Diets for Runners and Eating Gluten-Free
Image: Brian Klutch
Proceed with Caution
Field warns that a poorly planned switch to gluten-free can backfire, leading to an inadequate intake of complex carbs, vitamins, and minerals found in runner staples. And while there are lots of healthy gluten-free packaged foods, "not all are nutritional bell ringers," Field says. "Some people associate 'gluten-free' with 'healthier,' but a runner who isn't careful could end up eating a lot of refined carbs and added fats, leading to weight gain."
Nor is it easy (or inexpensive) to go gluten-free. The wheat protein is in a dizzying array of products, including soups, deli meats, salad dressings, cheese spreads, roasted nuts, energy bars, veggie burgers, condiments, sauces, and ice cream in the form of malt flavoring, soy sauce, and other seasonings. "It takes a keen eye to spot gluten on food labels," says Field.
McGinnis encourages runners who believe gluten could be causing them stomach trouble to speak to their doctor. Those who test negative for celiac but continue to experience symptoms can try strictly eliminating gluten from their diet for seven to 10 days to test for a gluten sensitivity. "If you find this clears up your woes and your runs improve, gluten is likely the culprit," McGinnis says.
But before making any major changes to your diet, seek the guidance of a registered dietitian. "Overhauling your diet to weed out gluten can get overwhelming fast," says Field. At eatright.org, you can find a local dietitian who specializes in gluten-free living and can help eliminate some of the guesswork to ensure you meet all your nutritional needs. And runners who eat pasta, bread, and other gluten-containing foods with no ill effects can feel confident knowing that sticking to your balanced diet is a great way to get all the nutrients your body needs, so you can run your best.
Nutrient-dense whole grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, and teff, provide complex carbs, fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
Good Without Gluten
The following is a list of delicious options any runner could love.