Q: Can cycling cause an overactive bladder? I ride about 10 hours a week both outside and on a trainer. The two saddles don’t feel any different. I don’t have any discomfort or prostate problems.
I often have two cups of coffee before I ride, but very seldom need to relieve myself during rides. My problem is in the office afterwards. I head down the hall nearly every 30 minutes. Are you aware of any reason cycling should cause this? — G.R.
COACH FRED: Good question. I had a similar situation and asked several medical authorities. There’s no one answer, but I’ll list the possibilities I unearthed.
- The kidneys shut down to some degree during strenuous exercise, so you usually don’t have to urinate during hard rides. It can feel like you’re sweating out the fluid. Later, when off the bike, your system catches up and you need to go more frequently than seems normal.
- Coffee consumption might be a factor, but recent studies show that coffee and caffeine don’t have as much diuretic power as we once thought. You could try limiting coffee to see what effect doing so has on your system.
- The saddle might be pushing on your urethra and causing an irritation that the brain interprets as the need to urinate. Indoor trainers are notorious for causing this because we tend to sit in one position and not stand as much as when riding outside. Over time, the urethra can apparently become scarred in some cyclists and this makes the feeling worse.
- A physician told me that frequent urination is the result of not eating enough carbohydrate to fuel exercise intensity and volume. In this case, the body uses some of its protein for fuel and the resulting waste products are flushed from the system by water, making you urinate. This can happen if you’re restricting calories to lose weight, or it could result merely from being chronically glycogen deficient. If you’re using a recovery drink after rides, you should be getting enough carbs, but it might be something to consider.
I hope these points give you some leads. A medical exam is always a good idea if the situation becomes annoying or the symptoms increase.