Is exercise giving you GI distress?
We all like to feel the fitness and health benefits that exercise brings, but for some of us there are unwelcome side effects. The digestive system has to put up with a lot of disruption when we exercise (think of all that pounding up and down when running, being bent over when cycling, or swallowing water when swimming). In some cases, this can lead to an uncomfortable condition called gastro-intestinal or GI distress.
Sporty individuals (particularly endurance athletes) commonly experience GI distress, but it is little talked about. It can be embarrassing to admit to bloating, cramping, wind and loose bowel movements, but studies have shown that between 30%-65% of runners will suffer at some point. This means most people are suffering in silence and simply try to put up with it.
What causes GI distress?
It’s believed there are three main causes of GI problems:
· physiological (caused by reduced blood flow to the gut during exercise)
· mechanical (bouncing effect of running, for example)
· nutritional (such as excess ingestion of carbohydrate/sugary drinks).
Other contributors include alcohol consumption, anti-inflammatory medications (commonly taken for sore muscles and joints), emotional stress and nerves before a race, disease-causing bacteria in lakes and rivers and excess pressure on the abdominal wall through all that exertion.
What can you do about it?
Ultimately, these symptoms can impair performance and possibly prevent athletes from winning or even finishing a race. However, many nutritional steps can be taken to support the problem. These include:
Reducing the fibre content of the diet at key points in the training programme to ease the burden on the gut
Adding in probiotics (“friendly” bacteria) and prebiotics such as (foods that these bacteria love), such as garlic, onions and asparagus
Using drinks containing different forms of carbohydrates (gentler on the gut) as fuel – look for those that are a mix of glucose and fructose, not glucose on its own.
Need more help?
If you want to learn how to avoid GI distress, or to help your current symptoms, then I can support you. I specialise in Sports Nutrition and can help you be your best!
de Oliviera E, Burini R (2014), Carbohydrate-Dependent, Exercise-Induced Gastrointestinal Distress, Nutrients, 6:4191-4199.
Simons S, Kennedy R (2004), Gastrointestinal Problems in Runners, Current Sports Medicine Reports, DOI: 10.1249/00149619-200404000-00011.
Casey E, Mistry D, Macknight J (2005), Training Room Management of Medical Conditions: Sports Gastroenterology, Clinics in Sports Medicine, 24:4191-4199.
Jeukendrup A (2010). Carbohydrate and exercise performance: the role of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 4:452-457.
5 stone weight loss & DNA testing!
When I first met this client, he didn’t know how much he weighed because his scales didn’t go up that far. His joints ached, he was finding it harder to get in and out of the car, and he had less energy than he used to. He often had energy slumps during the day, felt bloated after food and didn’t know how to work with his metabolism to get his weight down. We started by balancing his blood sugar levels (so that he could start to feel better right away) and from the very beginning he committed to keeping a food diary and coming for appointments regularly. Early on I guided him through DNAFit testing, in order to determine how sensitive his body was to carbohydrates and fats (so I could personalise his eating plan) and also what type of exercise would work for him the best. Other key elements of the programme were to test his micronutrient levels, introduce him to new delicious foods and to ensure he did not feel hungry. A big success is that the client felt from the start that the programme was manageable, he did not feel deprived and in his words “I could eat like this for the rest of my life”! I’m still seeing this client and his determination and motivation levels remain high – well done, D!
Do you know your portion sizes?
Are you confident you always get portion sizes right? Do you NEVER simply fill whatever size plate you’ve picked up, irrespective of what the appropriate serving should be? If so, then congratulations! You may have beaten the food industry’s aims to get the rest of us to buy more than we intended and consume more than we need.
For most people, we could do with a little help on how much food should go on our plate. This is not just about losing weight, or how you look in the clothes you wear. It’s about being aware of what you eat, feeling your best and on track to reach your goals.
The key is to know what counts as a portion:
- A portion of protein should be the size of the palm of your hand (if it’s meat, fish or tofu), or 2 eggs, or 3 heaped tablespoons of beans, chickpeas and lentils.
- A portion of carbohydrate is about the size of a computer mouse or 2 heaped tablespoons (if it’s pasta, potatoes or other starchy vegetables, rice or couscous). If you’re aiming to lose weight, then choose slow releasing carbs and have 1/2 to 2/3 of a computer mouse-sized portion.
- A portion of hard cheese (such as cheddar) is the size of your thumb. Oils and sources of fats (such as olive oil, coconut oil or peanut butter) should be the size of the joint at the top of your thumb.
You can then top up the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, which are those that grow above the ground. If you’re having them raw (or there’s no or very little oil been used in cooking them), then there’s no need to limit. Try filling up on a selection of these: broccoli, spinach, kale, runner beans, courgettes, cabbage, mange tout, asparagus, lettuce, watercress, cucumber, celery, peppers, radish, rocket, cauliflower, mushrooms, bean sprouts. Enjoy!
Sweeteners – who needs them?
We all know that too much sugar is detrimental to health, rotting teeth, building fat (especially visceral fat), damaging blood vessels and stressing out the system that regulates blood sugar. Some people turn to artificially sweetened foods (commonly found in diet drinks, low-fat yoghurts, salad dressings and even crisps). But the sweeteners used in these products can be highly addictive and confusing for your taste buds.
There’s also a lack of research into the true long term effects of artificial sweeteners on the body and many have been linked to health problems, such as diabetes and obesity. For example, a recent study found the artificial sweeteners Saccharin, Sucralose and Aspartame can upset the balance of bacteria in the gut, causing glucose intolerance in mice and in some humans. Glucose intolerance is the first step towards pre-diabetes!
Don’t be fooled – here’s a simple guide to the common types of sugar and sweetener you’ll find on food labels (remember to check ‘diet’ drinks, protein shakes and your supplements too):
Sucrose (table sugar) – linked to kidney disease, gout, weight gain and fatty liver disease. Minimise consumption.
Brown sugar – trace amounts of minerals but mostly sucrose (therefore not much better).
Honey – has some antioxidants but mostly sucrose! Have small amounts only. Manuka honey can be used for wound healing.
Maple syrup – mostly sucrose, contains small amounts of antioxidants, minerals and B vitamins. Have small amounts only.
High fructose corn syrup – used in processed foods, linked to weight gain and diabetes. Avoid!
Sorbitol – artificial sweetener used in processed foods (prolongs shelf life). Some people are allergic to sorbitol and it’s not advised for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Avoid!
Saccharin – once banned for causing bladder cancer in rats. Avoid!
Aspartame – generates formaldehyde in the body. Linked to increased waist size. Avoid!
If you crave the sweet stuff, then try xylitol instead. This natural product (available in health food stores and major supermarkets) doesn’t spike blood sugar levels and there’s some evidence it is beneficial for dental health too!
Learn from other people!
I’m always inspired by the stories and experiences of my clients! By listening to the feedback and seeing how people have transformed their health (and their lives in many cases), we can all learn so much. If you’re looking for inspiration yourself, have a read of some of the recent comments I’ve received:
“I’ve been very happy with my weight loss working with Beverley! I’m sleeping better and waking well-rested, which is a major improvement for me. I now look forward to exercising on the bike as my endurance and climbing ability are noticeably much better. Beverley has given me the start I needed to improve my weight, my performance and my health.” Mr B, Amersham
“I wish I had discovered this way of eating years ago – it may have saved my many unhappy years of poor self-image. I found the menus and food planning very interesting and didn’t experience any cravings. The support from Beverley was excellent and I will continue to follow her advice in the future.” Mrs C, Rickmansworth
“Everything Beverley told me just made so much sense. It takes discipline and habit to change your ways, but with planning and motivation, I believe this can be life-changing. I have noticed a marked increase in energy levels and I no longer get the dreaded energy dip mid-afternoon. I love eating this way!” Mrs B, Watford
“The past 6 months have helped me gain energy, focus and a return to a healthier and happier version of myself. I look and feel so much better and am regularly receiving compliments for my appearance. It’s now a new way of life for me”. Mrs T, Rickmansworth
Sports Nutrition just got Personal
DNA testing has arrived at Sense of Nutrition!
The way our genetics interact with our environment makes us who we are, so naturally by understanding our genetic profile we can help ourselves live a healthier life.
Exploring your genetic profile with DNA testing at Sense of Nutrition can help you –
- Manage your body composition with bespoke education and personalised nutrition plans
- Upgrade your training knowledge with genetic data
- Get to know your training response genetics
Contact us for your FREE 15 minute consultation to see if DNA testing is right for YOU!
Do you know your Body Stats?
The purpose of body composition analysisis (which looks at fat %, muscle mass and much more) is to give you an insight into your current state of health. Weight alone provides little information about body composition. However, measuring how much fat a person has is a better indication of health, physical fitness and disease risk.
Body Muscle Mass
Muscle tissue on the other hand is more dense than fat and therefore heavier. Knowing the muscle mass is critical information in determining a person’s ideal body weight. It can also be used to monitor progress in a personalised nutrition and exercise programme. Through follow-up testing and by progress-checking, adjustments can be made with more certainty – resulting in more energy, weight loss through improved body composition, and overall improved health and well being.
Sports Nutrition Diploma
I’m delighted to announce that after a year of hard studying, I’ve been awarded a Distinction in my Sports Nutrition Diploma! I’m looking forward to using these skills to help more clients reach their full potential – whether that’s exercising just for fun, to improve their training or to compete at a high level.
You can see how one client benefited through consultations with me and through some fascinating DNA testing: http://goo.gl/eZClwv . This is an area that really interests me – as the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES) states, “the future of sport and exercise science will become increasingly focused on genetic research and testing as the relevant molecular technologies become faster, cheaper and more widely available.” http://goo.gl/sQ7vO8
What causes sugar cravings?
Sugar cravings could be caused by a number of factors, both physical and physiological (to do with body functions). One important influencing factor is the release of the brain hormone serotonin and the pain-relieving chemicals called endorhpins. When we eat sugary foods, serotonin and endorphins are released automatically to make us feel good. So if you have sugar cravings then it could be that you’re short of serotonin and endorphins! Women often experience sugar cravings when they are pre-menstrual as endorphin levels tend to be low at this time. When we are tired through lack of sleep then this is a time that serotonin is in short supply and is another reason we crave sugar. It’s important to realise however that it’s not just sugary foods that have these effects – fruit and complex carbohydrates also trigger serotonin and endorphins. Their effect may not be so immediate but will last longer.
What should you do when we have a sugar craving? Instead of reaching for a sugary snack to give an instant kick of serotonin and endorphins, have a healthy, low glycaemic load snack instead. Good options are bean dip or hummus with raw vegetables, plain yoghurt with a sprinkle of chopped nuts, apple slices dipped in no-sugar-added peanut butter. You will soon have your sugar cravings under control!
Is fructose healthy?
You may already have heard about something called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and the negative effect it has on our health. HFCS is a sweetener commonly added to many processed and ‘fast’ foods. HFCS is a combination of two sugars: glucose and fructose and is very readily absorbed into the bloodstream, where it raises blood sugar levels, increases blood fats and raises blood pressure.
But did you know that fructose itself can also be a problem? Fructose is naturally occurring and is found in honey, fruit and some vegetables. You’d therefore be forgiven for thinking it was healthy, right? It’s true that fructose in nature is healthy – in fact, we’ve evolved to be drawn to sweet things that contain fructose, as this indicates ripeness and high nutrient content. Fructose in whole foods is absorbed slowly into the blood and has a low glycaemic load (low GL), so it does not raise blood sugar levels too quickly and therefore helps control our weight.
However, isolated fructose is also added in large quantities into some processed foods, where the effect is not so great. At these sorts of concentrations, fructose is positively associated with the same poor health markers as HFCS. Fructose can therefore raise our risk of chronic diseases, like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So check your food labels, avoid HFCS altogether and be cautious of added fructose. Better still, choose whole foods over processed foods wherever possible!
Have you tried making Smoothies?
Fruit smoothies can be an easy way to nourish your body with essential nutrients, but shop-bought versions are often loaded with sugar. The best way to know the exact ingredients in your smoothie is to make them yourself – it’s really easy! All you need is a blender, fruit and a liquid base, such as coconut water, nut milk or even plain filtered water. Try this simple recipe to get you started, adapted from “Nourish” (Penny Brohn Cancer Care with Christine Bailey):
60g whole almonds
1 tbsp flaxseed
30g whey vanilla protein powder (optional)
1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
150g fresh or frozen blueberries, plus extra to serve
300ml coconut water or plain filtered water
115ml coconut milk
115ml apple juice (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)
Nutrient dense avocados contain anti-inflammatory compounds, anti-oxidants and oleic acid (which helps the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients). Blueberries also contain potent anti-oxidants that help combat cellular damage that can lead to disease.
Process the almonds and seeds in a blender or food processor until finely ground.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until light and creamy, adding more water if required to blend to the desired consistency.
Chill for 20 mins and serve with more blueberries (can be refrigerated for up to 1 day).
Do you know your body composition?
Body fat and muscles
Weight alone cannot distinguish between the pounds that come from body fat and those that come from lean body tissue, such as muscle and bone. By checking your Body Composition, a Nutritional therapist can monitor your body fat levels, helping you stay within the healthy ranges. Too much body fat increases the risk of many diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and certain cancers. Make sure you’re within the desireable range for body fat % (this varies with your age, gender and height). Visceral fat (which accumulates around the internal organs) is particularly damaging and increases the risk of developing these diseases even further. Exercise does little to affect visceral fat, which must be addressed through diet. You should aim for a visceral fat rating of 5 or below.
Muscles play an important role as they act as the body’s engine in consuming energy (calories). As you exercise more, your muscle mass increases, which in turn accelerates the rate of energy or calories consumed.
Check the Muscle Mass scale and make sure you are not below the “0” midpoint indicator. Increasing your muscle mass will raise your metabolic rate helping you reduce excess body fat levels and lose weight the healthy way. You may find that as you exercise more your weight may stabilise or even increase as your muscle mass grows and your body fat decreases (inches will decrease too). This is normal and healthy.
What is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)?
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body needs when at rest.
The speed of your metabolism is determined by many factors such as gender, age, muscle mass compared to body fat, the function of your thyroid gland and the amount of physical activity undertaken on a regular basis. The Basal Metabolic Rate will increase through a regular routine of cardiovascular exercise and increased activity.
What is Metabolic Age?
Metabolic Age indicates what age level your body is currently rated at, based on extensive research data. Monitoring this parameter is a key part of Healthy Ageing. Your metabolic age can be higher or lower than your real age and can be improved by changing your diet, decreasing body fat and building healthy muscle tissue. For instance, a 40 year old woman with a metabolic age of 45 would need to address her diet, fitness and health programme in order to lower her rating.
Total Body Water %
Approximately 50 – 65% of the weight of a healthy person should be water and it plays a vital role in helping you to stay healthy. You continually lose water during the day through sweat, urine and breathing. The amount of water you lose depends on factors such as physical activity and climate, illness, medications, hormone changes and poor nutrition.
Thirst is not the best indicator of dehydration, as the thirst mechanism only kicks in when you are already mildly dehydrated. Early symptoms of dehydration may include decreased energy or fatigue, headaches and dizziness. Finding the right balance of water intake will ensure your body functions efficiently, will make you feel healthier and more alert and will reduce the risk of serious health problems. Being properly hydrated will also ensure you are performing at your best, allowing you to exercise longer.
The development of muscle tissue through exercise has been shown to encourage stronger, healthier bones. It’s important that you aim to develop and maintain healthy bones through plenty of exercise along with a calcium-rich diet.
There is no healthy range or target for Bone Mass as it is unique to each person, but your therapist will be able to monitor any changes over time (this measurement is not intended as a substitute for more detailed assessments of body density and / or osteoporosis).