Being a gluten-free runner isn’t as hard as some people think it is. I often get questions like “What can you eat?” and “How do you carb load when you are gluten-free?” since many of the staple “runner” foods are not gluten-free.
Pasta dinners? Fine - if you use gluten-free pasta made from brown rice, corn or quinoa. Bagels & bread? Again, gluten-free versions are fine, but they are not usually available as post-race food offerings. Instead of trying to find replacement foods, I like to focus on naturally gluten-free foods to fuel my body.
Compared to how many foods we have to avoid, there are many more foods out there that are gluten-free and great for runners to eat. You just have to know what to look for and eat. It is a learning process, not only finding gluten-free options, but also figuring out what works best to fuel your body. It has taken me a couple of years to get this worked out, as my stomach is finicky when I run. I have to proceed with caution when fueling.
Some naturally gluten-free foods that are good for runners are:
• Whole fruits
• Whole vegetables
• Sweet potato
• Baked potato
• Brown rice
• Buckwheat (kasha)
• Cottage cheese
• Greek yogurt/Kefir
• Nuts (almonds, cashews & walnuts are my favorites)
• Corn tortillas
• Almond butter
• Lean protein – chicken, pork, ground turkey, beef, bison (higher in iron than beef), shrimp, salmon
• Rice cakes (I love these with almond butter & raisins or banana)
• Dark chocolate
• Almond milk
• Chocolate milk
Most of the above foods are a part of my diet on a day-to-day basis. I do eat my fair share of gluten-free bagels, English muffins, waffles, breads & brown rice tortillas and depend on various brands to fill that need.
For pre-run fuel, I eat a small bowl of low-sugar, low-fiber cereal. Rice Chex is a good choice, as is a gluten-free crispy rice cereal. Sometimes I’ll pour a little almond milk over it, other times I will eat it dry. During my runs I depend on GU (labeled gluten-free) when running over 8 miles. For hydration I use Nuun instead of traditional sports drinks because I can’t tolerate the sugar or artificial sweeteners when running. Post run I eat something with a nice balance of carbs and protein almost immediately. My current favorite is the NuGo Slim Brownie Crunch bar!
The most important indicator is how you feel during the run and afterwards. You may find that you need to tweak your diet by adding more protein or carbs. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
About the Author:
I am a gluten-free wife, runner & blogger with two children in Columbus, Ohio. After my celiac diagnosis in 2006, I have made it my mission to embrace an entirely new approach to nutrition in a gluten-free world, exploring options that run the gamut from “made from scratch” homemade bread to sampling and reviewing the gluten-free prepared foods that are continuously being introduced to the market. While navigating the waters of becoming gluten-free, I share my experiences and pass along valuable product reviews in addition to helping other moms of celiac kids develop healthy menus that are kid-friendly and palatable. I feel that I am a valuable resource for those who are newly diagnosed, as well as for the more seasoned gluten-free veterans.
As I have journeyed down the road of racing over the past 3 years, I have tried many products that I now love and have tried equally as many that didn’t work for me. In addition to sharing my journey down the road of gluten-free living, I am also sharing my journey as I train for my upcoming races. This may include gluten-free fueling, race gear, shoes and more. Currently I am training for my 6th & 7th half marathons (April 22nd & May 5th) and hope to complete an additional 3 later this year, bringing my total half marathons run to 10.