Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gluten-Free for Athletes


I have decided to try a gluten-free diet again. I am going to commit to 30 days and see what happens. Ready. Get Set. Go!

I think you will enjoy this article from The Real Athlete Blog by Courtney Hall.

If you have unexplained aches and fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, bloating or digestion problems, gluten may be the culprit. Gluten intolerance is a condition gaining recognition as a contributing factor to many health issues. "New evidence suggests that as many as 1 in 7 are gluten sensitive, or gluten intolerant. Many chronic illnesses are associated with gluten intolerance: Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorder, and diabetes."[1]

So what is gluten? Gluten is a complex protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. For many, these proteins do not digest properly, and the body reacts with the symptoms described above. If you are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant, all you have to do is remove gluten from your diet. Easy, right? Actually, it's not so easy, especially if you're an athlete.

Athletes typically depend on the carbohydrates derived from wheat, barley, rye and oats to give them the energy and endurance they need throughout a workout. When these foods are eliminated from the diet, there is a chance that the athlete won't have all the power they need to successfully complete a workout. Additionally, they might lack important nutrients like vitamin B, iron, and fiber.

But don't worry - if you're an athlete with gluten intolerance, you may have an edge. Often times, in order to "carbo-load" for a workout or athletic event, athletes will eat foods like pizza and pasta, which aren't particularly nutritious and often times cause "sugar highs." By eating gluten-free carbohydrates, like rice, gluten-free cereals and breads, fruits and vegetables, athletes can obtain the carbohydrates they need to sustain energy and eat healthy, nutritious food that won't cause symptoms like headaches and bloating.

Although gluten-free foods are hard to find, the demand for them is rising and they are beginning to show up in grocery stores everywhere. Companies are beginning to recognize the importance of making these foods available for people who are gluten sensitive.

Athletes may have to go the extra mile to find and prepare gluten-free foods; however, there's a good chance that it will pay off in the end.

If you have unexplained aches and fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, bloating or digestion problems, gluten may be the culprit. Gluten intolerance is a condition gaining recognition as a contributing factor to many health issues. "New evidence suggests that as many as 1 in 7 are gluten sensitive, or gluten intolerant. Many chronic illnesses are associated with gluten intolerance: Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorder, and diabetes."[1]

So what is gluten? Gluten is a complex protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. For many, these proteins do not digest properly, and the body reacts with the symptoms described above. If you are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant, all you have to do is remove gluten from your diet. Easy, right? Actually, it's not so easy, especially if you're an athlete.

Athletes typically depend on the carbohydrates derived from wheat, barley, rye and oats to give them the energy and endurance they need throughout a workout. When these foods are eliminated from the diet, there is a chance that the athlete won't have all the power they need to successfully complete a workout. Additionally, they might lack important nutrients like vitamin B, iron, and fiber.

But don't worry - if you're an athlete with gluten intolerance, you may have an edge. Often times, in order to "carbo-load" for a workout or athletic event, athletes will eat foods like pizza and pasta, which aren't particularly nutritious and often times cause "sugar highs." By eating gluten-free carbohydrates, like rice, gluten-free cereals and breads, fruits and vegetables, athletes can obtain the carbohydrates they need to sustain energy and eat healthy, nutritious food that won't cause symptoms like headaches and bloating.

Although gluten-free foods are hard to find, the demand for them is rising and they are beginning to show up in grocery stores everywhere. Companies are beginning to recognize the importance of making these foods available for people who are gluten sensitive.

Athletes may have to go the extra mile to find and prepare gluten-free foods; however, there's a good chance that it will pay off in the end.

[1] Dannette Mason Rusnak, "Gluten Intolerance: The Culprit Behind Many Chronic Illnesses." Optimal Nutrition Inc. e-Newsletter, June 2009.

Check out this for a Q&A with First Endurance Athletes and gluten-Free living.

12 comments:

Doone said...

Kelly - stick with it - it took a year for me to really appreciate a wheat free diet - I do not have celiac disease but definitely have some form of wheat/gluten intolerance. If you don't have celiac disease you can be more flexible with diet and not worry so much about the minuscule amounts of gluten, focus on the wheat instead. I find a breakfast of eggs and canned peaches works really well for preventing gut pain during long runs.

HappyTrails said...

I started a gluten-free diet about 6 weeks ago in an effort to try to help with my GI issues. From what I have read, if a person is sensitive or intolerant, it is important to strictly stick with the diet for a minimum of 3 - 4 months - it takes some time to allow the gut to heal from fighting off the effects of years of gluten upset. It's a little overwhelming at first but I am getting the hang of it and it's really not so bad. I LOVE my treats - cookies, cakes, etc. but find I am not craving them now, which is interesting. I will be interested in watching your progress. Have a great week!
Kathleen

Ewa said...

I've been experimenting on and off with paleo diet, which actually limits any grains. I am not very militant about it but I am noticing how well I feel when I don't eat grains. So yes, my carb intake is very low but I don't see much difference in how well I run.
I wonder if the fact that I feel better on that diet does not come from limiting gluten intake.

kelly said...

Thanks for the info Doone. I do not have celiacs either, but it's time to get serious with this diet and see what happens. What do you eat when you are running? What satisfies you when you need something, let's say after dinner, when you are relaxing and feeling hungry? Will I see you at Miwok?

kelly said...

Kathleen, are you noticing a difference in how you feel? Keep me posted in your progress. It's exciting to think that diet can play such a big part in how we feel. Good luck!

kelly said...

Ewa, thanks for the comment. I follow a paleo diet somewhat, but have a hard time not eating beans. I just love burritos! I also eat a low carb diet. A lot of great athletes follow a gluten-free diet with great results. It's worth trying if you have any stomach issues. Oh, and I love your blog!

Ewa said...

OK, where did my comment go? Sorry if I double post.
I was commenting that while I can say no to beans, though I love them, when my son makes split peas I cannot control myself. Unfortunately he loves them. And then I am telling myself that I don't have to be good all the time.

olga said...

Kelly, I am gluten-sensitive, and right now am trying to slowly eat into raw diet, as well as, obviously with it, avoid wheat. I had tried it in the past, but was never able to stick around - due to family feeding, and also due to mental "give up certain foods" attitude. Now I am approaching it from "introduce raw foods, but not take other foods away" angle. And slowly I get better choices. I do need to find various recipes and get my boys to dig it, but a week I had been pretty good - I feel great, run better, dropped a few pounds and my stomach is not as crazy. Good luck to you, and may be we'll chat this Saturday, with you and Mer!

Doone said...

Hi Kelly - yes we will be at Miwok, staying at the race headquarters hotel - can't remember the name right now. Diet has been a tough one for me because I absolutely lived on pasta and breads before. Now I eat far more potatoes, rice and rice pasta which seems to work pretty well. For breakfast I will often eat cornmeal cereal which is a nice combination of protein and carbo - or eggs which I add some butter and sugar to to try and up the calories a bit. During the day I snack on tons of almonds and chocolate milk, fortunately I can handle milk and dairy. For lunch it is often clam chowder - I try very hard to always have some protein in my meals/snacks to avoid the blood glucose peaks and resulting post insulin blahs! For dinner we tend to eat a lot of chicken or fish, with potatoes or rice. Vegetables all seem pretty safe - snacks are often chocolate pudding, pop corn, apple sauce (as long as I have had some protein or at night if I don't care about the blahs!) I still struggle to keep the weight on but my guts are the best they have been in years - except for when I cheat and have some pizza or fresh bread!!! For the runs I have had incredible success with Accelerade Gels - I seem to eat a lot less than my fellow runners but don't fade towards the end of the race so I don't worry too much about eating more.

kelly said...

Hey Doone, it will be great to see you and Tim at Miwok. Will Tim be running too? Thanks so much for taking the time to write. Thanks for the suggestions too. I might just try the Accelerade Gels. It has been a long time since I could stomach gels, but maybe it's time to try again. You mentioned cornmeal cereal. What is that? It's funny, but when I think back on TCC, that was the first race that I had no stomach issues. I realized that the diet we ate there was quite simple and seemed to work perfectly for me. Thanks again, Doone. See you soon.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

I'm glad you are being proactive about your stomach issues. I hope this does the trick!

I assume you are familiar with Devon's running and Fast Foodie blogs. She has some great meal suggestions (I still make a version of her mashed butternut squash recipe pretty often- though celery root is very good too).

Good luck and keep us apprised of your progress.

Cynthia

Doone said...

Cornmeal is such funny stuff - Generally speaking almost all the corn processed for food is used for corn syrup which is used in soft drinks and a million other products as a sweetener. High glycemic index - pure carbohydrate and we use it to feed our kids!!! Then we take the corn meal left over which contains the protein and send it to dog food companies for our pets - figures??!!!

Anyhow I use the 100% cornmeal (which still has lots of carbos as well as the protein) to make a hot cereal - a little like what the Tarahumara eat down in Copper Canyon. Caballo Blanco always seemed to have a pouch of cornmeal with him when we ran with him, although it was a little different from what you buy up here. You still need some extra protein to balance stuff out - handful of almonds always good!