This week wraps up my cheeky, yet hopefully at least somewhat entertaining and informative series on what we can learn from our bodily fluids. I am not sure if I am saving the best one for last, or if I have been avoiding it since it makes many of us at least a little squeamish.
So…speaking of cheeky… let’s talk poop. Everybody poops. And, like all things I have discussed so far— it can be a good indicator of health (or not). Although this is a part of all of our lives as humans, it is likely that runners and triathletes have a few more stories than the general population about having the unfortunate experience of suddenly needing a bathroom…
I love to run while traveling, considering it my own site seeing tour while also gaining many of the mental health benefits. My most recent running experiences in Ireland were magnificent. Our guide is married to a runner and so he was able to recommend safe running paths with fantastic views. I ran along lakes, around rugby pitches, by homes built in the 14th century, through a national park, and next to rivers and canals.
But, unlike suburban USA, there was not a public toilet conveniently available within virtually every mile. And, the foreign food and drink, combined with a disrupted routine (in this case, including a significant time change), all while in an unfamiliar territory….can cause a bit of an unstable gut environment… which can lead to one of those bathroom emergencies.
Thankfully, each time I was able to find a suitable place to take care of my business. But, along with lovely views and immense amounts of gratitude, every run did have moments of mild panic when my body suddenly decided that after days of stubbornness, NOW was the time to “drop the Browns off at the Super Bowl.” (My niece introduced this phrase, and the thirteen year old boy in me just couldn’t resist ;))
I am thankful that this is not a reoccurring issue in my daily training life, but it used to be. So, I thought maybe some of you could benefit from some tips that I received to regularly help things be…well, more regular.
Take care of your overall gut health. Our culture imposes so many confusing ideas on what it means to be “healthy.” While we all need to understand and serve the specific needs of our individual bodies, most of us (and our digestive tracts) benefit from eating a large variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and mostly avoiding ultra processed foods. Athletes—save the training and racing nutrition products for training and racing! Also- get blood work done. When possible, work with registered dietitians to sift through all of the marketing noise.
Pay attention to the color and consistency of your poop. Click here for a helpful chart.
Take magnesium. Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function and normalizes blood pressure. It also improves immune system function, increases bone integrity, levels blood glucose, contributes to more restful sleep, and promotes calcium absorption. AND, it helps you poop! Magnesium pulls additional water into the intestines. Not only does this lubricate the entire tract so waste can move through it more quickly, but it also adds to the size of the stool, causing it to be pushed out more easily. It also helps relax the intestinal wall muscles… which is good… unless you are running along in the beautiful Irish countryside. 😉 Click here for help on which kind of magnesium is best for you.
Consider what and when you eat before training. If you always have to poop during a workout, try eating a little less beforehand and/or giving yourself a little more time to digest before training.
Cut back (by at least 30%), or totally eliminate fiber intake 2-3 days before a big race (the specific needs of each individual is different). For most, avoid fiber completely in the 2-3 hours leading up to a race. Practice this in training!
And, as always, stay hydrated.
There is so, so much more I could say, but I don’t want you to start to think I am completely full of sh*t. To sum this series up— your bodily fluids matter. Pay attention, and seek out help when you notice changes. Your body is your friend (even when some admittedly gross, smelly things come out if it).
Come back next week when I finally get to start talking about racing. 🙂