Runners just love to brag about how they get a runner's high from logging miles, but there's another bodily byproduct that far fewer people talk about: poo. What starts as a normal jog on the treadmill can turn into a leggings-clutching sprint to the bathroom if you don't think it through. "Running, like many forms of endurance exercise, causes your gut to become very efficient," says Amanda Kruse, RD, CD. What you eat and when you eat it can make your run, and your bowels, go a little smoother, she says.
Drinking plenty of water while you run is smart, though that actually helps to move your stool through your colon, because your colon's main job is to reabsorb water, says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD. But hydration is a non-negotiable when you're exercising, so instead of skipping out on water, just be mindful about what you're eating hours before you go on a run. Of course, even if you do that, poop could still happen: "Sometimes, you just have to go, no matter what you did the day or night before," Rissetto says. But you might as well set yourself up for success, so here are some snacks and tricks that will help keep you from getting the runs when you're running.
Skip the coffee.
Coffee stimulates your bowels to get moving, whether or not you've eaten anything, Kruse says. It's best if you wait until after your run to drink it (if you can stand not having caffeine in the morning), says Natalie Johnson, a NASM-certified trainer and running coach.
Have yogurt before.
One way to make sure your bowels are out the door before you go for your run is to eat some yogurt. "Probiotics replenish gut bacteria, making it more comfortable to go," she says. "Calcium is also important for female runners to ensure they aren't breaking down that skeletal mass." Give yourself enough time to digest (two to three hours), or you could eat it the night before you're going running so you can ensure a healthy morning bowel movement before you leave.
Eat an orange.
Some fruits, like pineapples and prunes, contain a compound called sugar alcohol. "They have a laxative effect and wouldn't be ideal right before a run," Rissetto says. Citrus fruits have very low sugar alcohol, on the other hand, so you don't have to worry about that. Plus, eating fruits and vegetables regularly is a good way to make sure you have predictable bowel movements — and no surprises on your run, Kruse says.
Avoid high-fibre and fat.
"Higher-fibre foods that help foods pass through your gut seem to work double time with your run," Kruse says. Add the fact that you're hydrating with water, and your bowels will be on their way. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to your stool to help move it through your intestines, and soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material that moves stools out — and most foods contain different amounts of both, Rissetto says. Avoid foods like oatmeal, apples, beans, or nuts before a run, because they're all high-fibre foods. Fats in general — like bacon, avocado, and cheese — can also take longer to digest, so it could upset your stomach while you run, Johnson says.
Wait until after you poop to go running.
"If you're running in the morning, your body may be ready to get rid of the food it was digesting from the evening before," Kruse says. Pooping before a run is ideal, so you don't get stuck on a trail sans-potty, she says. If you have two to three hours to kill before you go out, have something that you know will make you poop, like oatmeal or an egg on whole grain toast and coffee. And don't forget to "give yourself a little time to hit the bathroom" before heading out for your run, she adds.