Pre-Race Pooping Boosts Performance (Not A Joke)

+ Exercise snacks: the 5-minute (or less) health fix

Pre-Race Pooping Boosts Performance (Not A Joke) 1

Here’s the free but abridged version of the Run Long, Run Healthy newsletter. See the links below to subscribe to the full-text edition with more articles and deeper, more specific running advice. – Amby

Pre-Race Pooping Boosts Performance (Not A Joke)

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Here’s a first sentence from a scientific abstract that kept me reading: “Constipation is correlated with diminished cognitive function, revealing a possible rectum-brain connection.”

Really? I know quite a bit about the gut-brain connection because a dozen years ago, I suffered from a serious gut-brain illness. (Too long a story to tell now.) But I had never heard about the rectum-brain connection, which I will now call the butt-brain connection. Because, why not?

We still have a lot to learn about how cognitive function affects physical endurance. But few doubt that there is some degree of connection. “The brain is the number one organ that determines your performance and decides how long you can persist in your muscle contraction,” explains Chinese professor Chia-Hua Kuo in this article at Triathlete. He’s currently a visiting scholar at William and Mary University.

In a previous experiment (free full text) last year, Kuo showed that defecation before a cycling time trial dramatically improves performance. In this new paper, he wanted to see if the improvement might have come from enhanced butt-brain performance. The outcome: Yes!

Here are the key details: 13 elite triathletes took the mentally challenging Stroop test after one of three conditions: not defecating, defecating with the assistance of a magnesium oxide supplement, or defecating without the magnesium oxide.

Result: 100 percent of subjects improved on the Stroop test after magnesium oxide + defecating, and 69% (9 of 13) improved after defecating without the magnesium supplement.

Also, a full-body PET scan showed that the butt region was as active as the brain during the Stroop test. Here’s a 3-second video if you’d like to view it.

Conclusion: “The result of this study suggests an unexplored causal link between the state of the rectum and cognitive performance.”

Furthermore: “Magnesium supplementation to improved rectal emptying presents a novel application for optimizing cognitive function in athletes navigating intricate racing conditions.” More at Sports Medicine & Health Science with free full text.

RELATED ARTICLE: 10 Tips To Avoid Unplanned Bathroom Breaks On Your Next Race

Achilles Pain? There’s A Shoe For That

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Some injuries resolve quicker than others; sometimes, smart shoe selection can assist the process.

I wouldn’t put Achilles tendinitis in the “short and simple” recovery bucket, but I would say that proper shoe selection can help.

That’s what “Running Physio” Tom Goom thinks as well. In fact, he’s created a neat little infographic to guide your shoe choice when your Achilles are barking.

His suggestions: Find shoes with a cushioned heel cup, a large heel-to-toe drop, and a rocker-style forefoot. Stay away from minimalist shoes. More at Twitter/Tom Goom.

A few other pointers: Switch to cross-training on a bike or in the pool. When you return to running, run super-slow at first, and stick to the flats. (No hills!). In fact, the local running track is the safest place to train during your comeback from Achilles tendinitis.

RELATED ARTICLE: The 6 Best Running Shoes For Achilles Tendonitis In 2024

Exercise Snacks: The 5-Minute (Or Less) Health Fix

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This article was rated one of the “5 best of 2023” by editors of journals published by the American College of Sports Medicine.

It appeared in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise with free full text: “Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting to Improve Cardiometabolic Risk: Dose-Response Analysis of a Randomized Crossover Trial.”.

The article deals with “exercise snacks,” although it did not use that term. An “exercise snack” is a short activity that you perform to interrupt a long stretch of mostly sitting, whether at work or home (watching TV, perhaps). Prolonged sitting is bad because “sedentary time is ubiquitous in developed nations and is associated with deleterious health outcomes.”

While you probably can’t get up from your office chair once an hour to run 5K, you can sneak in short bursts of activity to stimulate your muscles and burn calories. The question is: How much activity do you need to stop the “deleterious” effect of sitting?

We’ve had helpful guidelines for longer exercise periods for decades. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. For example, you could do five 30-minute walks per week. (Then add several strength training sessions.) This 150-minute figure is familiar to many.

But we haven’t previously had guidance for “exercise snacks” as opposed to “exercise sessions.” Now we do.

Researchers found the answer by designing a small randomized controlled trial in which subjects (middle-aged and older) sat in a chair for 8 hours, with breaks every 30 minutes or 60 minutes. The breaks lasted 1 minute or 5 minutes and consisted of “light-intensity walking.”

To gauge how these “snacks” affected subjects, researchers measured their glucose and blood pressure several times per hour.

Result: The best results were obtained when subjects took a 5-minute walk every 30 minutes. Both their glucose and blood pressure dropped significantly. If you wait 60 minutes between “snacks,” the results aren’t as good.

Conclusion: “Higher frequency and longer duration breaks (every 30 min, for 5 min) should be considered when targeting glycemic responses.”

Note: Since physiologists accept that every minute of high-intensity exercise is worth two of low-intensity, you could get by with just 2.5 minutes of high-intensity effort. This might include climbing stairs, doing pushups, and the like.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Many Steps A Day Should I Walk? Recommended Steps Per Day 

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

Here’s what esle you would have recevied this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” Why not give it a try? SUBSCRIBE HERE. 

  • Good news! Super shoes could lower injury rates
  • CBD on the run doesn’t improve mood. But RUNNING itself does
  • New research on recovery strategies that boost your max fitness
  • Best times to consume protein for muscle gain and endurance
  • Personality and performance: The importance of your marathon mindset
  • The surprising link between running and your microbiome
  • Careful about all those products claiming to extend your life
  • A great quote from a pianist-Prime Minister on achieving mastery

DON’T FORGET: I spend hours searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in minutes.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

Photo of author
Amby Burfoot stands as a titan in the running world. Crowned the Boston Marathon champion in 1968, he became the first collegian to win this prestigious event and the first American to claim the title since John Kelley in 1957. As well as a stellar racing career, Amby channeled his passion for running into journalism. He joined Runner’s World magazine in 1978, rising to the position of Editor-in-Chief and then serving as its Editor-at-Large. As well as being the author of several books on running, he regularly contributes articles to the major publications, and curates his weekly Run Long, Run Healthy Newsletter.

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