Crush Your Colonoscopy like an Ironman

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There are so many similarities between racing an iron distance race and having a colonoscopy, that it is surprising that we athletes are often horrified by the thought of the procedure and prep! We hear the horror stories and fear the unknown.  We don’t have a personalized training plan for a colonoscopy, just a generic, every person prep.  And yet, we all have different guts, lives and circumstances.  So why isn’t our prep personalized?  Alas, I’m here to tell you how to Crush Your Next Colonoscopy like an Ironman.

Let’s start off with listing some of the most common ideas and misconceptions that circulate about colonoscopy prep and the procedure itself and recovery:

  1. You have to drink this nasty liquid and it’s really, really nasty;
  2. The prep may not work, i.e., you may drink all that really, really nasty stuff (see item 1) and it might not even work;
  3. Maybe you don’t need to really follow the prep because it’s extreme;
  4. DO NOT MISS THIS ONE- I’m going to be starving because I can’t eat or drink anything for two days!
  5. You won’t be able to train the day before, the day of, or the day after your procedure,

Please Note: (Nothing written here should be considered medical advice.  Always consult with your doctor and follow your medical professional’s advice.)

The Drink
Let’s start with the “nasty drink” designed to “get your juices flowing”.  The old drink Gatorade with tons of Metamucil is out the door, and in its place now is a liquid drink called Suprep. It was described to me as tasting like grape cough syrup, and you dilute it and drink two glasses of it separately.  

There’s a trick to getting this stuff down!
First, dilute per instructions with cold water, then place in the fridge for 30’ to get the Suprep really cold. The colder the drink, the more muted the flavor, and there’s a whole glass to get down. Then, heat up some savory broth (I recommend bone broth with some naturally occurring protein to help keep you satiated) and have it ready to go.  When it’s time to drink your first Suprep, take a few sips (hold your nose to help minimize the flavor), then sip some hot broth.  The hot broth will wipe out the flavor of the cold drink pretty quickly.  Keep alternating sips of Suprep and then sips of hot broth.  Warning – Don’t try to chug the Suprep or it may come back up.  Sip cold, sip hot, sip cold, sip hot and before you know it, it’ll be down.  Repeat for Round #2 when it’s time.

2) It’ll work. Rarely does the prep not work.  Go for a walk and keep drinking water until you’re advised not to.  Just don’t get too far away from your bathroom because when it starts to work, it’s gonna work fast! (Come on, you know the Ironman porta potty dash!)

3) Talk to your doctor about your unique situation, but this isn’t extreme.  It requires planning, but with #4 below, you will feel SO much better and believe me, your stomach will be in better shape that it is after an iron distance event!

4) You aren’t going to starve because there is a much better option than the suggested: 

Drink Apple Juice, Eat Jelly Beans & Gummy Bears All Day 

I’ve had friends given this advice, and they told me they were hangry, had headaches, and felt horrible the day before, the day of, and the day after their procedure!  Following are my secret tips for what to eat and drink before your colonoscopy prep. 

1) As most triathletes know, eating pure sugar outside of an exercise session is generally not a great option. It can cause a blood sugar spike and crash, and this may in turn lead to things such as: a) being hangry; b) energy spikes and dips; and c) cravings for more sugar.  So why in the world would you drink apple juice, jelly beans and gummy bears all day? Instead we go for satiating clear drinks and foods.  You MUST check with your doctor however after discussion with mine, he allowed me to ingest the following until the point I had to stop all food and drink due to anesthesia risks:

  • Pure Tart Cherry Juice to aid with sleep (not clear, but neither is “cranberry juice or cran-apple juice) 
  • Bone Broth – Homemade and Store Bought Organic – Turkey, Beef, Chicken (with 20g of Protein per 16 ounces, drinking this throughout the day allowed me to nail my goal of 100g of Protein AND to help feel more satiated throughout the day!)
  • Homemade “Jello” (NOTE – I do NOT eat the Jell-O packets made with artificial colors and ingredients my body doesn’t like)

The homemade gelatin recipe I made included Organic Knudsen Tart Cherry Juice, Vital Proteins Gelatin, local honey, and sea salt.

As a triathlete, waking up early is easy for me, so my procedure was scheduled as the first of the day!  This allowed me to have the least amount of awake time fasting.  This also allowed me to train the morning before my procedure, but that also meant I might feel hungry in the day. Therefore, these Tart Cherry Juice Gummies gave me something to chew, and that helped fill up my stomach a bit with something more solid than broth.  This took away the hunger pangs when they hit.

To keep hydrated, I chose a combination of Grape Ultima and Skratch Labs Matcha Green Tea and Lemon throughout the day diluted so as to keep sugar levels constant and feeling good.  The natural flavors of these also gave me enough variety so I never experienced flavor fatigue.  Throughout the day I also nibbled a few Skratch Labs Matcha Green Tea and Lemon Energy Chews too.

5) You may be able to eat breakfast the day before your colonoscopy!

Just as with knowing the course of an Ironman and what to expect, I wanted to understand the how I would feel before, during and after my procedure.  Further, I wanted to know what control I had to create the best possible outcome, and the least amount of discomfort.  In my research, I came across studies involving low residue foods included in the diet at least 24 hours pre-procedure.  Low residue foods are low in fiber and fat, and they process easily and quickly in the body. Armed with information, I asked my gastroenterologist if I could have a breakfast of basmati rice, coconut aminos and scrambled egg whites (plain with salt) at 6 AM the day before my procedure (8 AM this next morning) and he approved it.  This was KEY! This allowed me to eat before my morning workout, and then post workout I could drink green tea with my Naked Nutrition BCAAs and bone broth and hydration drink to replete lost nutrients.  Many triathletes go to bed early and wake up early.  As a result, we can wake up hungry, or starving after a morning workout.  Therefore, being able to put some solid food (egg whites and rice) into my stomach really allowed me to minimize the window I’d be out of commission.

Due to dehydration caused by the clearing of the colon, and the abstinence from food and drink pre anesthesia and during the procedure, it’s not wise to work out the day of your procedure or for 24 hours afterwards (the latter due to anesthesia’s affect on our bodies).  You may feel dizzy, tired, dehydrated, and have a tender tummy that takes the rest of the day to come back on board.  Give your body the time it needs, and 24 hours post procedure, with proper rehydration and nutrition, you should be ready to rock ‘n roll again.

With the proper preparation, your colonoscopy run-up should be smooth sailing, and you’ll be back swimming, cycling, running, and feeling good faster than your competition.

6 Comments on “Crush Your Colonoscopy like an Ironman”

  1. Hi Clare,

    I really like the Beef Broth with protein for keeping hunger pangs away.

    Timing workout recovery day with colonoscopy prep night and procedure day helps avoid hunger, fatigue and missing a workout activity.

    Plan really far ahead with your GP and schedule your colonoscopy for early/ mid morning.

    Make your after procedure meal before hand. When you get home; you can eat immediately. A friend enjoyed treating herself and driver to a post procedure vegetarian restaurant meal.

    New prep kits are much improved. Still don’t have a palatable taste. But. The old kits literally tasted just like the salts and soaps they contained. (not sure actual soaps were used, only soap flavors)

    Diet is key to reducing, or eliminating, polyps in the colon. I’m one living example. In with clean fruits, vegetables, whole grain oatmeal, cholesterol lowering Chia seeds or Flax, nuts. (Modified depending on one’s tummy) Out with boxed or frozen meals, prepackaged meat, anything labelled ‘processed’ or for example ‘cheese food.’ At the grocery store- Do not enter the frozen food aisle except to grab broccoli or mixed vegetables. I reduced the number of polyps in my colon from three (one with both benign and pre cancerous cells) to one with no bad cells. Diet and exercise saves lives.

    Read the label on Scratch powdered products. Retail for their powdered drink mix was $19.00. It contained mostly sugars.

    I go lowbrow and use 4C energy drink mix sold by Walmart. Taurine and caffeine are the primary ingredients. For long runs. rides, kayaking; the stuff really prevents bonking and keeps me going. Warning, though, Start by diluting the recommended mix. 4C will keep you awake for a longtime.

    Thanks for a great article. Be happy and healthy.


    1. Gayle that’s a fantastic contribution, thank you!

      It’s funny, I specifically didn’t make a meal ahead of time for post procedure because then I knew I’d obsess about it all day wanting it. 🙂 Alas, I shall not admit openly what my post meal was, but let me say this, it was a treat (read naughty junk food) meal and I loved every bite. My stomach had shrunk though, and I could only eat a few bites though!

      And a Happy Colon to you! I’ll check out the 4C drink, but I’ve also been making my own lately with pressed ginger juice, squeezed lemon juice, honey and pink himalayan sea salt. Yummy!

    1. Hi Lolli!

      HAH – I know, right? Well, it may be “potty talk” but we all do it, and we all NEED to do it. So why not make it as easy as possible? Here’s to a Happy Colon!


  2. Hi Clare,
    Good advice.
    I’ve had a couple of colonoscopies now – both with and without anaesthetic. It’s amazing – I know more and ore people who’ve done it.
    If anyone’s interested….here’s my approach.

    I agree that the long distance training actually stands you in good stead for a colonoscopy. I get far hungrier after a long bout of exercise than i do sat at home, ready for the occasional sprint to the bathroom. So actually, i did not feel anywhere near as hungry as i thought i would.
    Before you start, it might be worth planning to be at home by yourself…..
    1. I’m not sure what potion they gave us here in the uk – but it tasted ok. Not much different to something like a gatorade actually, but definitely ok and bearable. Just drink it.
    2. For about 30mins after drinking it nothing happens (and you might even think your’re immune to it).
    BUT, then.
    3. RUN
    4. After another approx. 10 minutes of rest, …RUN
    (Important note, although i’ve called these sprint intervals, there’s no point in making the sprints log distance. Give yourself about 5 seconds and move any obstacles (like chairs and clothes) out of the way…..
    After approx 1-2 hours, the “sprint interval training” subsides (mainly cause there’s nothing left in you….all the “warm water” has gone)
    5. So what to eat? I agree – sugar is not good.
    In the uk, we have a shortcut, which i’m pretty sure you can get in the US: It’s called “Bovril”. Alternatively, you can get “Marmite” or “Vegemite” in some stores, such as WholeFoods (if they still exist). Just mix a tablespoon in a mug with boiling water and give it a stir. They all have a kind of beef broth flavour. I think the taste of it tricks your body into thinking you’ve had some food.
    I found the hunger was at its worse point after about 6 hours, but then subsided, and the following day, i.e. the day of the procedure, I felt fine. Hungry, but workable. Remembering that actually i would spend much time lying down and not really expending too much energy, and then afterwards,

    Just do it.

    1. Wow, Great notes! I’m so glad your colonoscopies have gone so well!!

      I’ve heard about “Marmite and Vegemite” but alas haven’t ventured into them yet, but for the moment the bone broth help. Those tart cherry juice gelatin gummies really helped me feel like I’d eaten something, even if I was a little heavy handed on the gelatin!

      I SO appreciate your comments and contribution!


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