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January 2018
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"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." ~C. S. Lewis


PostHeaderIcon Gluten Free Runner

And so another interesting component to upcoming race #10…been gluten free for a month. Short story is I got some recent news about updated information about how to manage Hashimoto’s, which I’ve had since I was 12 (a thyroid disorder they just throw you on medication for life) and going gluten free, which they didn’t know back then, is a great way to decrease any potential issues from thyroid or immune stuff. So now, I’ve been consciously gluten free for one month. So far, so good.

A few observations:
*It’s not so bad!
*Living on the West Coast or in California particularly, it’s pretty damn easy to find products that are labeled gluten free, whether they always have been or are reconstituted to be gluten free now.
*Some restaurants are starting to place a “gf” next to menu items that are gluten free, taking the guess work out for me (kind of like ‘v’ for vegan or vegetarian).
*Interesting educating myself on all of what is and what isn’t gluten free.
*I’m still learning, and planning to be learning for a while on this, and I’m enjoying that. Plus researchers are still learning and foodies are still learning, and I will benefit from that. But mostly, I like having this to learn about, and applying it immediately.
*Beer. is. not. gluten. free. that makes me sad. 🙁 especially as a runner, as I like a beer the day before and after a race. Hmmmm.
*Being gluten free doesn’t affect dinner so much as it does breakfast and lunch. Mostly I stay away from bread (although just recently had bread made with rice flour…YUM!) and pasta (no more cous cous! hello quinoa!) which isn’t that hard for me, expect for a few days before a race. But crackers, anything breaded, cookies, sandwiches, wraps and more have gluten and then some in them. Which also affects…cereal. Which I love. More and more options, but most granolas have some kind of wheat in them and therefore most granola bars (key recovery food or hiking bonuses) do too. UDI, I love you!
*I can have amaranth and not kamut. Don’t ask me why, I still don’t know the differences.
*Lots of people have great advice or in-the-field reporting to share, for example, rice pasta is preferred over quinoa pasta, given a fair comparison between most brands.
*Turns out I like polenta, and I can have that. YAY!
*Turns out I forgot I like rice. Also turns out I have to be careful with some, as there can be some kind of gluten in the mix (I still am not sure if it’s thumbs up or down on risotto).
*I’m eating cleaner, and that feels GREAT!
*Speaking of feeling great, it really is a good way to manage the thyroid stuff (and maybe other autoimmune issues?), so very grateful for the information and direction, Heidi!
*Bread baskets at a restaurant are no longer welcome in my world, or breadsticks or anything in that realm, but that’s ok, I have more room to enjoy the food I can order and enjoy (forbidden black rice? yum, and I will eat it all thankyouverymuch).
*Italian food may not be as friendly to me as before, but I’m willing to do research and make it work for me. Plus I have a fantasy of running the long winding roads in Tuscany someday, so I WILL make it work.
*Sushi and I are very good friends; in terms of Mexican food corn tortillas instead of flour please; French – while not a lot of pasta, there is plenty of roux and unhealthiness anyway; Indian – learning more, pretty sure it’s ok (plus delicious!); Chinese food – Dragonwell (SF) and Mao’s Kitchen (Venice, CA) both have a curry rice stick dish that rocks; other food genres I’m continuing to explore.
*Sweets – looks like I can enjoy flourless chocolate cake which is a little too much chocolate for me (I said it) but seeing as how I have to give up a life long love of cupcakes (and the fantasy cupcake shop), I may as well deal (admittedly a little hesitant to try a gluten free cupcake._ There’s plenty other fabulous things I can enjoy, and research and learn more about, and frankly, probably just be healthier overall.
*Even with holidays coming up, what am I giving up? Stuffing? Ok, find bread made with gluten free ingredients. Pie? Enough other choices. Plus I can eat the filling. Overindulging in cookies, desserts, crackers (I’ll eat the cheese), bread products (someone find me a gluten free pig-in-a-blanket) and cocktails is never my favorite part of the holidays, so bring that on too.
*Hmmm, just remembered the corn and rice ‘breaded’ chicken nuggets I had the other day – who needs wheat flour?
*It’s a good thing I like coconut – a lot of gluten-free products include coconut and I have to admit I like macaroons (in moderation.) Plus, cooking with coconut oil and even eating a tablespoon of coconut oil for energy is all the rage.
*I had coconut butter the other day. Peanut butter consistency, coconutty goodness.
*Nuts substitute a lot too in gluten free products. Damn good thing I don’t have a nut allergy. What if I live with someone who does? Figure it out.
*Potatoes! I can have potatoes in many ways, yes?
*Did I mention I’m eating cleaner – eating more pure food, less processed which wasn’t the initial set-about but a fantastic side benefit!!!

How does this all fit for running? I mean, who hasn’t heard about carbo loading? Pasta dinners the night before (I’d never recommend that…if race is Sunday morning, do it Friday night or in moderation for lunch on Saturday!), lots of carbs for long term energy, ability to tap into reserves stored in the body during endurance runs – tons of processed athletic performance products are about carbohydrates (but don’t necessarily include gluten…). When I first committed to being gluten free, I googled “gluten free runner” and had to laugh at the first five or six links it pulled up – let’s just say it was bleak (one even said “not good for runners, there is no way to get the right carbs, it is not recommended for runners to be gluten free” – awesome, thanks, that was helpful) and could have been discouraging.

See, here’s the deal. This is what I’m doing: I’m going gluten free, I am committed to that and I am a runner, I am committed to that. So I will make this work for me, even if it means eating a pile of brown rice and peanut butter the days before a race. I have a bit of a streak of defying the odds, especially if told I cannot do it or it’s not possible. Watch me. Maybe I’ll be the poster child for successful gluten free running. I refuse to believe it’s not possible. In just a month, I feel better, clearer headed, less foggy, it’s managing my moods, my digestion and yes, my physicality – my runs are getting stronger again, I’m feeling stronger again, I can push harder without too much lightheadedness (which is beginning to dissipate), I’m not riding a rollercoaster of fatigue or sleeplessness, I am in fact craving healthier foods, and…I’m in control of this. That, in and of itself, is an incredible gift I’m giving myself – it’s not out of my hands, it’s up to me to do this better, this life, and in just a month I’m noticing a difference from a) being this conscious and aware and b) eating better for my body and health. If I have to make adjustments or reassess, cool, I can do that too.

I am looking forward to seeing what a real long distance run feels like on this kind of fuel, this cleaner running engine.

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