by Heba Hosny in Health + Nutrition, image by nirbhao

Best gluten free foods for long distance running

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Gluten is a special type of a “sticky” protein that is naturally found in some foods or contained in some processed or canned foods. Barely, wheat, and rye are some examples of gluten-rich foods which means that the vast majority of cereals and breads contain gluten.

What are the side effects of gluten and what’s the deal with the gluten-free diet hype?

Some people suffer from gluten-intolerance, commonly known as Celiac intolerance. Bloating, intestinal problems, seizures, depression, immune system malfunction, autism, anxiety, thyroid problems, and adrenal exhaustion are just few examples of the unpleasant symptoms that accompany this disease.

Fortunately, curing this disease is so easy: simply eliminate gluten from your diet. However, this could represent a tough challenge for long-distance runners who consume large portions of pastas, bagels, cereals, energy bars as well as other grain-based foods. So how can a runner cope with that? This is exactly what we are going to discuss in this article. Enjoy!

Cheer up! You have abundant choices of gluten-free foods

Generally speaking, there are plenty of gluten-free foods including corn, rice, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, quinoa, sunflower seeds, soybeans, natural (unprocessed) oats; not to mention seafood, vegetables, fruits, most types of cheese, fish and unprocessed meat.

In my quest to dig for the most up-to-date information about this topic, I searched for expert advice on the best gluten-free foods for long distance running but I stumbled upon what’s even better…

Gluten-free food recommendations from long-distance runners…

Typical GF diet of seasoned marathon runners

Many seasoned marathon runners recommend substituting pasta and pretzels with rice and rice cake. In fact, it is best to eat brown rice most of the time but you can also eat white rice particularly before rigorous training as it contains less fiber. To add a more tasty touch to rice cakes, some runners get creative and add either tuna fish or cheese slices on top.

Another interesting substation for pretzels is potato chips since many long-distance runners would need lots of salty foods including carbs and sodium. Needless, long-distance runners wouldn’t worry much about fat consumption due to their excessive exercise routine.

Other delicious options include banana slices with peanut butter and honey.

Recommended GF night-before-race meal

Marathon runners recommend eating lots of sushi the night before the race! In fact, some of them consume as much as 25 pieces the night before an 18+ miles run. You may combine salmon, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, salmon rolls with avocado and albacore. You may also have white rice and add GF soy sauce to the mix.

The protein, carbs, fat and sodium mix in this meal will keep you “fueled” without feeling heavy or full. In addition, soy sauce is particularly useful for runners who exert a lot of sodium as it helps in retaining water and salt. Sashimi is another great option for you to try.

What about the best GF food choices right before the race

Some long-distance runners recommend having Vanilla Thick yogurt and banana couple of hours before the race to give enough time for digestion without feeling stuffed or weighted. For 10+k races, you may also take a Vanilla Bean Gu 10-to-15 minutes before the race.

Another very important tip: don’t overdrink water. Just make sure to consume adequate amounts of water every now and then to avoid stomach cramping.

Performance effects of Gluten versus Gluten-Free life styles

So far, we discussed the health benefits of the going GF especially if you are a long distance runner. What about performance benefits? Well, most runners who became GF assert that they noticed substantial improvement in performance and some of them indicated that they feel “less weighted down and bloated” and “feel lighter, healthier and just happier” than they used to before going GF. In fact, one of them says: ”Since I’ve gone GF, I’ve run PRs at every distance from the 5K to the marathon.”

Final words about the Gluten-Free life style pros and cons

Well, the obvious drawback of going GF is deprivation from some of your favorite foods forever, not to mention that it’s difficult to eat out due to the limited menu options. Also, some runners mentioned that they have some difficulty staying full because GF foods are generally not high in calories.

On the other hand, the health and performance rewards of going GF are well worth the sacrifice. This is what a GF runner constantly tells herself to stay on the GF track: “Is 5 minutes of food pleasure really worth 2 days of tummy displeasure?”
Another one proudly says:” Personally, I can live without bread and pasta. What I can’t live without is good health, vigor and energy”.

Now that we laid all the facts to you, the choice is entirely yours: will you try to go GF or you would rather a delicious cupcake instead? We can’t wait to read your comments… :)

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