Being a runner with celiac disease makes fueling properly a little more time consuming than those who do eat wheat and gluten. My biggest concern is making sure I am getting all of the proper nutrients to sustain my training and help my body recover. When I first took gluten out of my diet I struggled to fuel myself properly and my training suffered. After I learned how to fuel properly I was able to stay healthy and have found some staples that I rely on for carbohydrate intake.
WILL CUTTING GLUTEN OUT OF YOUR DIET HELP YOUR RUNNING?
One question I get very frequently when people find out I have a gluten allergy is, “Did you get faster when you took out gluten?” It seems everyone wants the magic ticket to getting a fitness boost and often they believe that ticket is found in the fuel they are eating. To some, cutting out gluten really may give them a fitness boost because it helps them drop a few pounds or maybe they really are intolerant to it and their body functions better without it. Some people who are not intolerant to gluten still find that they feel better when they remove wheat and gluten from their diets. I believe that a big part of that is because they have stopped eating so many processed foods that tend to make us feel sluggish.
If you do eat gluten I always suggest eating the whole grain, whole wheat options as opposed to white flours that offer little substance or caloric benefits and leave you hungry again within an hour. For me, yes I did get faster but only because I was able to recover from workouts once I stopped eating gluten. The inflammation that my body was creating in reaction to the allergic response wreaked havoc on my body.
I believe that fueling properly for your individual body is the ticket to seeing workout gains. For me, not being able to recover hindered my progress for years but once I found out I was allergic to gluten and removed it from my diet I felt better and was able to string together weeks and months of training. When we put together week after week, month after month of training our bodies adapt to the physiological responses created and we are able to make fitness gains.
The key? Listen to your body. If you feel your body does not do well digesting gluten then try taking it out for a few months and see if the problem improves. I encourage you to do what works best for you and not follow a trend. As runners we need nutrition and calories so if you do remove gluten from your diet I suggest finding ways to replace those calories and nutrients. One thing I found that works for me is eating a diet high in healthy fats. I feel full longer, have lasting energy and feel I recover best when I am eating lots of healthy fats. That does not mean I skip carbohydrates altogether though. I get my carb intake by eating sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and gluten free oats. Don’t just remove a major food group from your diet, find ways to incorporate the nutrients without causing distress to your digestive tract or body.
Find the answer that works for you. Maybe that includes removing gluten from your diet, maybe you feel better or maybe that forces you to eat healthier choices. Remember that nutrition is a big piece of recovering which equals better results. Whatever you decide pick healthy, wholesome options and remember that calories are our friend whether they are gluten filled or not.
Annika Braun is a McMillan Running Coach. Learn more about our Personal Coaching where you can train with a coach like Annika by your side to plan your training and talk about race strategy, performance nutrition, injury prevention, stretching, and much more.
“I have achieved my goals for 5K, 10K, and now a Half Marathon – thanks McMillan Running!”