6 Weight-Loss Strategies That Are Screwing With Your Poop Schedule
Some days, the war on belly fat can feel like it’s being waged in the depths of your gastrointestinal tract.
But don’t think you’re doomed to a case of the runs on every run. Or that your fiber-packed dinner will always come with never-ending farts.
(Find out how to stop the craving cycle before it starts and burn fat around the clock with the naturally sweet, salty, and satisfying meals in.)
Here, experts offer easy fixes to keep your belly not just svelte, but also happy and healthy.
Watching your carb intake is a great way to cut back on processed foods such as chips, pasta, and those tasty-but-fattening scones you eat with your morning coffee. Trouble is, when most people cut carbs, they tend to cut fiber as well, says Hardeep Singh, MD, gastroenterologist at St. Joseph Hospital in California.
According to a study in Nutrition Research, whole-grain food sources like cereal, bread, and oatmeal are the greatest sources of fiber in the American diet. And yet, a full 92% of U.S. adults aren’t getting enough fiber. So imagine what happens when you cut out whole grains. Things can get plugged up.
Psst! Here's how to tell if your #2 is normal:
Constipation is of special concern for those following a ketogenic diet, which requires cutting net carbs below 50 grams per day. (Net carbs equals your total carb intake minus your fiber intake.)
Ease the pain:If you’re going to cut down on carbs, eliminate low-fiber carbs (i.e. white bread, baked goods) and keep the high-fiber ones (i.e. fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread). Aim to eat 20 to 25 grams of fiber per day, Singh says.
MORE: 3 Signs You Need To Start Eating More Carbs
On the flip-side, there is such a thing as getting too much fiber—at least all at once.
Fibrous foods can be hard to digest, which is great for helping you feel full and satisfied, but it can also cause tummy troubles when you add too much too fast. And while soluble fiber attracts water, which slows digestion, insoluble fiber helps food pass more quickly through your system. So if you go heavy in either direction, you could run into problems ranging from gas and bloating to diarrhea, respectively.
According to Singh, the biggest gas-producing soluble fiber sources include soluble vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and onions, fruits such as apples and bananas, and beans. Insoluble fiber sources include whole grains, wheat bran, and root veggies like carrots, beets, and radishes.
Ease the pain:Singh recommends adding fibrous foods to your diet slowly and paying attention to how your body reacts with each serving. For example, if you’re going to eat some beans, start with half of the recommended portion size. Chances are you’ll see symptoms, if any, within six hours after eating up. You can also make vegetables easier to digest by cooking them before eating.
When you’re looking to cut sugar, sugar-free ice creams and candies can seem like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, though, most sugar-free packaged foods get their sweetness from sugar alcohols, a low-calorie sugar substitute derived from fruits like berries. (Note: Even though they’re called “sugar alcohols,” they don’t actually contain alcohol.) However, they don’t absorb completely in the body, and can cause gassiness, bloating, and diarrhea, says Cassandra Forsythe, PhD, RD, CSCS, assistant professor of physical education and human performance at Central Connecticut State University. Many candies actually sport a label warning that they may cause a laxative effect.
Ease the pain:Pay attention to how your body reacts after eating sugar-free foods, and cut them from your diet if you experience symptoms. You’ll also want to steer clear of foods labeled “no sugar added.” When in doubt, check the nutrition label; common sugar alcohols to look for include sorbitol, maltitol, erythritol, mannitol, and xylitol. But, truth be told, if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, you’re better off just eating fewer processed foods, no matter what they use as sweeteners, Forsythe says.
During long or intense workouts, sports drinks can be a great way to keep your energy and performance levels up. However, it’s important to realize that their quick hit of energy comes from fructose, a sugar molecule that naturally occurs in fruit and is added to many processed foods. Unlike other sugar molecules such as glucose and sucrose, fructose is very quickly absorbed into the digestive tract, Forsythe explains. So, once you take a sip of your sports drink, the sugar almost instantly starts fueling your working muscles.
However, the quick absorption can spell trouble in the form of cramping and diarrhea if you gulp down your bottle too fast, especially if you have fructose sensitivities. Some people just don’t absorb fructose properly, and troubles with fructose are especially common in people with irritable bowel syndrome, according to research published in Current Gastroenterology Reports.
Ease the pain:If sports drinks give you stomach problems, moderate your intake. “Go slow with it,” Forsythe says, and focus on taking small sips. You can also try thinning out your sports drink with some water. “You don’t need a big dose to get the effects of the fructose.” In fact, research in the Journal of Physiology reveals that merely swishing around a sports drink in your mouth can have a positive effect on performance. Feel free to swish occasionally if you’re worried about sipping, but keep in mind that you’ll still need fluids to stay hydrated.
MORE: Why Your Energy Gels Are Giving You Diarrhea
In general, exercise is great for your belly. One in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity even found that exercise can lead to a greater diversity in gut microflora, which is key for a healthy stomach. That said, if you’re one of those who regularly laces up for longer runs (think 13+ miles), you may experience the occasional potty problem. Mostly in the form of diarrhea.
According to Singh, GI issues during longer runs usually come down to dehydration (think: not enough fluid to keep things moving as they should through your intestines). However, your mid-run runs could also be caused by consuming caffeine, dairy, or fiber too soon before your session, as these foods can all speed things up. And, since, to help you get that PR, your muscles need their fair share of blood, it’s important to remember that exercise actually diverts some blood away from the intestines.
Ease the pain:To keep your long run from going down the toilet, stay hydrated. The American College of Sports Medicine 16 to 20 ounces of water at least four hours before you hit the road, and topping off with eight to 12 ounces about 15 minutes prior. If you’ll be out for longer than an hour, sip three to eight ounces of a sports beverage every 20 minutes. Play it safe by avoiding caffeine, dairy, and high-fiber foods within three hours of your long run. And if you can, use the bathroom before you hit the pavement.
MORE: 8 Items That Will Make Your Next Run Feel WAY Easier
You need some fat to burn fat, but high-fat weight-loss plans such as the ketogenic diet takes things to extremes with diets that get roughly 80% of their calories from fat.
However, high-fat foods—especially those rich in saturated fat—take a longer time for the stomach to process, and can lead to some indigestion, especially if eaten right before bed. In fact, GI issues are among the most common complaints in people following a keto diet, according to one Epilepsy Currents study.
Ease the pain:If you choose to follow a high-fat diet, emphasize whole sources of fat over fried and processed foods. Whenever possible, prioritize unsaturated fats such as olive oil, walnuts, and avocado that are easier to digest compared to saturated fat. Keep saturated fat intake, especially within three hours of bedtime, to a minimum, recommends Singh.
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