Secrets of Bodyweight Manipulation, Part Four
The adult male has roughly 30 feet of bowel. The gut can hold between 7-13 pounds of chyme (partially digested food) along its length. This, of course, depends on how much a person eats and how often.
Food takes about 24 hours to pass from one end to the other and this depends on several factors, but roughly speaking, it's in there for about a day. (If you are very interested in how long your food takes to process you can take a fecal marker with your food and when it shows up again you'll have a personal estimate! You can use large amounts of food dye at a particular meal, blue for instance, and look for it in your feces. Otherwise, let's just assume about a day.)
For the time it is held in the lumen of the bowel it counts as bodyweight. It doesn't help you lift (like muscle weight), and it doesn't help stabilize you (like water weight). In fact it doesn't do much of anything except add ballast. It is quite unnecessary for competition. In fact in many sports it is preferable to undertake on an empty stomach. But what about yesterday's food? The body has absorbed most of the calories and nutrients but it is still in there (in chyme form) adding pounds to the scale and benefiting nothing in terms of strength.
It is desirable to weigh in with as little amount of chyme in the bowel as possible.
There are several methods of clearing the gut. The first is to restrict intake of food for several days. The intestines will continue to push the remaining matter out and if it is not replaced by eating, will result in bodyweight loss equal to the weight of the matter defected. If a person is in the habit of eating regularly this can be up to several pounds over the course of a few days. It is not uncommon to see drops of 7-9 pounds in body weight in a person who is fasting for religious reasons. Although some of this is dehydration, a good deal of it is gut clearance (5-7 pounds).
The major caveat presented by fasting is that of energy depletion. For the fast to rid the gut of the majority of fecal matter it takes up to 4 days. It may be even longer because the less one eats, the slower the bowels begin to move. No one wants to go without food for half a week before a major competition. It is draining and can have obvious negative effects on strength. I have been witness to this "starvation" method many times and seldom have I seen it be successful when attempted without modification. It is a rare individual can cut calories for days before a meet and still do well, yet I have been amazed at a rare few occasions where this bull-headed, extreme method was pulled off. Far more often I saw it end in frustration with the lifter making the weight class and performing far below their expectations the next day.
But that leaves an interesting scenario. There is some useless "dead weight" in the bowel at the time of weigh-in that is not needed for the competition. But the process of clearing it without modification involves fasting for long periods which impairs performance.
The idea is to find a way to clear the gut quickly without the extended fasting. The food can be easily replaced in the 24 hour period following the weigh-in prior to competition and the body may hardly miss it.
Enter the use of laxatives. There are all-natural, non-drug laxatives (like the new Ex-Lax senna laxative) and drug laxatives. All perform exactly the same function albeit by different mechanisms. They move the contents out of the bowel.
There is a surprising variety of laxatives available today. The very popular Ex-Lax trade name for yellow phenolphthalein has recently been removed from U.S. and European markets after some 6 decades of common use but there are still plenty of options left. This leaves most athletes in a trial and error situation to find the most effective laxative for them. For all but the most extreme cases, roughly speaking, any one will do. Some commonly used programs are outlined below.
A light program for loss of 5 pounds may consist of simply using an adult dose or two of senna laxative (completely natural) the night prior to weigh-in. This will loosen the bowel and usually cause movement within 12 hours. If little is eaten from the evening until the weigh-in this can result in a 2-5 pound loss. There are other natural options but senna seems the most reliable and well tolerated.
This is a short process lasting little more than half a day. If food restriction is begun at dinner of the evening before weigh-in, and laxatives are taken before bed (let's assume weigh-in is at 10:00 a.m.) then the whole process is only about 15 hours long (depending on how late dinner is eaten) and occurs mostly while asleep! Upon rising there should be a substantial bowel movement and only a short period of fasting ensues (a missed breakfast!).
The athlete finds this to be a good starting point and by keeping accurate records can tailor the duration of the fast and manipulate the amount of food taken the last day to their needs. Often the dinner will need to be missed and sometimes the laxatives need to be taken earlier. With the right timing, an athlete can learn to leave up to 5 pounds in the bathroom with almost no undesirable effects and be able to pass any drug test with flying colors. This is completely natural.
A moderate program of a 5-8 pound loss is a little more involved. Longer fasts are necessary up to 24 hours. And clearing must be more complete. Often drugs are used. The most popular drug laxative is now bisacodyl. There are many varieties available, pills, tablets, chocolate flavored squares, and even suppositories. They all work the same, but begin to work at different times. A suppository will start to work sooner than any of the ingested varieties. A suppository can cause a bowel movement within an hour, while the other administrations may take between 6 and 12 hours to work. Bisacodyl is a strong laxative. It is very consistent. Finding the right dosage for any individual takes several "runs" (pardon the pun). I have witnessed dosages of 2-4 x normal used with good success. I have also seen massive overdoses of 6-9 x normal used with varying results. Too much of any laxative (even the all-natural ones) can cause unwanted side effects including painful deep abdominal cramping, painful gas, irritation of the bowel, and actual dehydration through the bowel (severe diarrhea) which can lead to electrolyte disturbances and muscular cramping just to name a few. Getting the dosage right is kind of like that art stuff that I had mentioned earlier. Athletes find out the hard way what too much is. Sensible athletes start out with tolerable amounts and carefully make adjustments with keen documentation. When unwanted effects begin to show up they back off and avoid the more serious complications. But leave it to some to always go too far. Prudent action with careful attention will tell aware athletes when to limit the dosage.
A moderate program would be considered a 24 hour fast with a double dose of bisacodyl the afternoon before the weigh-in (20 hours prior) and a repeat double dose at bedtime (12-14 hours prior to weigh-in). The exact dosages will vary greatly between athletes. Never take anything for granted.
An aggressive program may include the laxative magnesium citrate. These are bottles of fluid that are drunk by patients who must undergo colonoscopy or other diagnostic procedures for the bowel. They are harsh and thorough laxatives. They can be used in combination with other laxatives such as bisacodyl. They act fast and hit hard. Most require no prescription and can be found at any pharmacy or grocer. Some do require prescription, but are very easy to get. Regular over the counter varieties are plenty strong enough. The best way to describe the way these act is to say they cause a complete flushing of the system. Up to and even over 10 pounds can be flushed with mag-cit. This usually accompanies a 30-40 hour fast and is used as the last in a series of laxative administrations the very day of the weigh-in (quite early in the morning). Most of the gut will be clear already and the mag-cit truly finishes the job. Often bisacodyl has been given on two successive evenings prior but some athletes find that mag-cit is sufficient alone. An administration of mag-cit the evening before the weigh-in (around 9 or 10 o'clock) may result in a less than restive sleep (with frequent trips to the john), but is certainly an effective means of weight manipulation.
Many athletes have been successful with a moderate fast of 30-40 hours accompanied by two evenings of bisacodyl administration and a bottle or two of mag-cit in the morning of the weigh-in. This is too much for most and really unnecessary if some type of water restriction is used concurrently. Many athletes will use mag-cit in one or two doses by itself or in combination with a moderate fast and skip the stacking of two laxatives. Sometimes mag-cit is even used without a fast. There are many variations.
It is my opinion that total reliance on drugs alone without restrictions in food or water will eventually backfire and almost always leads to increased use of the substances bordering on abuse. I am a big believer in discipline and personal responsibility. Increasing dependency on external factors to do a job that could just as well be done with fortitude will erode the individual's self-confidence and almost certainly lead to an unpleasant experience at one point or another. There is the sometimes subtle but always present delineation between use and abuse. The real difference lies in the regard of the thing. Attitude makes all the difference. Is it used as a tool or a crutch? The difference is not really apparent to outside eyes but the individual knows for certain the truth. There is a difference between use and abuse. Every athlete must decide on which side of the line they stand.
* Potential Loss: up to and even over 10 pounds. Depending on total amount normally carried in the guy. Big eaters can lose more because there is more there to start with. 7-13 pounds is the range.
* Duration: no longer than 50 hours. Often less; 20-40 hours.
* Technique: restrict food intake and facilitate the emptying of the bowel with laxatives. Methods vary from all natural, gentle compounds to harsh drugs. Timing and dosage is widely varied between individuals and requires trials before the athlete develops consistency.
* Effort Level: low to moderate. Fasting requires discipline.
To health - dehydration and all its associated risks are present through the mechanism of severe diarrhea. Reactions to laxatives such as abdominal cramping and intestinal irritation can occur. Any drugs used carry all the side effects linked with that particular compound and are outlined on the package.
To performance - very few. The fecal matter in the guy contributes nothing to performance and its loss is unnoticeable even if it goes un-replaced. But the act of ridding the gut of this matter can be demanding. The fasting can cause fatigue and is not well tolerated by some. If too severe a diarrhea occurs a host of performance problems can arise such as muscular cramping and weakness (how's that for an undesirable side effect!). Aside from the risks of he dehydration, there are very few problems with this technique. It is safe to say that this form of weight loss, when not carried to far, is the least likely to cause any effect on performance.
* Up Side: easy to accomplish, the risk to benefit ration is high.
* Down Side: potential dangers of dehydration if pushed too far. Fasting is rigorous. If done moderately a commonly successful technique. Taken just a bit too far and performance is compromised.
Destroy That Which Destroys You
"Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado."