Sport and digestion

Sport and digestion

Everyone is familiar with this situation: the food was once again very tasty, but now unfortunately heavy on the stomach. Now it’s time to stimulate the digestion to get rid of this feeling of fullness, but how? The more calories our food has, the slower is the digestion. 70% of our immune system is set up in our stomach. Most digestive problems can be solved easily and luckily even avoided with healthy nutrition. 

It is important to make appropriate adjustments to the daily eating habits. There is a big variety of food with which digestion can be easily promoted and gastrointestinal complaints may be reduced to a minimum.

How does our  digestion work?

Digestion works by moving food through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing and ends in the small intestine. As food passes through the GI tract, it mixes with digestive juices, causing large molecules of food to break down into smaller molecules. The body then absorbs these smaller molecules through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream, which delivers them to the rest of the body. Waste products of digestion pass through the large intestine and out of the body as a solid matter called stool. What many people do not know, is that at night our liver manufactures new enzymes, that’s why late meals before bedtime are not good and can lead to initial digestive problems.

If you want to stimulate your digestion right after eating, you should start with soft and easy movement, like walking with deep breathing. Even a short walk provides enough movement to get your intestines moving. Movement stimulates the intestine and helps to digest the meal faster. At the same time our body can burn a portion of the absorbed energy again directly, which facilitates the work of our intestinal tract.

Sport and movements that need more body strength and endurance, should be avoided immediately after eating! It  causes very often stitch when the stomach content is too much rocked back and forth. It also urges the body to supply more blood to the muscles just needed with the movement, which results in less blood being available in the digestive tract. Thus, the digestion slows down and is burdened unnecessarily.

More than half of endurance athletes are afflicted during training or competition with gastrointestinal problems. Often these are rather harmless but unpleasant side effects of sport. 30 to 42 percent of the runners complain about rectal tenesmus during running sessions, 14 to 30 percent even get diarrhea. These complaints are typical for runners, they are not as commonly observed in other disciplines.

There is also a direct relationship between exercise intensity and the severity of symptoms. Diet mistakes are a common cause:

  • the excessive intake of highly concentrated foods such as chocolate, carbohydrate gels, concentrated energy or mineral drinks, mineral powder or mineral tablets just before or during exercise may promote abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
  • high fat and rich meals volumes remain very long in the stomach and overload it unnecessarily. This  leads to bloating, belching, nausea to vomiting. Both high intensity and extremely long workouts must be prepared well, that the gastrointestinal tract has a chance to adapt to these  situations.

A full stomach does not like extrem workout, therefore, the last major meal should be taken at least two hours before exercising  and easy to digest, without being flatulent and low in fat. Very sensitive sportsmen and sportswomen consume until the start of training only small amounts of liquidity or easily acceptable food. Even after the workout we have to keep in mind that the gastrointestinal has to recover as well. The regular supply with small amounts of liquid during long workouts is important and may help reduce gastrointestinal problems.

Basically moderate exercise promotes digestion. Through exercise we get more awareness for a healthy diet. The compatibility of food is different for each person. Try, feel and act accordingly. And breath!

Photo source: © Cécile Gall /

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