Man lifting a weight in the gym

5 Sure-Fire Ways to get Bigger, Stronger and Leaner while having IBD: Crohn’s Disease

David McGuire, SMART Fitness

Written by: David McGuire, SMART Fitness

Updated: November 10th, 2022

*Important: This is an opinion piece. This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician. There may be variations in recommendations and treatments that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Over the course of my 8 years of having IBD I would like to believe I’ve learned a thing or two.

First and foremost, frustration is good and bad. It is good because it can lead to change, and potentially success. But it is bad because it leads to unneeded stress. Which, as anyone with IBD or IBS knows, aggregates symptoms. As such, I’ve composed a list of do’s to help anyone, and everyone become the strongest, healthiest version of their self… with, or without Crohn’s disease. To help them manage stress, life and their body.

  1. Be prepared for the unexpected. This is, to many obvious and arbitrary, but it is true. If you prepare for work, life, food choices, etc… you can in many respects be prepared for stressors, limiting the chance of aggravating symptoms. For example, something so simple as meal prepping instead of eating out can be the difference between spending the rest of the day in a bathroom or with coworkers.
  2. Do not be afraid to ask for help. The biggest mistake I made is, I didn’t accept or want help when I was sick. I thought I could do everything on my own and I was failing at it, until I accepted help from herbal doctors and family members. This does not mean accept hand outs, but rather, recognize you may need assistance while your body is literally attacking itself (as antibodies attack the body in Crohn’s).
  3. Don’t be afraid to keep a food journal. I can’t stress this enough as a trainer, lifetime food lover and controller over my ibd symptoms. I use MyFitnessPal. Daily. Period. It changes what I eat from guess work to exacts. It works. For fitness, for life. It just takes time to get used to. Tracking my food, macros and calories has made the difference in what I eat that could make me sick, versus knowing what did because I tacked it to find out it was the common outlier on my usually consistent diet. It may feel strange at first but it works. Do not fear looking stupid or wasting your time. I assure you, you are not.
  4. Exercise with weights and do cardio. I used to do one or the other. I hate cardio. Still do. But I do both now. And when I combine them together, I feel the best results long term in terms of bloating, gassiness and overall well being. Lifting weights is fun and I love it but it does not get my blood oxygenated enough to cause free radicals to die, and potentially lower symptoms of Crohn’s. While cardio alone makes feel weaker as I might be fatiguing myself more than I should. Together they are a happy medium.
  5. Use supplements. But sparingly. Supplements are useful and can make a huge difference, but when combined with several other, similar supplements and medically prescribed drugs it not only becomes a matter of good money over bad, but often times individual’s don’t know if the supplement is working, or if it a placebo effect. For example, going from taking no digestive aiding supplements, to use digestive enzymes, active probiotics and turmeric. This is quite frankly… too much. My suggestion I is to try 1 at a time for a month or so, to see if a supplement does anything, beyond burning a hole in your pocket. My go to is digestive enzymes. I cycle off probiotics and on when I find my body truly needs it. The best advice I have in terms of supplements: they play up to a maximum of 20% of the results in optimal health. The other 80, is what you do aka, being active, having a positive mind set, being prepared with whole foods that help you and do not bother you.
  6. An added bonus: get rest. Over exerting or sleeping not long enough leads to potential for flare up’s and weakness. Take it from me. I worked till 11 pm one night then started at 5 am the next day, I physically could not have slept long enough, but if I could have controlled it, I would have been in bed by 9 pm for a 5 am start. Make smart choices and sleep long enough to feel well. Your long term health depends on it.

As always, Stay strong ladies and gentlemen.

SMART Fitness

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