Minimizing Elimination: 5 Port A Potty Tips Every Athlete Should Know

port-a-pottyRaise the lid to successfully minimize elimination and enjoy your workout with less GI distress! Tips to maximize your food and fluid intake before and during athletic events is a common sports topic. Tips to minimize your output has received less attention because it’s not a topic of polite conversation and many athletes wrongly believe it’s a natural body function that can’t be managed. Here are my top 6 port a potty tips every athlete should know.

  1. Drink 2 cups of fluid 2 hours before your event begins. I’ve had many athletes tell me “I did just what you told me and I’ve been drinking 2 cups of fluid, but now I feel like I’m running with a full bladder.” They probably are. The trick is to consume 2 cups of fluid 2 hours prior, not during the 2 hours leading up to the event. Blood is 90% and muscle is 75% fluid, so getting everything topped off two hours in advance is a performance enhancing must. Adequate hydration maximizes your blood’s ability to carry oxygen and other key nutrients and provides for optimal muscle contraction. By adhering to the 2-hour rule you provide your body with the right amount of fluid to top everything off and equally important, the right amount of time to empty out the excess. Next, drink 8-12 ounces, 15 minutes before you begin. Your gut will function better if it’s not beginning from an empty state. Dehydration actually slows the speed at which fluid leaves the stomach.
  2. Consider consuming a low-residue diet for 2-3 days prior to your competition. This diet reduces the amount of contents lingering in your intestinal tract and hence the need for bowel movements. Understand that this diet is not recommended long-term because it eliminates many heart healthy foods and significantly reduces fiber intake. Examples of a low residue diet include:

Grains: plain crackers, white bread, puffed rice, cornflakes, cream of wheat, pancakes, white rice and white pasta. Limit oatmeal, popcorn, dried peas, beans and legumes.

Fruits and Vegetables: well-cooked fresh or canned fruits and vegetables, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, avocado and pulp free juices. Remove the skins and avoid seeds and dried fruits.

Dairy: low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt and milk. Limit to 2 servings per day.

Meat and Protein: eggs, tofu, beef, poultry and fish are fine. Avoid nuts and seeds.

Other: sports drinks, bars, beans and gels are all low in residue.

  1. Eat carbohydrate rich foods and fluids 4 hours prior to your event to:
  • Restore liver glycogen
  • Increase muscle glycogen
  • Prevent hunger
  • Provide a psychological boost.
  • Empty the stomach.  It takes 2-4 hours for food to leave the stomach, longer the greater the fat content. Any food remaining in your stomach may end up going along for a painful GI ride.  Unfortunately this does mean an early wake up call.
  1. Do GI practice runs before your event. Just as you train your muscles, train your gut. The maximum amount of carbohydrate that can be oxidized from a single type of carbohydrate (for example, glucose) is 1 gram per minute or 60 grams per hour because the transporters responsible for carbohydrate absorption becomes saturated. Consuming more than this amount from a single carbohydrate source increases your risk for GI problems. The key to getting beyond this 60-gram limit for endurance events is to consume multiple types of carbohydrates (for example, glucose and fructose or glucose, fructose and sucrose) that use different intestinal transporters involving separate pathways. The addition of different carbohydrates or maltodextrins allows athletes to achieve carbohydrate absorption rates as high as 105 gram per hour which becomes important in longer events.  An added bonus is that water absorption rates also increase when sports drinks contain two to three different carbohydrate sources.  Louise Burke, PhD from the Australian Institute of Sport, states that if you do get intestinal problems during an event, swooshing and spitting is an effective way to maintain your performance.   Word to the wise,  look before you spit.
  1. Avoid high concentrations of pure fructose such as fruit juice, honey, table sugar, molasses or maple syrup. The carbohydrate fructose is absorbed more slowly and needs to be converted into glucose by the liver before it can be used as energy by the muscle. This problem is remedied and better tolerated when fructose is combined with other carbohydrate sources.
  2. Think twice before taking aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents before athletic events.  Both increase intestinal permeability, leading once again to more GI distress.  Some researchers have suggested that they also increase the risk for hyponatremia in endurance events due to impaired kidney function.

According to Nanna Meyer, PhD, RD from the University of Colorado, an estimated 45-85% of athletes complain about GI issues such as diarrhea, bloating and cramping.   Unfortunately, some of you will still experience diarrhea after an event. That’s because  blood is appropriately side tracked away from your intestinal tract to your muscles during competition.  Once your event is complete, blood flow returns throughout the body, including your intestines along with a lot of water. As a result both the urgency and frequency of bowel movement begins. Finally, both too little fluid and too much carbohydrate may create GI problems so proper intake does indeed impact proper output in more ways than one.

More articles on the topic:

How to Avoid Stomach Problems While Running by Runners World

Categories: Sports Nutrition

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