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"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." ~C. S. Lewis


PostHeaderIcon Gluten Free 2

Been thinking a lot about being gluten-free since my last post about it, and specifically what it means to be an athlete and be gluten-free (gf going forward.) First, I love it. I have more energy and rarely actually need to set an alarm anymore. Gone are the days (aside from recovering from long drives) where I absolutely must take a nap and gone are the days where true fatigue sets in after a hard workout and gone are the days of stomach aches or cramps that I don’t fully understand the origin so I can’t control them or prevent them. In are the days of feeling in control, more so, of my health and actually having a say in it, in are the days of true education of what works for my body not just a blanket affect (such as all organic is better or this supplement or vitamin works for all), in are the days of feeling empowered and excited about the now and future. I can tweak and see my body respond and have a better understanding, I can take a few days off from training and jump right back on the train, I can get off the healthy eating train (not gf train though) and jump right back on and if any negative consequences came about from a slip or a break, they’re mitigated quickly and in a healthy fashion.

And being in control and having a say means asking a lot of questions and doing research about what I put into my body in terms of gf food and product. It’s clear from the beginning that fresh fruits, vegetables and meats (hopefully organic) are ultimately the best direction to head in to embrace being gf. And that living on the West Coast, specifically California is pretty special in terms of all sorts of interesting gf alternative products catering to an increasingly gf community. At first I thought all cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, pies, breads, pizza, pasta, biscotti, rolls, muffins, pastries, crackers, granolas, cereals, sandwiches, anything breaded or fried and more and more items made with gf products would be ixnayed from my way of eating – and while fine because it means better health and pursuit of athletics for me, still a little overwhelming to take in (especially when you realize gluten hides in a LOT of products, not just the obvious ones.)

And so, heading to the expo before the LA race I realized that all the vendors I usually frequent at these events I now needed to ask “are you gluten free?” Unfortunately, SO many are NOT. Headed to Cascadian Farm who always passes out granola and granola bars – are ou gluten free? Nope, they say. BUT, they are also pushing Lara Bars, which are, they promise. Cool. My many times aforementioned Honey Milk? Jury is still out – one gal said they’re gluten free but not wheat free, another said they’re wheat free but not gluten free, and another said “we’re lactose free!” Which I knew, and wasn’t the question. So, trying to figure it out…and hoping for the best. Pretty sure Muscle Milk, which I don’t like the taste of anyway, isn’t gluten free. Cytomax is (ok, full disclosure – Cytosport owns both Muscle Milk and Cytomax. Some flavors of Muscle Milk are in fact gf, others are not – I would avoid in general.) Jelly Belly Sports Beans are. Promax energy bars are, in fact, gluten free. Yakult, that funky but tasty probiotic yogurt drink is gf. I talked to the folks at FRS Energy, and some of the drinks and the chews are, according to them, gf. I would do more research before jumping in, still trying to find a clear answer online. Snickers Marathon Bar that I used to love the taste of (how can you not? It’s a candy bar disguised as a nutrition bar!) is most certainly not even a little gf. Nor is Power Crunch, made by BNRG, is not (sad, loved those little wafer protein bars.)

So, was feeling a little discouraged, actually – some products I could still do, and I still needed to do some research, such as the difference between wheat-free and gluten-free as well as all the protein drinks and the use of whey, and if that affects me. Just about to leave the expo when I spot a booth I’ve noticed has begun to pop up at the last few expos – PR* Bar. Remember them? They were around in the ’90’s and at the forefront of energy protein bars, big in the Ironman community. They sold it and just recently bought it back and are better than ever. As in, they are gluten free and have a ton of great tasting flavors and really seem to know what they’re doing! It literally was the last booth I stopped at and had actually prepared myself to have them tell me no, they were not gluten free. But in fact they are, and pride themselves on it. I spoke with one gentleman behind the booth and he’s run over 100 marathons, and never was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon…until he started using the PR* Bar. The flavors are great, the taste is good and it doesn’t sit like a rock in your stomach, and it can actually enhance the rest of what you’re eating throughout the day to keep you at peak performance levels.

I know I have a long way to go in terms of learning about being gluten free, about being an athlete and being gluten free, about not just replacing a bunch of non-gf products with gf filler products just because they’re gluten free (for ex, I actually don’t eat a ton of bread, so why buy loaves just because they are made with rice flour? bags of gluten free pretzels? cookies? muffins? yeah, the list of things I thought I’d miss – turns out I never really ate them), learning about even if a product is gluten free it may not actually be the best thing for me, about specific performance products purported to be gluten free and how I can best utilize them for me, and sharing this information with others. Including the super cool fact that one of the top rated tennis players in the world is gluten free – Novak Djokovic – check out his gf prowess here.

So I’m learning, and I’m empowering myself and that feels good. I foresee a great trajectory both for my general health as well as my running career. Yup, that’s what it is. My running career. And I’m going to take the best care of me that I can so that I can take the best care of my running. Cheers and a toast, with a tasty post-run Bard’s GF beer, to being a 100% gluten free athlete!

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