It’s race day morning. You have the right gear. You completed the training and your body is ready. You’re confident that you have done everything to perform at your highest level. But one simple mistake can make all the difference — a bout of race day constipation at this point can spell disaster. All vanity aside, this is a serious issue that doesn’t get talked about enough.
Race Day Constipation
If you have ridden in races or large group rides, you’ve seen it in action. Long lines of cyclists waiting to get into the bathroom at the last minute, desperate for a bowel movement before getting on the bike. Why is this happening now? It doesn’t have to be that way.
Why it Happens
If you’re racing or embarking on a distance ride, you’re often out of your element. At home your routine is consistent and you take normal bodily functions for granted before getting on your bike. But if you’ve been traveling your routine is out of whack. Eating while traveling throws off your diet. Your nerves get frazzled and it can lead to a failure of digestive habits — also known as race day constipation. Professionals agree — if not silently — that a proper morning constitution is essential for a good performance. But how can you ensure it?
Know Your Body
It’s not a complicated equation if you pay attention to your body and what you put into it before your big ride. The basics of regularity are proper fiber and water in the weeks and days leading up to your race. Getting your body on a regular schedule to avoid constipation that you can rely on the day before and the day of your race or ride is important.
What Science Says
“Getting enough fiber is vital in the days and weeks before a race for keeping assimilation customary and avoiding clogging.” Schnoll-Sussman says. “Be that as it may, on race day, expending more fiber than expected can bring about the runs, so don’t eat (or drink) vast sums the morning of, particularly in case you’re not accustomed to it.”
Staying hydrated is additionally key—particularly in case you’re flying on a plane or traveling. “Obstruction happens when the stool is excessively dry, making it impossible to travel through the body effortlessly, so drinking a lot of water can simply move things along,” Schnoll-Sussman says. “Topping off on H20 the days prior to your race and drinking that warm refreshment first thing in the morning, is the most ideal approach to ensure you’re ready to go when you have to.”
How Much Fiber
The amount of fiber you need is tied to the number of calories you eat in a day. For healthy adults, the USDA recommends 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. So a person eating 2,000 calories a day should strive to get 28 grams of fiber daily.
A Few Proven Winners
If you have been training with other cyclists or have done the miles on your own, you probably already know what your body needs or doesn’t need to keep it regular. Here are a few time tested tips that most cyclists rely on to avoid constipation on race day to ensure you don’t have any issues.
Caffeine produces peristalsis and increases levels of cholecystokinin which regulates bowel movements. At least one study confirms that drinking coffee can produce the urge to go and it lasts for about 30 minutes. If you’re not into coffee, some cyclists claim that any hot liquid such as hot water or tea can have the same effect.
Eating broccoli on a regular basis is one way to make sure that you don’t get constipated. And while you should definitely eat a varied diet, broccoli is one of those vegetables that could be consumed on nearly a daily basis for better health.
Avocados and Nuts
Fats are necessary for a healthy metabolism along with proteins and carbohydrates in the proper ratio. If you’re avoiding fat thinking that it will make you fat, think again. If you avoid fat entirely, you’ll actually slow your metabolism along with your bowel movements. Always choose healthy fats from whole foods. Avocados and nuts are perfect examples of healthy fat.
If you have been avoiding rice because you heard it gives you race day constipation, it’s time to welcome brown rice into your diet. This is the unprocessed version of rice and is a whole grain. Whole grains can help you maintain regularity and avoid bouts of constipation altogether.
There’s a reason for the “apple a day” saying and part of it is because apples will help keep your digestive system functioning properly. Contradictory as it may sound, apples can also help with cases of diarrhea. This is because they act as bulking agents, helping to move waste through your digestive system if you’re constipated and to firm up the stool if you have diarrhea.
Eating yogurt is one outstanding way to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut that promote healthy bowel movements. Simply eat a cup of yogurt with breakfast and try to eat it with snacks throughout the day for better effects.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid new foods or those that can upset your digestion. This is not always the same for everyone so it’s important to know your body. But generally speaking, don’t overeat or under-eat the day before your ride or race since that can throw off your bowels too. Here’s a few proven race day constipation initiators:
This is a big one, mostly because it’s the primary ingredient in the pizza that’s so popular the night before a big ride or race. Cheese is near the top of the list for constipation. The high fat, low fiber content of cheese is a recipe for race day disaster. Eating cheese the night before a race can result in a digestive slow down or complete back up.
Milk blocks bowel functions and can cause discomfort, pain, and other problems. Since dairy products are often highly touted by athletes, use at your own discretion. Experiment and take notes weeks or months before your big ride. Yogurt — although a dairy product — contains the friendly bacteria that contradicts the general dairy rule and has less lactose if that upsets you.
High protien, low fiber red meat can be hard to digest in a small amount of time. But red meat can be consumed without digestive back up if eaten with appropriate amounts of fiber. For example, and 20 oz sirloin steak is not a good option by itself, but mongolian BBQ with BROWN rice, vegetables, and noodles will likely cause you no issues.
Pain medications are well known constipation initiators. Avoid them before a race if possible, but only before consulting with your doctor.
As a diuretic, alcohol derives you of precious fluids that you need for healthy bowel movements.
Too Much Fiber
Fiber is one of those experimental options. Too much fiber can overwork your system and actually cause back ups. For example; if you’re not accustomed to beans, don’t eat them the night before a race. Experimentation ahead of time is key.
Bananas are well known to cyclists. But unripe bananas have green skin with high levels of starch. This high starch content may be a trigger for constipation. Keep bananas in your fruit bowl until the skin turns a bright yellow with plenty of brown speckles and you should be good to go.
Have a Seat
If you haven’t been following good digestive rules, you may be suffering from race day constipation and waiting for a bowel movement in line with the rest of them. If you’re aware of it ahead of time, there are a few things you can eat to help initiate it. For example; a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, toast and peanut butter, or a small smoothie can help to initiate the flushing sound. Make sure to wake up early enough so you have at least one hour to get something going down there. If you don’t have the immediate urge to do so, the simple act of sitting and relaxing on the toilet can sometimes bring on the urge.