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Cycling nutrition: 5 foods for troubled tums

What to munch on to settle your stomach before you go our for a ride

9 Jan 2019

This feature first appeared in Issue 51 of Cyclist magazine

Stomach upsets are so common among cyclists that doctors have even given the condition a name – exercise-induced nausea.

It’s caused by reduced blood flow to the stomach during periods of high exertion, when blood is diverted away from the guts to more critical organs and, in the case of cycling, your legs.

If you’re also feeding mid-exercise, as you would on a big ride, the problem is exacerbated as your intestines struggle to digest whatever you’re using to fuel your efforts.

Here, then, are five pre-ride foods to try that may bring some relief…


Used since ancient times as a remedy for nausea, ginger has been the subject of countless scientific studies that confirm its effectiveness in combatting gastrointestinal problems.

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory containing various bioactive compounds that soothe the stomach lining.

Ginger also stimulates bile production which assists digestion and contains zingerone which is useful for treating bacteria-triggered diarrhoea.

Drop a few fresh, peeled slices into a cup of boiled water, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice for taste, and sip before setting out. 


Tropical fruits tend to be stacked with stuff that’s good for your guts with papaya being a particularly rich source of proteolytic enzymes, which are superb at stimulating the digestive process.

Some of these enzymes – in particular papain and chymopapain – are highly efficient at breaking down proteins and soothing the stomach by ridding your body of parasites and promoting a healthy acidic environment.

It’s not just the fruit’s sweet flesh that’s good for your tummy either, its bitter seeds (think mustard mixed with pepper) also contain high levels of papain. 


Dairy can cause havoc with some people’s guts but, broadly speaking, yoghurt is superb at settling nervous or upset tums.

The key is to choose all-natural, unsweetened varieties – such as full-fat Greek yoghurt, which contains live or active cultures.

These can restore the balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract. This is important because your intestines are the cornerstone of your immune system, containing 70% of the cells that your body uses to fight pathogens and prevent infection.

Healthy bacteria, such as the probiotics found in natural yoghurt, are your stomach’s first line of defence.


It’s easy to feel queasy before a big event but a bowl of plain oats can do a great job of settling your stomach – plus it’ll go down really easily.

This is because it’s high in soluble fibre which is good for digestion and your gut.

Oats are also low on the Glycemic Index, so contain carbohydrates that provide plenty of slow-release energy, which is the ideal fuel to have on board if you’re pushing out a sustained effort, whether that be a race, a sportive or even a long training ride.

Try sprinkling some cinnamon on top – not only will it add to the taste but it can help relieve wind.

Coconut water

Whether a stomach upset is caused by infection, food allergies or nerves, the common factor is an inflamed stomach lining.

When this happens, your guts struggle to absorb water, as well as energy and nutrients from food. When this happens, try sipping coconut water – the natural liquid in fresh coconut.

It’s rich in tannins – these have antibacterial properties that can reduce inflammation – plus lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties which are great for gut health.

Tip: As much as you may love a coffee before a ride, if you’re worried about tummy troubles then swerve it or opt for decaf.

Caffeine is notorious for triggering inflammation of the stomach lining. 

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