Enhanced intestinal permeability has been associated with gastrointestinal disorders in long-distance runners. The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of running intensity on small intestinal permeability by using the lactulose and rhamnose differential urinary excretion test. Secondary purposes included assessing the relationship between small intestinal permeability and gastrointestinal symptoms and evaluating gastric damage by using sucrose as a probe. Six healthy volunteers [5 men, 1 woman; age = 30 +/- 2 yr; peak O2 uptake (VO2peak) = 57.7 +/- 2.1 ml.kg-1.min-1] rested or performed treadmill exercise at 40, 60, or 80% VO2peak for 60 min in a moderate environment (22 degrees C, 50% relative humidity). At 30 min into rest or exercise, the permeability test solution (5 g sucrose, 5 g lactulose, 2 g rhamnose in 50 ml water, approximately 800 mosM) was ingested. Urinary excretion rates (6 h) of the lactulose-to-rhamnose ratio were used to assess small intestinal permeability, and concentrations of each probe were determined by using high-performance liquid chromatography. Running at 80% VO2peak increased (P < 0.05) small intestinal permeability compared with rest, 40, and 60% VO2peak with mean values expressed as percent recovery of ingested dose of 0.107 +/- 0.021 (SE), 0.048 +/- 0.009, 0.056 +/- 0.005, and 0.064 +/- 0.010%, respectively. Increases in small intestinal permeability did not result in a higher prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms, and urinary recovery of sucrose did not reflect increased gastric permeability. The significance and mechanisms involved in increased small intestinal permeability after high-intensity running merit further investigation.