Gut issues? Modify weight lifting to preserve gut function

By Hanifa Yip

Do you suffer from IBS, Colitis, leaky gut, or gluten intolerance?  Perhaps you’re on a specific carbohydrate diet (where you avoid grains and certain complex starches) or a plan similar to FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) because of these issues.  Not only does your diet need to be adjusted to meet challenges, it’s a good idea to adjust your lifting workouts too!  Here are some ideas for modifying your workouts in order to preserve adrenals, muscles, and gut function.

  1. Reduce Volume and Duration —You may be someone who loves exercise and feels like you’re wasting your time if you don’t fit in a sweaty, challenging workout.  Keep in mind though that  you are  less than optimal right now.  Then, how would it make sense to perform optimal workouts?   If you’re trying to heal your digestion, volume and duration must be reduced.   So if you were doing 3 sets, reduce it to 2, and if you were doing 45 minute workouts, consider a 30 minute workout instead. 
  • Workout with moderate intensity  – Long, intense workouts can be depleting, so you’re best doing 8-15 reps per set at a moderate weight.  Moderate means that at the end of your set, you should feel like you can lift another 2 reps.  You can gradually increase your weight lifted over time.  Long sessions where you’re going to failure is depleting for adrenals, digestion, nervous, and endocrine systems.  Conversely, if you used a weight that is much lighter than usual, you will eventually lose strength. 
  • Consider Split Routines –  There’s much emphasis today on functional training and working the body as a whole, but when you have compromised digestion, you’re likely to have slower recovery too.  In cases like this, a split routine of push/pull exercises or upper/lower body exercises 4x/week is more effective than a total body workout 3x/week.  You’re resting certain muscles while working other ones, and you’re still able to emphasize major muscle groups at least 2x/week.      

Having gut issues is challenging, as they can take a while to heal and you’re deprived of certain foods that may help you recover.  What is more challenging is having to adjust your workouts so that you don’t lose muscle.   Thus, when it comes to exercising with gut issues, the takeaway is to be strategic, and work smarter, not harder!

Hanifa Yip is a certified exercise professional with over 20 years of fitness teaching experience.  She is also a registered holistic nutritionist and is the author of Healthy with Hanifa: A Woman’s Guide to Holistic Health and Fitness, which is now available on Amazon and Indigo.  www.healthywithhanifa.ca

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