Sports Nutrition and the FODMAP Diet

Sports Nutrition and the FODMAP Diet

As many athletes will agree, finding the right diet is an essential part of enhancing your overall performance. But because diets vary, and your needs are unique to your body, sports nutrition is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Learning how different foods react in your body while playing sports or exercising will help you decide what diet is best for you.

One of the most popular regimes for athletes is a low FODMAP diet. Many competitors suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) issues, which can lower your endurance significantly. Often linked to specific foods that cause inflammation, abdominal pain, and bloating, this connection has prompted a broader discussion between food intolerances and athletic performance. Subsequently, studies show that a low FODMAP diet can improve endurance and minimize GI symptoms.   

What are FODMAP Foods?

First, FODMAP is an acronym for terminology that translates into carbs and sugar. It stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These particular versions tend to be difficult for some people to digest. You don’t need to know what those words mean, but remember that you’re reducing the consumption of foods that cause the tell-tale symptoms of GI issues and can lower your endurance performance. 

Some of these foods are more obvious than others. Of course, you should avoid high-sugar foods or artificial sugar, processed foods, simple carbohydrates, etc. You’ve heard these standard rules before. However, many vegetables and fruits fall into the no-zone, as well.

Food Intolerances and Sports Nutrition

In essence, a low FODMAP diet avoids food that can trigger indications of GI issues, like bloating, cramping, and pain. These symptoms often start with inflammation, so athletes should stay away from inflammatory foods. A lot of these foods related to common food intolerances, like dairy and gluten, for example. 

When your body can’t absorb or digest food, it starts to ferment in your GI tract and trigger inflammation, which reduces endurance and hinders performance. This reaction is why many athletes choose a low FODMAP diet while training.

The Elimination Diet

The most confusing part of this regime is that not all FODMAP foods are bad for you. You’ll find plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables on the ‘no’ list. Most surprisingly, some of these foods contain healthy prebiotics (like fructans and inulin) that stimulate beneficial gut bacteria. So why would you want to avoid them?

As stated above, for many people, FODMAPs are challenging to digest and can lead to GI problems. A low FODMAP diet helps your gut to heal by reducing food that could cause problems. After several weeks, you can slowly reintroduce the healthiest options to see how your body reacts.

Sports Supplements and FODMAPs

Athletes following a low FODMAP diet may have a difficult time navigating sports supplements and foods, such as protein powder and sports drinks. Watermelon, for example, is healthy food. However, it also contains fructan, which can be difficult for many people to digest.  These ingredients are contained in sports drinks as they ultimately benefit your performance, so it depends on the brand and whether you can thrive on the ingredients. 

Remember, “low” is the keyword in the low FODMAP diet. You don’t have to 100% eliminate these foods—you’re merely lowering them to improve your digestion and enhance your athletic performance. It’s okay to consume a melon-flavoured sports drink as long as it’s not too high sugar or fructose. In general, it’s best to avoid added sweeteners, particularly artificial ones. 

Finding the Best Sports Drinks for FODMAPs

Sports drinks can undoubtedly fall into the low FODMAP category. As sports nutrition tells us, we must stay hydrated for optimal performance! The key to finding the right drink is in the balance between fructose and glucose. The lower the fructose, the better—but try to find options with less fructose than glucose.  For a fructose free electrolyte option, you can use natural electrolytes like Bindilyte, and then if you need some carbohydrates you can add a whole food option that you know you can tolerate comfortably.  Ultimately, it’s about performance and the combination that works best for you! 

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