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3 min read

Functional Medicine, IV Therapy, and Powerlifting With Dr. Fionnúla McHale

Imagine this scenario: you suddenly develop IBS, severe acne, and lose all motivation to exercise. Fast forward a few years… and you’re a powerlifting champion and doctor. How does that transformation happen?

Dr. Fionnúla McHale’s unique combination of expertise and personal medical conditions led to an impressive career as a powerlifting champion and functional medicine doctor. The Stark team had the opportunity to speak with Dr. McHale about functional medicine, IV therapy, and her award-winning powerlifting career!

Dr. McHale’s Journey to Functional Medicine

Dr. McHale believed she would study conventional medicine—until she got sick in college. She says, “I’d been a competitive swimmer in my youth. I was exceptionally healthy. I excelled in every exam; I gave everything 100%. When I went to college, things started to change. It started as gut dysfunction, which would be classified as IBS. I was told to take an antispasmodic if I had diarrhea. If I had constipation, it would be a laxative.”

She continues, “As it went on, there was no improvement. My mood started to deteriorate, and eventually, my skin started to present very severe acne. It was more medication, more medication, more medication. At the end of it all, my general practitioner (GP) told me it was all in my head—which was very frustrating. So, I was told that probably what I needed was an antidepressant and sleeping tablets. My college work started to suffer significantly. I went from someone who would pretty much get 100% on every exam to someone who was not achieving the grades that would be expected of me. Just not a happy person. Sports was gone. I started to become a person I didn't recognize.”

She decided to change her life by going to her college’s gym. Initially, she thought that exclusively running on the treadmill would be productive. It wasn’t until a PICP-certified trainer approached her with some advice: simple lifestyle interventions and weightlifting.

Instead of running on the treadmill for hours weekly, she began weightlifting with light weights. She made changes to her diet—reducing gluten and eliminating dairy.

Suddenly, she noticed drastic changes in her health: her skin health improved and she never had issues with IBS again. This experience led her to become a two-time WDFPF European Powerlifting Champion, 2015 World Fitness Champion, and functional medicine doctor in Ireland.

She may have begun her weightlifting journey lifting small weights, but she now takes pride in outlifting the men around her in the gym. She says, “As a woman, it’s hard to describe the empowerment I feel when I lift a really heavy weight.”

How Does Functional Medicine Work?

Dr. McHale has a variety of clients—treating patients with digestive disorders, psychiatric disorders, and endocrine conditions. Most of her clientele are people who simply want to optimize their health, sleep better, increase energy levels, and perform at their best.

After getting to the root of the problem through various testing (urine, saliva, and blood tests), she applies a variety of customized treatments that will naturally improve her patients’ health. She focuses on nutrition changes, supplements, herbals, lifestyle interventions, and IV therapy. While she isn’t completely against pharmaceuticals, she admits that she is “a little more mindful of the necessity of them and the duration of which they might be prescribed.”

The Benefits of IV Therapy

While there currently isn’t much research about IV therapy, Dr. McHale says her clients have reported significant benefits:

  • Patients with anxiety or depression report experiencing fewer symptoms
  • Patients who suffer from digestive disorders are better able to absorb nutrients
  • Body composition athletes report higher energy levels, better recovery time, and improved performance overall

Dr. McHale typically uses vitamin C, magnesium, or a Myers' Cocktail when administering IVs (depending on a patient’s particular needs). She will never give a client IV therapy without testing them for what they need first. While she wouldn’t promote IV therapy for “getting shredded” purposes, she says that her bodybuilding clients like to get vitamin C boosts with IV therapy. Depending on the patient's body composition, she will administer anywhere between 5-20 g of vitamin C.

Ready to start performing at your best, like Dr. McHale? While she says the initial steps are nutrition and exercise, she recommends integrating training into your schedule. She says, “I see fitness as something that needs to get done during the day. It’s not an optional extra. If she doesn't get it done, I don’t work as well. It’s like if you have a meeting, it just has to get done. Whether you go to the gym, go on a walk, whatever it is—you don’t always have to be in the gym and weight train. As long as there's activity and exercise, it’s good. It just gets done.”

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