Workout Tips

Don't Let Side Stitches Slow You Down

How to prevent that painful side ache when exercising.

Don't Let Side Stitches Slow You Down

You’re working up a good sweat and finally hitting your stride when suddenly, out of nowhere – WHAM. Something sucker punches you just below the ribcage. Whether you call it a side stitch, side ache, or cramp, nothing shuts you down quite like the effects of this painful spasm of the diaphragm muscle. While common among novice runners, side stitches can slow even the most advanced athletes down to a crawl.

So far there’s no one definitive cause of side stitch. Popular theories for its effects include participation in an activity that is too strenuous for one’s level of conditioning, exercising too soon after eating, improper breathing techniques, trapped gas in the large intestine, dehydration, and the strain placed on the diaphragm by ligaments that attach it to the liver. Regardless of what actually causes side stitches, you can help prevent or lessen their symptoms by following these simple tips:

Lighten Your Load

Chances are greater you’re going to feel that stab of pain at your side if you scarf down a heavy meal shortly before your workout. So be sure to go with a light meal, and wait at least one to two hours before going full throttle. Spicy, greasy and fatty foods that slow down the digestive process should be avoided. Instead, fuel your body with easier to digest, carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread and pasta to lessen the chance of getting of side stitches.

Drink Wisely

Sports drinks low in sugar are fine, but your best bet is still good old H2O when it comes to hydrating. Sugary, carbonated drinks have been shown to contribute to side stitches, and should be eliminated as a source of hydration. Attention should also be paid to the amount you drink. Don’t guzzle down a bucketful of liquid pre-workout; pace yourself and drink only 8 to 12 ounces of fluid 30 minutes before getting started.

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