Test–Retest Reliability of a Modified Visual Analog Scale Assessment Tool for Determining Incidence and Severity of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Response to Exercise Stress

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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Considering the recent growth of exercise gastroenterology research focusing on exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome mechanisms, response magnitude, prevention and management strategies, the standardized assessment of gastrointestinal symptoms (GIS) is warranted. The current methodological study aimed to test the reliability of a modified visual analog scale for assessing GIS during exercise, in response to a variety of exertional-stress scenarios, with and without dietary intervention. Recreational endurance runners (n = 31) performed one of the three exercise protocols, which included: 2-hr running at 70% V˙O2max in temperate (24.7 °C) ambient conditions, with fluid restriction; 2-hr running at 60% V˙O2max in hot (35.1 °C) ambient conditions, while consuming chilled water immediately before and every 15 min during exercise; and 2-hr running at 60% V˙O2max in temperate (23.0 °C) ambient conditions, while consuming 30 g/20 min carbohydrate (2∶1 glucose∶fructose, 10% temperate w/v), followed by a 1-hr distance test. GIS was monitored pre-exercise, periodically during exercise, and immediately postexercise. After wash out, participants were retested in mirrored conditions. No significant differences (p > .05) were identified between test–retest using Wilcoxon signed-rank test for all GIS (specific and categorized), within each exercise protocol and the combined protocols. Strong correlations were observed for gut discomfort, total GIS, upper GIS, and nausea (rs = .566 to rs = .686; p < .001), but not for lower GIS (rs = .204; p = .232). Cohen’s magnitude of difference was minimal for all GIS (specific δ < 0.14 and categorized δ < 0.08). The modified visual analog scale for assessing GIS during exercise appears to be a reliable tool for identifying incidence and severity of GIS in cohort populations and is sensitive enough to detect exertional and intervention differences.

Gaskell and Costa are with the Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, Monash University, Notting Hill, Victoria, Australia. Snipe is with the Centre for Sport Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Ricardo J.S. Costa at ricardo.costa@monash.edu.
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