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Living with colitis and training as an Olympic athlete

Posted on October 30 2015

2016 Olympic discus athlete Brett Morse shares his experiences of training and nutrition whilst dealing with Ulcerative Colitis. Ulcerative Colitis is one the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease and affects more than 146,000 people in the UK alone. Brett explains how he gets the right nutrients for his training regime while managing this condition.

What is your daily training routine?
At present I am training one to two times a day, six days a week. These are split into weightlifting, throwing, running, throwing specific and rehabilitation sessions to achieve maximum results.

What does a daily meal plan look like?
As I am trying to build muscle and increase my power output, it is essential that I take in enough daily calories to fuel my training. I also need to eat carbohydrates in the morning and around training sessions as glycogen is the crucial fuel for fast twitch muscle fibre. My typical daily meal plan looks like this:

Meal 1 - 60g gluten free oats with water, three whole eggs and three eggs whites.

Meal 2 - Cottage cheese, JBC BCAA

Meal 3 – Brown rice, chicken/salmon/turkey and vegetables.

Meal 4 – Protein bar, two pieces of fruit, JBC BCAA

Meal 5 – White rice, salmon/turkey/chicken and vegetables

Pre workout – Creatine, JBC BCAA, 20g protein

Intraworkout – JBC BCAA, JBC Pro Complete

Post workout – Creatine, JBC BCAA, 50g protein, 30 gummy sweets

Meal 6 – Three egg whites, chicken/fish/turkey, vegetables

Meal 7 – Cottage cheese or peanut butter.

What’s your favourite food?
Right now I am a huge fan of the smoked salmon and hummus combo. It’s something a little different and helps to keep meal plans interesting.

What food couldn’t you live without?
All rice combos! A lot of high carbohydrate foods like pasta give me issues with my stomach so rice is a life saver to me. I obviously need a lot of carbohydrates in my training so this is really important to me.

Is there anything you miss eating/can’t eat now that you are training as a professional athlete?
Well I enjoy the lifestyle involved with being a professional athlete so actually I don’t miss too much. The one thing I had to work really hard to cut out a few years ago was fizzy drinks because they were such a heavy part of my daily routine but I don’t really miss them anymore.

How do you manage to consume the nutrients you need and manage colitis?
At first, getting the right nutrients into my diet was tough as it seemed every food I was eating became a trigger food for my illness. I was losing a lot of weight because everything I was eating didn’t agree with me. Over time, I have learnt what my trigger foods are and what foods I can eat safely. You will see from my sample day that there is no red meat, potato products, minimal dairy and gluten free oats. This is because of my medical condition, not because I don’t like any of these foods. I would love to have a steak but no food is worth getting ill over. Obviously everyone who has the condition has different triggers so once you figure out what foods work for you, it gets a lot easier.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to train professionally and manage a condition like colitis/IBS etc.?
Most importantly they should have everything planned out. Knowing what they are eating and prepping food makes it a lot easier. There is no way you can train hard and then go to eat in a restaurant or café post training. Before I had the condition I never used to think too much about this as I knew I could get food anywhere but this isn’t really the case anymore as there are so many foods that can make me ill. I always make sure my food is prepped everyday and know what I am doing throughout the day with regards to food. 

One thing I will say is, don’t let the condition get the better of you. It is tough, not everyday is easy but don’t let it beat you. At first I used to get down about the condition but now I am determined to show it is not a hindrance to me and it won’t dictate to me what I can and cannot do. I think once you learn how to start dealing with the problem it doesn’t seem like such a big issue anymore.

Chicken or steak?
I love steak but I can’t eat it because of the colitis, so sadly I’m going to have to say chicken. That’s not to say I’m not a big fan of chicken because I am, but sometimes it would be nice have a bit more variation.

What supplements do you take as part of your diet/training regime?
I really believe in creatine monohydrate. Although I know some people struggle with this but surprisingly my stomach deals with this well. Another alternative to this would be creatine hydrochloride if you were having stomach issues with monohydrate formula as the hydrochloride is a more water soluble form of creatine, making it less harsh for your stomach to handle.

I also use JBC pro fuel, pro recovery and pro complete. I use these all around training sessions and then the BCAA from JBC throughout the day. I use the products that will make me the best possible version of myself in the build up to the 2016 Olympic games.

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