Running 13.1 miles without stopping is really hard. Running 26.2 miles is really, really hard. It requires a lot of energy. What we eat before and after our training runs, during the week leading up to a big event and on the morning of race day matters. The energy we fuel our bodies with can be the difference between hitting the wall or running through it.
Unfortunately for gluten free athletes, when we think of carb loading before a race we think of pasta. Almost all big running events have a ‘pasta dinner’ the night before the race. We can’t do these but the good news is we can get the same energy from lots of different gluten free foods!
I’ve run in a variety of different running events around the world since being diagnosed as celiac and these tips have given me the energy to keep running until the end. I ate 100% gluten free and I hit no walls. I didn’t win any races either ( or come anywhere close) but in my mind I’m a winner if I can run the distance without stopping. Success!
Gluten Free Training Tips
- Replace pasta with rice. Many athletes eat pasta the night before a long run and rice the the obvious gluten free replacement. Rice is available almost everywhere and goes with most things the way pasta does. It’s also high in carbs and will give you lots of energy for long runs! Whilst brown rice is perhaps the more nutritious option, white rice can be good before intense training as it contains less fiber.
- If you want your pasta dinner then have it. There are plenty of different gluten free pastas out there. Many varieties of GF pasta contain around the same amount of carbs, protein and calories as wheat pasta, taste great and cook even faster than ordinary pasta!
- Sushi can be a good option for a gluten free night before your race meal. This delicious mix of carbs, fat and protein will provide your body with the energy it’s going to need to run the distance. Adding some gluten free soy sauce can be a good way of getting some extra sodium, a lot of which your body will lose after running for a long time.
- Try some tasty new grains. There are lots of interesting gluten free grains out there that you may not have tried, or even heard of before. Quinoa, buckwheat, teff, millet and amaranth are delicious, healthy alternatives which will provide you with lots of energy.
- Always have a snack with you. Keeping a gluten free snack with you at all times is always a good idea but it’s even more important when you’re in training. With all those extra calories you’re burning, you will find yourself getting hungrier than usual in between meals and you don’t want to be left with nothing to nibble.
- Research your energy drinks and sports gels. Water just isn’t enough when you are running long distances but you need to ensure that any energy drinks you use are gluten free. The same goes for any sports gels you plan to use on race day. Find gluten free ones and try them out on long practice runs to ensure your body can handle them. You don’t want to do the right training and eat the right things to then waste it by getting glutenated because you forgot to check your sports drink.
- Research race day. If you can, find out which sports drinks are being given out during your race. If they aren’t what you are familiar with, do some research to ensure they are gluten free. If fruit or other snacks are on offer too make sure these are things your body can handle and nothing that gives you problems.
- Simply salt. To some long distance athletes, over hydration is a concern. Serious sweating plus consuming too much fluid can dangerous lower the bodies salt levels if you aren’t careful (This probably isn’t a concern unless you’re running a marathon, ultra marathon, triathalon, etc). Athletes to whom this is a concern often use gels which replenish them with salts and minerals to counteract this. Do your research to find out which gels are safe for celiacs. If this isn’t for you then simply eating a pack or two of pure salt during your event can give your body the salts it needs to make it to the finish line without hitting the wall. (It may sound disgusting but it worked for me during my first full marathon. Salt packets from McDonalds at miles 18 and 22 gave me the extra kick I needed to make it to the end.)
- Don’t try anything new on the day. No serious athlete wants to test out a new night before meal, race morning breakfast or energy bar/drink during the race and this is even more important if you are on a gluten free diet. You don’t want to try something new, have your body react badly to it and have it prevent you from achieving the goal you have set for yourself!
- Have something waiting at the finish line. At the end of a race there are almost always snacks being handed out. These tend to be glutenous things like cookies, cakes and energy bars. You’re almost certainly going to be starving at the end of a race so be sure to give whoever is there to cheer you on something gluten free and full of energy. For me a huge carton of chocolate milk is the perfect end to a race.
- Enjoy your day. You’ve done all the hard work and preparation. You’re ready. Now all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line! Yay!