Fueling the Gluten-Free Athlete
Rebecca Youngs, MS, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian, Clinical Dietitian, Sports Dietitian
Fit For Life Physical Therapy
Adapting to a gluten-free diet has become very popular in the last few years. Countless gluten-free products and alternatives have hit the market and many people, athletes included, are interested in the hype! Unfortunately, not all these products are explained to consumers. Here are a few facts to consider before we address fueling.
- Gluten-free is NOT always healthier
- Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley products. It provides structure to many breads, baked goods, pasta, and crackers. Just because a product is gluten-free, does not mean it has lower calories, higher protein, or has more nutritional value. In many instances, that gluten-free product has other additives in it to make up for the loss of gluten!
- The only people who truly need to avoid gluten are those with diagnosed Celiac Disease
- Many individuals avoid gluten because they are “gluten intolerant” or “gluten sensitive.” This could mean many things. In some people, gluten can cause something like an allergic reaction like hives or itchy skin, while in others it can cause bloating, GI distress, and joint pain. Many people with these symptoms can find relief while eliminating gluten, but there is no actual medical test to diagnose a “gluten sensitivity.”
- Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition where the body thinks gluten is an invader and triggers an inflammatory response damaging the lining of the small intestine. This is a disease that is diagnosed by a medical professional. The only cure is to completely avoid gluten. Individuals with Celiac Disease must not consume gluten and often experience stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and other issues if they don’t.
Now, if you are an athlete adopting a gluten-free diet due to Celiac Disease or for other reasons, I urge you to work with a nutrition professional because there are likely to be nutrients you will miss once you eliminate gluten!
Luckily, many grocery stores have areas for gluten-free foods, and all produce plus most dairy are gluten-free! Here are a few tips to help you stay fueled while also avoiding gluten:
- Look for carbohydrate-rich alternatives like gluten-free pasta, rice, quinoa, gluten-free crackers, corn tortillas, gluten-free oats, gluten-free granola and potatoes
- Runners who are gluten-free have the same energy needs as those who are not! Make sure you are fueling appropriately!
- Continue to stay hydrated to avoid any diarrhea or constipation
- Try baking with unique gluten-free flours like almond flour, chickpea flour, and rice flour
- There are many gluten-free friendly granola bars on the market like Lara Bars, Picky Bars, and Kind Bars
- Look for a gluten-free gel or chew such as Muir, Huma, OTE, Bolt Chews and Maurten
- Read the ingredient label for any traces of gluten!
- Work with a Registered Dietitian to come up with a plan to keep you fueled on runs while avoiding gluten and any symptoms you may have associated with it
For more tips, please consider a custom nutrition plan. These custom plans and other individual nutrition guidance can be developed by contacting Fit for Life Physical Therapy’s Dietitian, Rebecca Youngs, MS, RD, LD.
Registered & Licensed Dietitian Rebecca Youngs is an avid marathoner, loves to work out, and has specialized her practice in gastrointestinal health, as well as sports nutrition and fueling athletes of all levels. She is available for individual consultations at Fit For Life Physical Therapy or through zoom video conference.
Fit For Life Physical Therapy cares for people of all activity levels - to help prevent, recover from, or rehabilitate sports & orthopedic injuries. We are proud to move people every day.
Please visit our website https://www.fitforlifephysicaltherapy.com/, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or text us at any of the phone numbers for our three convenient locations inside Fleet Feet/FrontRunner stores:
Polaris: 1270 East Powell Road Lewis Center, Ohio 43035 ~ 614-981-2065
Upper Arlington: 1344 West Lane Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43221 ~ 614-981-1979
New Albany: 5792 North Hamilton Road, Columbus, Ohio 43230 ~ 614-581-7441