Gaining Fluid Weight & Bloating


Experience From - Karl King#1, Jay Hodde#1, Jay Hodde#2, Karl King#2, Jay Hodde#3,

Karl King #1

Vida asked about water weight gain after her recent marathon.

A "cup" of fluid per mile is likely far more than needed. In a typical training run on the road, I'm happy with 1 cup/3.5 miles and that seems to be a typical figure according to Noakes and others.

Bloating is usually caused by too little sodium intake, though it isn't the only possibility. Bloating is the body's response to fluid level disturbance, so it is a sign that improvements could be made ( more sodium, or less water if taken in excess ). But if you have to err, it is easier to correct drinking too much than not drinking enough.

By the way, you can't simply go by sense of thirst. Most humans are terrible at calibrating body hydration status by sense of thirst. When thirst does register, runners are usually seriously dehydrated. Runners who are 2-3 liters deficient will drink 0.25 liter of water and pronounce themselves hydrated.

Note: A marathon can cause ADH ( anti-diuretic hormone ) which normally increases in times of stress. It is the same hormone which can cause bloating at a specific point in the menstrual cycle. You may have been running the marathon at that time, giving you a combination effect.

Jay Hodde #1

Subject: Tingly Hands

"During a longer-distance run, say well into the second hour, my hands will start tingling sort of like when a limb is falling asleep. They also swell a little (and I tend to retain water for a few days after a really long run). Is this something to worry about, or does everyone who runs for a long time have tingly limbs? My knees too feel a little numb when I run. Are these symptoms related to poor sodium intake (I find myself craving salty chips and salty pretzels after a long run) or are they related to something else, like poor circulation made worse? low blood pressure made worse? My blood pressure is typically about 90-100/60-70 and I do have poor circulation too, would that be cause for concern?"
I have found that the tingling is related most closely with my state of hydration. As I get dehydrated, the tingling gets more intense. I haven't noticed any relation to sodium, but loss of sodium and loss of fluid often go hand in hand. During running, blood flow to the working muscles is increased. I would doubt that symptoms are related to poor circulation, or blood pressure, as systolic blood pressure will increase during exercie with little change in the diastolic number. Your body will tend to maintain its blood pressure at the expense of (almost) everything else.

Jay Hodde #2

Jeanie says:

I have run two ultras in the past month - a 50-miler and a six hour run. During both runs I had no stomach problems at all, eating GU and sports drink and water and some cookies and miscelaneous goodies. In both cases, though, in about 24 hours I got severe bloating and discomfort which lasted about a day. Could this be a volume overload from all the fluids I took in (I did urinate during the race) or a reaction to taking 8-10 GUs during the race. Any thoughts on how to prevent this in the future???"
Jeanie, I can't tell you exactly what the bloating is from, but I experience it, too. If I jump on a scale before a run and compare that weight to my weight during and after, here's what I find:

Weight (pre-race): Normal

During a 100 Miler: -1/+1 (in pounds from normal)

End of 100 Miler: +1 (if taken at finish line)
6 hours after finish: -3 (initial fluid flush)
24 hrs after finish: +3
48 hrs after finish: +3 to +5
72 hrs after finish: +1
4 days after finish: -3 to -5
5 days after finish: Close to normal at 5-6 days

After a 50 Miler: +1 (if taken at finish)
24 hrs after finish: +3
48 hrs after finish: +5
72 hrs after finish: +1 (this is where I am today)
4 days after finish: -3 to -5 (expected tomorrow)
I think the weight fluctuation is due to the body's homeostatic mechanisms trying to adjust to the mileage. When we run, the body attempts to store as much water as possible in order to cool the working muscles. It is quite likely that the hormone response triggered by endurance exercise is prolonged for a few days AFTER the event -- thus the bloating and transient increase in weight. This isn't my area of expertise, so others may have more correct or better answers.

Karl King #2

The weight figures during/following an ultra, posted by Jay Hodde, are fairly common. The bloating is a combination of sodium depletion and the body's reaction to stress. Vasopressin is the hormone which causes most of the water retention. It clears from the bloodstream after a couple days and then the retained water filters back out. All of this is normal, and not a cause for concern. It may be shocking to run an ultra and find that your weight went up, but it is only temporary.

Jay Hodde #3

Roxy asked:

"I am new to this list. I'm responding to the person who wrote about being bloated after long runs. I too have this problem. Not only do I become bloated after long runs, I also will have diarrhea and sometimes blood in my stools. (Sorry gang - I'm sure you really want to hear about my bowel movements - but I need some help). On daily lower mileage runs I never have a problem. The difference is that I don't eat anything before I run on these days. When I am going longer I get up and have coffee, maybe a bagel or toast, and juice...I head out to run after I go to the bathroom. I think I need the caffeine before the longer runs."
On the bloating: I'm not a gal, and I understand that this may be a factor, but consider increasing your sodium intake on your long runs and see if that helps the problem.

On the blood: In the urine or in the stools? If the blood is in your urine, too, I would suggest *not* going to the bathroom before you run -- if the bladder is empty, the walls rub together and can cause the blood that you see. Generally, transient hematuria in runners is n ot a problem -- but I'd suggest a visit to the doctor just to be safe. In the stools only? I would be curious to know if the blood is bright red or dark/black. Bright red blood mean the problem lies in the lower intestine, while dark/black stools indicate the problem is more likely related to the stomach or small intestine.

Since caffeine can irritate the stomach lining, it could be a source of the blood.

If the blood is bright red, a thing to consider would be nothing more serious than direct trauma (from chafing,'all) to the tissue right around the anus. Not a pretty thought, butt. . . . On the diarrhea: On my long runs, I just consider it part of the game. Depending on what I eat the *evening* before a long run, it can happen as early as mile 5 or as late as mile 30. I find that my problems are less related to caffeine ingestion than they are to fat ingestion the day before.