Cutting out specific foods can alleviate gastrointestinal issues for physically active people, especially a runner, researchers say. The study, conducted by researchers from the Anglia Ruskin University in Britain, showed that a low fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide and polyol or FODMAP diet reduces some of the issues caused by exercise such as stomach cramps and bloating, and improves a person’s perceived ability to exercise.
FODMAP foods include those containing lactose (milk, yoghurt and cheese), fructans (found in cereals, bread and pasta), galactic-oligosaccharides (legumes and onions), excess fructose (for example in apples, pears and asparagus) and polyols (often added as a food additive).
“We found a clear benefit when following the low FODMAP diet, with a reduction in exercise-related gastrointestinal symptoms amongst otherwise healthy, recreational runners,” said Justin Roberts, Principal Lecturer at the varsity.
For the study, the researchers involved a group of healthy recreational exercisers. Everyone in the group followed two eating plans for one week at a time, with the key difference being the FODMAP content.
The findings, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that 69 per cent of those following a low FODMAP diet experienced an improvement in symptoms and were able to exercise more frequently and at a higher intensity.
In addition, the improvement in perceived pain, in conjunction with reduced experiences of bloating whilst on a low FODMAP diet, is likely explained by a reduction in intestinal water volume and gas production, caused by fewer indigestible carbohydrates available for fermentation in the gut.
However, further studies are needed to examine the benefits of this diet when combined with long-term training strategies. It is important that people take care if deciding to follow a low FODMAP diet, as reductions in total caloric and carbohydrate intake may impact on nutritional quality, Roberts suggested.