When working with athletes (professional, recreational or weekend warriors) I take a holistic approach towards sports performance. This means that rather than focussing solely on macros (protein, fats and fibre) I also look at other areas of their health that may be affecting performance. Unfortunately, gut disorders are very common in athletes, particularly those who are accumulating many kilometres of endurance running/cycling/swimming/rowing etc.. This can manifest in diarrhoea part way into a training session or race, increased intolerance to a range of foods, nausea, bloating, excess flatulence and discomfort – none of which are conducive to winning sports performance!

Any form of exercise is a stress on the body and our body responds to the stress by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. Add in mental stress on race day and cortisol can elevate significantly. One of the mechanisms employed by cortisol to deal with the stress of exercising is to take energy away from the gut so it can deal with the stressor. That means that it slows the gut down and food is not digested as well as it should be. Also, endurance exercise encourages the formation of leaky gut. This is where the tight junctions between our gut cells become compromised and allow larger particles through into the blood stream than would not generally be permitted to enter. These larger molecules create an inflammatory effect that can reach any part of the body, such as joints, but can also double back on the gut wall and cause further discomfort. Leaky gut would also allow larger food proteins such as gluten and casein (dairy) to enter the blood stream and cause a reaction. Endurance athletes often find that they start reacting to more and more foods and that is due to the leaky gut allowing these food particles through into the blood stream and their immune system tries to neutralise them.


Another, factor that may affect an athlete’s gut is an “I can eat anything” attitude. Instead of eating, nutrition loaded, high fibre foods that feed the gut microbiome and provide the fuel required to maintain optimal gut health, they focus on a diet predominantly comprised of refined carbs such as bread, pasta and rice because they think they are ‘burning it off’. They are probably burning the calories consumed but they are failing to provide their body or gut with the fuel it needs. Gluten in particular has been found to increase gut permeability or leaky gut so a large amount of gluten (a big plate of pasta) prior to a big race probably isn’t the best idea for gut health. If the gut’s not doing well then the athlete will not be working at peak performance.

Many sports drinks, foods and gels are comprised of pure sugar. This can also encourage less beneficial bacteria and pathogenic yeasts to grow in the microbiome as well as irritating the gut lining on race day. Prior to switching to natural foods for fuel, I would finish a race and feel nauseous for a day or 2 afterwards – a combination of cortisol belly plus a few race gels for good measure. This meant that I couldn’t re-fuel as I should. When I switched to homemade energy balls (nuts, dates, seeds, fruit etc) I no longer experienced the nausea and found the fuelling to be perfectly adequate. Although these products provide an easy source of fuelling in an instance, on a long term basis they are not good for your gut or for insulin levels as you age.

When I work with an athlete who is experiencing gut issues, I often carry out food intolerance testing or remove the 2 big reactive proteins from the diet (gluten and dairy) and they often see big improvements quite quickly. I also check stomach acid and make sure their diet comprises of all of the elements that will keep improving sports performance but also provide fuel and nutrients for recovery. We look at fuelling during training and pre, post and during events. I always encourage athletes to experiment with diet during down time. Three days before a big race is never a good time to start adjusting diet and fuelling. Your body needs time to adjust and fine tune the perfect diet for you. When working with athletes (and non-athletes) personalisation of the diet is key.


Fiona is one of my all time favourite people. After high school, I weighed in at 99kg. At 174cm, I have been overweight by 15-20 kgs for all my adult life. Until, at age 53, I met Fiona. She immediately diagnosed my primary problem and by following her dietary coaching, I lost 16 kgs in 5 months. More importantly, I have maintained this for more than a year now. Now, well into the second half of my life, life is good, very good. As I said, Fiona will always be one of my all time favourite people. Thank you Fiona.

Fiona ran a course at work and it was fantastic – I learned so much and she tailored the programs to each individual which worked really well. I reached my weight loss and health goals and it really wasn’t too hard and I still have treats!  More importantly, I feel much better in myself for making food changes and continued to see her independently when the course at work finished.
Charlotte Carlish
Indigestion, stomach pain and abdominal cramps, were an every day occurrence for me. I was quite desperate by the time I found Fiona. With the help of some supplements and allergy testing, Fiona Took me on a journey of discovery. Thanks to her professional and kind guidance, I now  know which foods to avoid and which ones will help my gut to stay healthy.  For the very first time in a long time, my tummy now feels quite normal and I no longer suffer any of the above conditions. To say Fiona has change my life may sound rather dramatic but it is completely true and I will be forever grateful to her.

Feeling Great, Losing Weight!

I have been working with Fiona at Physical Nutrition for about 10 weeks through a corporate program run my employer.  Losing weight and making some real changes to my dietary lifestyle has been a game changer for me.  Through her weekly tutorials, Fiona has taught me about the food I eat, what is best for my body and to gauge how I feel after each meal.  Combined with a sensible exercise routine of walking and cycling, I have managed to drop my weight by 7kgs during this period.  My energy levels are up, I’m feeling fitter and I’m eating much more balanced meals and now know which foods to avoid and which to eat more of!  It’s been a great experience and I would highly recommend Fiona’s program.

I have recently completed the Physical Nutrition 10kg in 20 weeks program and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the support and guidance Fiona has provided.
The 10 in 20 program not only helped me change my habits by giving me a coach that kept me accountable but also helped to educate me to make better nutrition choices in the future.
Thank you again Fiona & this is just the beginning, I’m not going anywhere ☺️
Paris Doran
Fiona has been working with the City of South Perth over the last year.  She has developed a customised 10 week health coaching and nutrition program with us which the City now offers as part of its suite of health and wellbeing benefits.  All of the participants were overwhelmingly positive about the program.  They rated the program highly on the aspects of Fiona’s professionalism, approachability and knowledge, as well as the results they had achieved.
I would recommend Physical Nutrition to any organisation looking to develop staff benefits.
Gillean Sharp
Physical Nutrition/Fiona Murray has really helped my husband and I to achieve our weight loss and lifestyle goals. Her advice, support and knowledge during the 20 week challenge has set us up to lead a healthier and balanced life style. We thought we had enough food and exercise knowledge before meeting Fiona but she has kept us on track, motivated us and through her group classes has kept us entertained and true to our goals! Thanks Fiona!
Alison Thair
My son is 21 and has been ill for years and part of it was Diet, and we have been to many nutritionalist’s but FIONA MAKES SENSE and TELLS YOU WHY you should be careful what you eat. She changed my sons life so I sent my Daughter who had auto immune issues and she has helped her. It is now my turn so I will keep you updated. Highly recommend her she is also very understanding.
Lisa Mann
I have been with Fiona at Physical Nutrition for several months in relation to skin and gut problems and for weight loss. Fiona is knowledgeable and supportive. I am slowly losing weight and my skin and gut issues are improving. Fiona works in conjunction with my integrative medical practitioner which is a very helpful. First time I have had any positive results, a slow but worthwhile approach.
Lynne Besant


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