What Your Poo Says About Your Athletic Performance

What Your Poo Says About You

Tying athletic sneakers
Ivo de Bruijn/Stocksy United

Do you ever have those mornings where you’re sluggish starting into your workout and then just as you are getting into it, you find yourself running to the bathroom?

It’s usually annoying but sometimes really embarrassing.

It’s happened to me at the beginning of a 10K run, where I literally had to make a U-turn and run right back into the house.

Relax—it’s normal.

A healthy body should be having one to three bowel movements a day. Every time you eat a meal, a parasympathetic nervous system chain reaction starts to signal for digestion, nutrient absorption, and eventually a bowel movement.

But the food you eat takes anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to work its way through your digestive system. So, what happens to last night’s left overs?

Well, they are going through your gastrointestinal system slowly as your body is resting, but with the increase in activity and a little help from gravity, your morning workout is the perfect trigger for a poop.

But before you flush, take a look at your poo because it can tell you a whole lot about your health and how to feel better and improve your athletic performance too.


What Your Poo Says

Cannonball poo is often due to dehydration, lack of fiber, electrolyte deficiency, iron supplements without vitamin C, bacteria imbalance, drug use (especially after antibiotic treatment) and stress.

They are separate hard lumps that are hard to pass and therefore cause straining and sometimes injury to the anus and frank bleeding. In chronic conditions, prolapse of the anus can occur.

The delayed transit time of digesting food in the intestines causes water to be reabsorbed back into the body and out of your stool.

Dehydration can severely affect your workout intensity and performance. Lack of sufficient water and electrolytes can lead to dizziness, fainting, muscle cramps, low energy and fatigue. In some instances, such as endurance sports, dehydration can be extremely dangerous.

Torpedo Bum

What Your Poo Says

Similar to the Cannonball is the Torpedo Bum. It’s also hard to pass, but takes on a sausage-shaped lumpy and dry stool causing major straining. Chronic torpedo bum can lead to frank bleeding, obstruction, perforation fissures and prolapse.

Focus on increasing your water and electrolyte intake first before adding dietary fiber. Healthy fats (i.e. nuts, seeds, oils) can also help lubricate the bowels excrete stool more easily.

Peppermint, lavender, ginger teas help relax the stomach along with clock-wise abdominal massages.

Stress is also a huge component leading to constipation. When you are in a stressed sympathetic state you aren’t able to relax, absorb the proper nutrients from your foods or have easy bowel movements. Practice taking 3 deep, long and slow breaths before you eat and while sitting on the toilet.

Half Baked

What Your Poo Says

This little hottie is more moist than the Cannonball and Torpedo Bum, but still drier than an optimal poop. It resembles a sausage-like poo with cracks on the surface.

With just a little more water and dietary fiber intake (i.e. raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains) and proper posture while on the toilet, you’ll be pooping Mr. Happy in no time. An average adult requires 20-25 grams of dietary fiber per day in the form of raw vegetables, hemp, chia seeds, flax or psyllium. Using a stool or Squatty Potty helps to raise the knees above the hips for optimal colon alignment while on the toilet.

Mr. Happy

What Your Poo Says

Mr. Happy is the perfect poop. Ideal for bowel function and optimal health. It has a sausage or snake-like shape, soft and smooth texture, like the consistency of toothpaste. Light to medium brown, slight odor (not foul), 1-2 inches in diameter and up to 18 inches long. There is no sticking to the toilet bowl or paper and no straining or discomfort.

These are optimal poops, which means you are being mindful of your nutrition, physical activity and maintaining a healthy state of mind. Keep up the good work. Happy poops make for happy people.


What Your Poo Says

These soft blobs with clear-cut edges are slightly softer than Mr. Happy poops but still normal. They may leave a bit of a smear along the toilet bowl or toilet paper as you wipe.

Lack of dietary fiber, consuming gut irritants (i.e. hot sauce spices), taking mild laxatives or diuretics, high sugar diet, fat malabsorption or consuming food sensitivities can result in sticky soft stools.

You might also feel a bit more tired, heavy, bloated or weak with your training. Make sure to increase your fiber intake from leafy vegetables and avoid food triggers, irritants and sugary foods until your stools are back to optimal.

The Avalanche

What Your Poo Says

These mushy diarrhea-like stools are fluffy pieces with ragged edges.

Rapid transit time in the intestines doesn’t allow for water reabsorption back into the body. Mushy stool can be due to eating foods you are intolerant to, mild gut infection, mild food poisoning, laxative use, consuming artificial sugars and indigestible additives. In all of these cases, the unabsorbed molecules attract water into the intestines via osmosis causing watery stools.

This is not the time to be pushing your body hard in the gym, on the track or on the court. Moderate exercise is advised, but give yourself a couple of days to get back into a healthy routine.

Increase your dietary fiber intake (especially from green leafy vegetables) and continue to drink fluids to replenish your body. Taking probiotics once the diarrhea settles down is encouraged. Avoid laxatives, artificial additives and sugars, and food sensitivities, intolerances and allergens.

The Rafter

What Your Poo Says

This is severe diarrhea with watery and entirely liquid stools. Similarly to Avalanche poops, watery diarrhea can be due to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD- Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis), food intolerances, excessive use of laxatives, certain drugs, severe food poisoning or dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance).

The most important treatment for watery diarrhea (especially chronic) is staying hydrated! Don’t be a hero and try to compete in that marathon.

Excessive diarrhea may require hospitalization to administer intravenous (iv) fluids. The most effective treatment for food poisoning or infection would be fluid and rest followed by taking probiotics or eating fermented foods to replenish good bacteria sources.

Food sensitivities, intolerances and allergens can sometimes go undetected. Getting an IgG test can show some food sensitivities however, I prefer doing a hypo-allergenic diet for 1 month. Not only will it show you how your body experiences intolerance, but it also gives your gut the adequate rest it needs to heal properly.

If you are taking laxatives, stop using it immediately.

Once the bouts of diarrhea end start to include more dietary fiber, healthy fats, and proteins. Anti-inflammatory foods will help heal the gut lining along with the hypo-allergenic diet.

Greasy Floater

What Your Poo Says

Inflammation in the gut lining from ingesting food intolerances can be contributing to fat malabsorption and greasy stools. This will cause the Greasy Floater to retain more fat and it will float at the top of the water or leave a greasy film.

With fat malabsorption also comes nutrient malabsorption, which can significantly impact your fitness and athletic performance. Imagine you are eating really healthy foods yet your body is still not taking in enough nutrients!

This is why I always say healthy foods are not always healthy for you.

Take for example eggs. Eggs are very nutritious and a perfect source of protein. I eat them everyday. However, eggs are one of the 5 most common food sensitivities along with dairy, wheat, corn and soy. So for many, eggs are great, but for some eggs can cause gas, bloating, headaches, leaky gut, muscle fatigue, joint soreness and lethargy. It all depends on how your body reacts to food and in what state of stress your body is in.

Chunky Stool

What Your Poo Says

Do you ever see chunks of corn in your poop? What about other foods? Can you make out exactly what you ate for lunch yesterday in today’s bowel movement?

Certain foods are difficult to digest. Like the fibrous shell of corn, some fiber is insoluble and common to see in the stool. Other foods however should not be appearing as recognizable pieces of food.

If you have Chunky Stool you are most likely not chewing thoroughly, are stressed while eating or are trying to multi-task. Being mindful while eating means that you:

  • Take 3 slow deep breaths before starting your meal or snack
  • Sit down with the sole purpose of eating
  • Chew thoroughly and swallowing before taking the next bite
  • Focus on slowing down and enjoying your food
  • Wait 20 minutes before having seconds
  • Eat to 80% fullness
  • Not exercising for at least 20 minutes after eating

Stools of the Rainbow

What Your Poo Says
Check Your Poo Color. CandO_Designs/Getty Images

Not only does the shape and consistency of your poop tell you a lot, but also the color:

Medium to light brown is considered a healthy color.

Red stool indicates a lower intestinal bleed, but can also be from red colored foods (i.e. beets).

Red streak on toilet paper is due to a rectal bleed (i.e. hemorrhoid, fissure).

Green is the color of undigested bile, antibiotics or eating a lot of leafy greens.

Yellow poo means there is a gallbladder issue (bile) or a parasitic infection (i.e. Giardia)

White or a grey clay-like stool is indicative of a block in bile flow, liver disease, pancreatic disorder, or antacid use (aluminum hydroxide)

Black tarry or coffee ground appearance is most commonly due to an upper gastrointestinal bleed (esophagus, stomach, small intestine) when blood and bile mix to produce black. Black stool can also be caused by high meat consumption or iron supplementation.

What Your Poo Says About You Book

What Your Poo Says
Dr. Alison Chen, ND

Get your very own “What Your Poo Says About You” book for your bathroom, a friend, a child and one for yourself!

This 32-page full color, fully illustrated rhyming book about poo is educational and fun for people of all ages. Created by Dr. Alison Chen, ND, this book will have you laughing all the way to the toilet while giving you healthier poops and optimal health.

Be your own detective and find out how you can read your own poo to maximize your nutrient absorption, energy and athletic performance. 

Dr. Alison Chen is a former competitive gymnast, Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and founder of The Naturopathic Doctor Development Center.  

Helpful Links

Hypo-allergenic diet and meal plan: A comprehensive and easy-to-read 28-page hypo-allergenic diet and meal plan for all your food sensitivities to reduce inflammation, decrease bloating and increase energy.

Food Foes: Indepth article discussing the differences between food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Printable PDF diet plan designed to improve blood sugar regulation and decrease inflammatory processes within your body contributing to chronic disease and pain. 

Disclaimer: This site is not a sponsor nor receives compensation for any book or product sales. 

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