This is a delicate subject, and I have the unenviable and unglamorous task of presenting it in an informative and entertaining manner - minus any crude or vulgar attempts at
humor along the way. Nevertheless, it needs to be addressed. So here goes.
Everyone should be aware that the ingestion of nutrients is only half of his nutritional requirement. The second half of the process - the elimination - is a crucial factor in how well all those muscle building nutrients are being utilized.
Food and supplement consumption and the absorption of nutrients constitute a main concern to the bodybuilder looking to grow muscle and lose fat, yet the processes of digestion and elimination are not often discussed. Let's face it - the topic of bowel movements isn't high on most people's must-read lists. To properly appreciate the significance of efficient waste removal to one's bodybuilding goals, one must understand how nutrients are absorbed.
If you're like most bodybuilders, you consume a high-protein diet. Protein consumption is a priority because without it -and lots of it - you won't grow an ounce of muscle. All the training and all the supplements in the world won't make a difference if protein intake is low. Even steroids aren't very effective without adequate protein. (They can't build muscle out of nothing.) When protein, as with . all food, is in the small intestine, I its nutrients are absorbed into ' the bloodstream. That's what we want - all those mighty aminos repairing hard-worked muscle tissue, making it bigger and stronger. So far, so good. Now on to the second half.
By the time food gets into the lower (large) intestine, it's already waste. At this point it's just hanging around waiting to absorb water in order to "pass on through," making way for the next batch of discarded matter. This normally isn't a problem. Nature takes care of the process very efficiently - in most cases. The dilemma facing the bodybuilder, however, is twofold. One: Protein foods aren't very water soluble. That can lead to the process getting a little backed up. And two: To obtain a maximum anabolic state, you need to have as much protein as possible in the bloodstream at all times. The more space that is taken up by inert matter, the less room is left for a fresh supply of protein. Are you starting to see why getting this stuff out of you is as important as getting it in.
I'm glad you're still with me because the story gets worse. If there's a delay in the evacuation of food (notice how I've cleverly avoided using the "c" word so far), toxins begin to accumulate in the colon. Over a lifetime this buildup can lead to serious disease, but even as a temporary condition it isn't pleasant. Anyone who has experienced this malady knows the side effects are headaches, weakness, irritability and fatigue - none of which is conducive to a successful training regimen. Other symptoms include all sorts of digestive disturbances which are best left unmentioned. Let's just say you don't want to be training next to someone who's been "stuck" for a few days.
This may seem like an inconvenient, embarrassing or even humorous situation, but if you're the one experiencing the problem, it's far from funny. You look bloated and you feel miserable. It's also extremely detrimental toward muscle growth. The accumulated toxins can reenter the bloodstream, causing the liver to work harder. If the liver is busy filtering waste, its ability to replenish the blood supply which carries fresh nutrients to the muscle is severely hampered. Gets uglier by the minute, doesn't it?
Okay, the point, I'm sure, is well taken. If you want to grow, you have to get ample food in - and get it out! So what should you do to make sure the plumbing remains in proper working order?
The most significant rule of thumb is adequate water intake. Forget that eight-ounces-three-times-a-day routine. You're a bodybuilder. You need quarts of the stuff-all day long. And don't wait until you're thirsty. Once you're thirsty, you're already in a dehydrated state. Dehydration is also extremely catabolic. (A sign of dehydration is dark yellow urine.) Consistent water intake is mandatory for every serious bodybuilder.
Naturally fiber is a vital component to the protein-rich bodybuilding diet. It's also a nutrient that many bodybuilders lack. The standard practice is to add roughage - lettuce for example - to the diet, but be aware that iceberg lettuce contains very little fiber. Too much roughage can irritate the stomach lining.
When bulking up, you may want to add a digestive enzyme supplement to your meals - such as those containing papain and HCA - to help break down the excess food. When you're eating to lose bodyfat, you cut calories and restrict fruits and grains. Elimination of these foods slows down the digestive tract. Whenever this is the case, you need to use a fiber supplement like psyllium (which absorbs 20 times its weight in fluid) or one of the cellulose-based products like Fibercon. Chitosan, taken before meals which are high in saturated fats, also works very well.
Once again, water consumption comes into play because fiber attracts water, allowing for movement of waste. If you take a fiber supplement without water, it may clump up in one spot and actually have the reverse effect. Keep in mind that fiber clings to far and helps eliminate it undigested. That equals less total calories. Fiber also binds to estrogen and assists in its removal from the body, resulting in a leaner, harder physique.
What happens when it's too late? To put it bluntly, a bowel movement is a function which should occur at least once daily. If that isn't happening, or if the waste is scant... sorry, pal - you're constipated. That's a sign you aren't eating properly. At the risk of getting too graphic, if the fecal matter floats, it's also a sign that your diet is off kilter. But first you need to alleviate the problem.
The last thing you want to do is use a laxative. (If the situation is an "emergency" you may resort to using a warm-water enema. It's the most immediate cure.) Laxatives will only exacerbate the problem because your system will become dependent on the help. Herbal laxatives such as senna aren't much better. They work to aggravate the bowels, causing them to loosen and producing an effect which can be a little harsh. An excellent substitute is a mild stool-softener like the herb Cascara Sagrada. Take 200 mg before sleeping. Upon arising, drink a large glass of water and eat a high-fiber cereal along with some soft ripe fruit. That ought to fix you right up.
The best plan of action is obviously to avoid the problem altogether. Lack of sleep, exercise and fresh air, irregular habits, and especially stress can all contribute to the condition. Excess caffeine, as well as starchy snacks (anything with baking soda) can wreak havoc on the delicate digestive system. Improper chewing of food makes the stomach work harder to break down nutrients, overburdening the intestines. Even certain medications such as Pepto Bismol may act as a constipant. Pay attention to these precautions if you want to save yourself a lot of grief.
Most important, never, never delay going to the bathroom when you get the urge! If the health aspects aren't enough to persuade you, maybe the fact that you're holding back potential muscle growth will.
Thank you for sticking with me on this one. Dealing with a topic that most of us would rather not think about isn't easy. Elimination is a natural bodily process which usually requires no thought. Let's keep it that way. Give yourself time to "take care of business." Don't rush it. (Dare I say ... enjoy it?) With luck you won't have to hear about this topic again for a long, long time.