21 Aug Staying ‘regular’ on a diet
And I don’t want ‘regular’, to be confused with ‘consistent’. Consistent on a diet, would imply following it to the letter.
By regular, I’m talking as though you could set your watch by the regularity and timing of your bowel movements.
This is what we should be striving for throughout our dieting phases, but unfortunately for most, we end up with the polar opposite.
It’s not uncommon for those toward the end of prolonged dieting phases to complain of going being able to go to the bathroom every 2, 3 or even 4 days.
The first issue with this, is that it completely throws them mentally due to the scales not budging. This is likely the phase of the diet where they’re pushing their absolute hardest, yet the scales don’t reflect it due to increased bowel contents.
But, psychology aside, it really can’t be good from a ‘health’ point of view to have food backed up inside their for days at a time. Not to mention, it’s hella uncomfortable.
With all of this said, I think the first thing to realise is that – without intervention – this is normal and to be somewhat expected.
– We’re gradually reducing total food consumption over a period of time, so there’s simply less ‘waste’ to excrete
– As we head into these stages, our body is trying to extract every last nutrient it can out of what little we are putting in, so it has no need to be ‘efficient’ in elimination
I mentioned above that – without intervention – it is normal.
So what if we do have intervention?
Well, things can be a lot more comfortable, to say the least!
Below, I’m going to give some of my biggest tips to keeping things moving nicely through a diet. Progressively the tips will become more advanced, and typically only used in the more extreme cases.
Hydration: Let me guess. You just rolled your eyes? You saw that one coming, right? Then why aren’t you executing?! It’s such a simple one to remedy that can genuinely have a huge (and often almost instant) benefit.
I know every trainer out there almost has a duty to tell you to ‘drink more water’, but for real, the smallest signs of dehyration can have a surprising effect on bowel movements, and increase chances of constipation.
Don’t take this as a set in stone, but a good range for most people is probably going to be somewhere between 2.5-3.5 litres. Some may need more, some may need less. But it’s a good starting point for most.
Insoluble AND Soluble Fibre: Don’t make the mistake of thinking purely loading up on greens will get things moving again. Depending on your digestive system,if you’re sensitive to insoluble fibre, it may actually make things worse and have the opposite effect.
Instead, strive for a balance of soluble and insoluble fibre: Eat your greens, as well as oats, potatoes, rice etc
There’s also no need to go ridiculously high on total fibre. Try and aim for around 10g per 1000cal consumed and take things from there.
Psyllium Husk: You may be wondering what you should do if you have low (starchy) carb days, or you’re even in a complete low carb phase, where the likes of oats etc don’t feature on your meal plan?
That’s where supplementing with Psyllium Husk can be a game changer. It’s a soluble fibre, and you’ll soon see why it’s classed as one as soon as you leave it for longer than 30 seconds once mixed! (Tip: Drink it fast!)
It really doesn’t taste all that great, so I tend to mix it with either a greens drink, or with sugar free squash.
You can buy flavoured versions now, but of course you’ll pay a premium.
Black Coffee: Coffee for most people, is a mild gut irritant. I’m really not a coffee drinker at all, and will over ever drink it if I’m needing to use a coffee shops WiFi (even then, I’m an amateur and drink mochas, made with coconut milk).
Being an amateur in the coffee game actually plays to my benefit when dieting.
I know as soon as I start to hit the sticking point in a diet where things ‘slow down’ (in toilet terms, not fat loss), that introducing a strong black coffee in the mornings sorts everything out as if by magic.
The problem is, 90% of the population live off of the stuff. So have become tolerant of it, which reduces the laxative effect it can offer while dieting.
There are definite health benefits to coffee. So I’m not suggesting you remove it for the hell of it (plus, I don’t want hate mail).
But, do consider temporarily pulling it prior to dieting and then only re-introducing it when digestion slows.
Super Dieters Tea: This is a tip that John Meadows gave me during a phone consult years ago. It’s a cinnamon flavoured tea, that has Senna extract added to it. Senna being a natural laxative that promotes peristalsis in the gut (the wave like contraction of the intestines).
First off, as you know, dieting can become pretty bland and boring. So, the sweet cinnamon tea is a small novelty in the final stages of a diet, it tastes good, it’s warm and it’s different. The fact that it can also give things a nudge is a bonus.
Senakot: For me personally, if I’m on an actual contest prep diet (not just a quick ‘get a little leaner’ diet) then I need to use this inside the final 3-4 weeks. I’m very prone to changes in bowel movements whether it’s flying, changes in food, stress levels etc. And without fail, as I hit that three week out mark on a prep, my digestive system comes to a grinding halt.
I’ve had it with a handful of clients too.
Some can get truly lean/shredded, with moderate diets or even extreme diets and notice almost no side effects.
Whereas some clients that I’ve worked with, are very prone to things slowing down. Even with changing the food sources, and implementing the above tips.
In these cases, for the final stretch of a diet I’ll recommend using 1 Senakot 2-3 days in a row, before ceasing it’s use for 4-5 days and repeating the cycle until the end of the diet.
The goal of course is never have to resort to this. But, from experience, some do need that helping hand.
I also did speak to a gastroenterologist when I was working in London who advised that as far as he’s aware, there are no long term health consequences of using Senna extract for periods of time.
For those of you about to enter a dieting phase:
Ensure that points 1 & 2 (water as well as a mix of soluble/insoluble fibre) are taken care of.
For those of you that are already noticing increase constipation:
Perhaps consider backing off on the diet for 2-3 days, hitting ‘reset’ and then implementing Psyllium Husk as well as points 1 & 2.
Try and explore other avenues before using the Senakot, and definitely make sure to be discussing all of this with your coach! Don’t be embarrassed – the more information we have, the better!