The key to any good workout is nutrition. It’s the balance of what you’re putting into your body that determines what you get out of your exercise routine, be it strength training, reducing body fat or building muscle. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can add an extra hurdle when it comes to mustering the energy required to get a sweat on. To complicate things further, many popular pre-and post-workout foods are full of processed ingredients, artificial sugars, colours and preservatives. If you have IBD, these snacks may see you spend less time in the gym and more time in bed or on the loo.

So try out some of these alternatives next time you hit the gym. You may find they keep your IBD at bay, whilst giving you the extra edge needed to hit your training peak.

Friendly sources of protein

Protein bars, balls, shakes and smoothies are an industry all to themselves, not just for body-builders but also for people with intensive cardio routines. The bulk (if you’ll pardon the bodybuilding pun) of the protein-packed options you can buy at the supermarket are full of refined sugars, artificial sweetness and insoluble fibre – things that can wreak havoc on a sensitive digestive system. So how do you go about feeding those hungry muscles while keeping the kinks out of your colon?


Probably one of the most versatile foods in existence, eggs are an excellent source of protein for people with IBD. We recommend enjoying them poached, as frying or scrambling often calls for the introduction of heavy oils. Don’t worry, poaching an egg isn’t as hard as it looks, and there are even special pouches you can buy that ensure your poached eggs are up to the standards of even the fussiest cafes.

If poached isn’t your cup of tea, you can also try adding eggs to smoothies for a protein-packed glass of goodness. If your digestive system is happy to enjoy a little milk, try blending milk, eggs, banana and some stevia or honey together for a banana milkshake that would make The Rock happy (and won’t taste like egg at all).

Nut butter

Many people with IBD find that nut butters don’t upset their stomachs the way whole nuts do. The trick is to ensure they’re finely processed, to make things easier for your digestive system. When naturally sweetened, nut butters can be a flavour explosion that eclipses the additive-loaded peanut butters we see on the supermarket shelves. Try spreading some on your toast before you hit the gym, or slather on a frozen banana for a post-workout healthy ‘popsicle’.

Nature’s sports drink

Electrolytes are essential to staying hydrated before, during and after your workout. All of that water and salt being sweated out needs to be replenished, but store bought electrolyte drinks often come pre-loaded with sugars and artificial colouring – a feature at odds with the healthy lifestyle they seem to represent. Never fear, though, the humble coconut has been keeping people hydrated since the beginning of time. It’s like natural Gatorade.

The water found inside those tough husks is a natural source of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. Coconut water is becoming increasingly common on supermarket shelves (and in the pantries of gym junkies and clean eaters the world over). If packaged foods don’t do it for you (or if you want the complete tropical experience), track down a grocer who serves them the way nature intended – straight from the shell courtesy of a sharp knife and a humble straw

IBD is a different experience for all people, especially when it comes to trigger foods. So before making any changes to your diet, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare professional. A dietitian may be able to help you develop an eating plan that helps you manage your condition and get the most out of your daily workouts.

Date: 22/09/2014 IRIS number AU-REM0328

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