when I was riding a 6-9 hour ride every weekend. My issue was eating too much for dinner the night before at around 7-8pm for rides I started at 4:45am the next morning.

At a bigger breakfast the day before, much smaller dinner that night and no breakfast before starting the rides and the issue resolved itself.
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Old 04-21-16, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by GravelMN
<snip>
Another problem some riders have is that they actually drink too much during rides. You want to stay hydrated, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing. As long as the veins in your arms are standing proud, and you are urinating a normal amount of pale yellow urine every couple of hours, you are adequately hydrated. When your veins look flat and you haven't peed in four hours, that's a bad sign, as is small amounts of dark (tea colored) urine. If you pee like a racehorse on the hour and your urine is clear or nearly clear, you might be overdoing it.
All good advice. Other symptoms of dehydration: I will pinch the back of my hand. If the pinch fold goes right back down, I'm good. If it stands up there, I'm not so good. I also watch the backs of my forearms. If they get dry, I have a problem. Pee every 3 hours is perfect for me.
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