Category Archives: Health & Nutrition

Gluten Free Supplements for Runners and Other Athletes

Living gluten free can be challenging.  Food labels are often vague or simply do not mention gluten, wheat or allergens.  Does it include wheat, barley, malt, or gluten?  If not on the ingredient list, was it manufactured in a facility that also processes foods that have these ingredients?  If it fails to mention anything about any allergens, should you trust the product?  It gets very old, very quickly.  I am worn out by the constant need to be vigilant.  Eating out can be a minefield for the gluten intolerant or Celiac.   Things are getting better, but at most cooks and waiters still have precious little knowledge or understanding about gluten and the needs of the consumer.

Now enter the world of an avid fitness fanatic and/or athlete.  The same issues arise.  If it is a pill, it is possible that there is hidden gluten used as a binding agent to form the pill.  How about whey protein?  Shouldn’t that be safe?  Why would there be wheat or gluten in a milk product like whey?  Guess what?  There is gluten in a large portion of the whey protein products available.  At one local store, I found that 9 of 10 whey protein powders could possibly contain gluten.  Only one safe protein supplement in the store.

Thankfully, I have found a brand of nutritional supplements that is almost entirely gluten-free.  Muna heard about it from other fitness trainers and we investigated it together.  I started by using the basic Genesis Pure products like the Daily Build liquid multivitamin, the Goyin balancing Blend, and the Liquid Cleanse.

For my fitness and performance needs, I also use these general supplements:

  • Mila (Chia Seeds) – omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and minerals
  • Coral Calcium – extra calcium and magnesium for bone strength and muscle function
  • Organic Sulfur – joint health
  • Greens – wheat grass (no gluten here), spirulina, and about 30 other natural nutrition sources

recoverySpecifically for the athlete, Genesis Pure offers the GPS line:

  • Moomiyo Edge
  • E2 – Energy drinks for before training
  • Pro-Arginine – Muscle health
  • Hydration mix – Electrolytes and fuel during training
  • Recovery – To maximize recovery and growth after the training

The products are effective.  Moreover, I like the convenience of getting all of my gluten-free supplements from the same trustworthy source.  If you are looking for gluten-free products, Genesis Pure products are worth trying.

Where to Find Genesis Pure Products

You will not find Genesis Pure products in retail stores.  You can get any of the products online at Amazon.com, but the prices are higher there.  The best and most affordable way to order Genesis Pure products is by using  the 25% membership discount.  There is a $39 initial enrollment fee, but then you are free to order at the discounted rate.

Once you join, you will also have the choice to turn your membership into a business opportunity if you are so inclined.  Most importantly, your membership can save you both time and money by finding all of your gluten-free supplements in one place.  :)

For More Information

If you are interested in learning more about Genesis Pure, the supplements, and/or the business opportunity, you can watch the 23 minute introductory video at:  http://wiserunning.com/about-us/gluten-free-supplements-and-business-opportunity/

You can also email me at pmark.runner@gmail.com.

Let me know if you have any questions about nutritional supplements, their purpose, or how to find if they are gluten-free.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Next Level Nutrition: The Food is Fuel Mindset

“You are what you eat.”
“You can’t outrun or outwork poor nutrition.”

Going to the Next Level

I have searched for years and I finally found it.  I have found the combination of running workouts to maximize the benefits of training.  I know how to train to get faster while putting the least amount of stress on my body.  That is awesome.  I could not be happier!

Still, I have this black cloud that is hanging over my head.  I know that to reach my full potential in the next level of running performance, I have to eat and drink wisely.  Unfortunately, I am guilty of the high crime of eating what I feel like eating.  Sometimes that means I am eating very healthy food.  Sometimes that means I eat junk.  It is a crime against me and my goals.

Why so negative?  Is this really a crime?  What about happiness?

If I had no goals for my health, eating what I feel like eating would be good enough.
If I had no goals for my running, eating what I feel like would be good enough.
…but I do have goals.  I have BIG goals.  The crime is that I am hurting my health and my progress towards goals.cupcakes

The Food Failure Mindset

The unhealthy mindset thinks of food and drink as something emotional.  It is a reward for being good.  It is feeling cleverly sneaky while we “cheat” our healthy diet.  We eat because we want to elicit some specific emotional response (happiness, relief, …) or to avoid feeling emotions (frustration, sorrow, shame, …).

These brief moments of “positive” emotions only last as long as the food or drink lasts.  Does it work?  For a moment.  The pain, frustration, sorrow, resurface as the effects of the indulgence wears off.  Then comes the shame and self-loathing.  So did it make you feel better in the long run?  No.

Even if it is a real hunger that we have, we must remember that cravings are for nutrients, not for junk.  You may feel like you want the entire box of ice cream, but your body is craving calcium and or calories.  If you are skipping meals, your body will not have what it needs.  Of course you will start craving!

Whether your cravings are for real nutrition or for emotional relief, eating what you feel like eating is almost always a road that leads to frustration and shame.  You steal the progress you could be making.  You steal your health.  You steal your own joy.  That is the crime.  In this mindset, you end up both the perpetrator and the victim.

The Food as Fuel Mindset

What food and drink ARE NOT:

  • Food and drink are not rewards.
  • Food and drink are not escapes.
  • Food and drink are not quick fixes for emotional problems.

What food and drink ARE:

  • Food and drink are fuel for a healthy body.
  • Food and drink are long-term fixes for long-term health problems.
  • Food and drink are tools to use towards your goals.

Eating wisely takes a lot of thought and preparation long before the meal or snack.  If you want to get to the next level of running performance and health, you must plan and follow through.

Although I have tried to eat well, my journey of meal planning and preparation is just beginning.  It is my next step to getting to the next level.  As my personal meal and snack planning adventure unfolds, I will blog about it here to let you know what is working for me.  Stay tuned!  :)

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

 

 

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?  Am I the only one that feels this way?  I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.  I mean… well… think about it.  If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.  And today, mine is.  It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.  The message is loud and clear:  “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

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Happy Running!

Strength Training to Cure IT Band Pain

I have spoken with quite a few runners recently that have IT band pain.  After watching their running form, I come to the conclusion that many of the IT Band issues stem from two types of problems: weak glutes or extreme pronation.

weak gluteus medius (2)

Research shows that people with IT band pain tend to have weaker glute muscles than the average runner.  This being the case, many people’s IT band issues can be cured through strength training. Weak gluteus medius muscles cause excessive hip drop, which allows the knee to buckle inward, putting stress on the IT band by squishing it.

overpronation

Extreme pronation can also cause an imbalance that puts pressure on the IT band in similar way.  Beyond the typical pronation issues, extreme tends to cause the runner’s knee to buckle inward as they land.  This buckling towards the inside causes pressure on the IT band as the outside of the upper leg (the home of the IT band) is shortened.  In these extreme cases, wearing shoes that are designed to prevent pronation are not enough to stop it.  This, too, can be addressed with strength training.  The goal in this case is strong and flexible feet, ankles, and calves.

Here are the exercises that I recommend for alleviating (and eventually eliminating) IT band issues:

Glutes/Abductor

Lower Leg, Ankle/Pronation

Both AreasMAKE SURE YOU FOCUS ON BALANCE AND FORM

If you have not been doing these exercises regularly, then take it easy on yourself.  Start with just a few repetitions on each exercise.  Gradually build up the number of reps and/or the distance.

For most people, this strength training will gradually alleviate and eliminate your IT band pain.

Make sure you focus on good form.  Doing them in bad form may aggravate your injury or even cause a new one!

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Running in Cold and Icy Weather

What adjustments do you need to make for running when the cold weather appears?

Pace

According to a formula worked out by Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, our running paces are not only slowed by heat, but also by cold temperatures as well.  Schwartz found that 53 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for the runners in his study.  The farther the temperature moves away from 53 (hotter or colder), the slower the pace they would achieve with the same effort.

For example, you can expect a time increase of 1.66 percent when the temperature drops to 30 degrees, a 3 percent increase at 20 degrees, a 5.33 percent increase at 10 degrees and an 8.33 percent increase in time when the temperature hits 0 degrees.  The formula may vary slightly for runners of different body types, but the trend will still hold true for all.

My point is that you need to give yourself a break and not expect to run your best pace in freezing temperatures.  Thankfully, however, training through these cold weather months will pay off.  Persevere!

Attire

Personally, I am quite comfortable running in 40 degree weather if I have the proper attire.  Below 30 degrees begins to become uncomfortable.  Thankfully, there are ways to get more comfortable in cold weather.  You can adjust to cold weather by adding layers of clothing.  This gives it a big advantage over running in the summer.  After all, there is a limit of how much clothing you can remove to adjust for heat.   :)

For the cold temperatures, dress in light layers.  A huge coat or heavy pants will weigh you down.  Light layers can hold your body heat effectively but have the added advantage that you can take them off if you get a little hot.  Light layers also have the advantage of allowing you to maintain good running form.  Cover your head and neck.  Mittens are often better than gloves, but wear whatever you are comfortable wearing.

Barefoot & minimalist shoes might not be the best choice on the coldest days.  I believe it is possible to get frostbite on your feet even if the rest of you is toasty-warm.

Ice & Snow

Please be careful when it comes to slippery conditions.  One slip is all it takes to injure yourself.  It is better to take an extra rest day than it is to risk your health.  Moreover, that little slip can lead to a much longer rest if you have to wear a cast!  I’m aware that those that live in the north probably see snow and ice is just a way of life, but you at least have to be careful.  Take extra care and slow your pace down in these conditions so you can live to run another day.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Wise Running: The Truth About Cramps

I will tell you two truths about cramping up front and then explain them:

  1. Nobody fully understands all of the reasons for exercise induced cramps.
  2. Since we don’t fully understand the causes, we also don’t know of an ultimate solution.

Electrolytes and Cramping

Most people think of electrolytes as the key to avoid cramping.  If you avoid running low on sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes, then you can avoid cramping, right?  Maybe not.

Research trying to establish a correlation between muscle cramps and low levels of electrolytes in the blood of athletes have shown no significant relationship between these two variables.  This makes it highly unlikely that electrolytes are the culprit for the average runner.  Does this mean that I do not believe in the electrolyte tablets that I am taking?  No.  First, these studies are correlational.  The big limitation of correlational research is that it can’t prove that one variable is the cause, or not the cause, of the changes in another variable.  Hence, we need other kinds of more carefully crafted research before we can negate the possibility that my electrolyte tablets are helping me.stretching

On the other hand, I do believe that it is possible that only some of us need the electrolyte supplements.  I have two things that make my electrolytes lower than they should be:  genetics and eating habits.  Genetically, I have ADHD.  As an ADHD person I am aware that I use up electrolytes faster than the non-ADHD population.  Making matters worse, I have never eaten as many vegetables as I was supposed to consume.  I believe these are the best sources of electrolytes.  I think there is a good chance that if I ate more veggies, my need for the supplements would fade.

Beyond Electrolytes

While electrolyte supplements may or may not help, there are are several other theories about why muscle cramping might occur.  Insufficient fuel on a long run (>13 miles) can mean that your muscles simply cannot work properly.  In addition to proper fueling, cramps can be caused by overdoing it.  If your effort in a race is significantly more than you have done in training, your muscles may not be able to handle it.  Finally, short muscles may contribute to your cramping.  Working one side of your legs much harder than the other side for a long time may cause your muscles to become shorter and tighter.  The imbalance between the sides can cause cramping.

My Recommendations

The fact that there may be many causes for muscle cramping means that you should use a balanced approach.

  • Electrolyte Supplements  – I have not given up on my supplements, but the research definitely calls into question whether the average runner needs them.  When I do use them, I use them primarily as a preventative measure.  In doing that, however, I try to use as little as possible.  Experience is the best teacher.  I started with none and then gradually added some when I had issues during or after the workout.  Over time, I began to understand how much I need.  Electrolyte supplements are not cheap; don’t use them if they don’t help you!
  • Salt Tablets or Packets –  Studies have found that if your are experiencing cramps, one way to halt them is consume table salt.  They found that it the effect it has is to stimulate the brain to stop the leg cramping.  It does not stop because of the sodium, just the salty taste is enough.  Salt, therefore is not a preventative measure.  It is used after the cramps occur.
  • Stay within Your Limitations – Operate at the level of intensity for which you have trained.  Going beyond that can push your muscles too far.  They will rebel!
  • Stretch regularly AFTER exercise – Static stretches before exercise can hurt your performance.  Stick with dynamic stretching and warming up before exercise.  Static and dynamic stretches throughout the day after the workout, however, can lengthen and relax the muscles.  That can reduce or eliminate cramping altogether.
  • Hydration – The current recommendation of experts tend to be to drink to thirst.  This literally means let your body tell you how much to drink and when.  Others still recommend 4- to 6 ounces every 20 minutes.  Just as with the electrolyte supplements, you will have to figure out what is best for you.  Pay attention to how your body responds and learn what it needs for optimal performance.

Electrolyte supplement may or may not be helpful, so make sure you try the other recommendations too!  If you do stretch, stop and relax.  I don’t care if you are in a race.  Until you relax, your cramping is unlikely to subside.  When the muscles calm down, gently stretch and move them.  If you must continue after that, do so gently and paying great attention.  It is better to have a slow race time than to have an injury that will slow you down for months.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

wise running logo 7_25_12

 

 

50 Pounds Lighter: Why, When, and How?

Almost a decade ago, I weighed 50 pounds more than I do today.  I knew I did not feel comfortable at that weight, but everyone told me I looked healthy.  Hence, I was not too concerned.  The day that changed that was the day a nutrition expert came to our church to give a talk.  After the talk, she used her fancy gadget to measure my body fat percent.  I was 5 pounds of fatabout 20% fat.  Then I did the math.  20 % of 210 pounds is 42 pounds.  I had 42 pounds of fat.  Have you ever seen what 5 pounds of fat looks like?  Here is a picture.  Each of the hosts are holding 5 pounds of fat.  I was carrying more than 8 of those blobs on my body!

This info was too much for me.  Something had to be done.  I did a little exercise now and then.  I would run 3 miles every week or two.  I would jump on the trampoline with my kids.  I knew however that you exercising is not the most effective way to lose weight.  It can be done, but you have to be willing to make the increase in exercise be a permanent one.  Besides, research shows that changing your diet is more effective than changing your exercise for successful, permanent weight loss.

Remember This:
If you want to lose weight, exercise is not the right place to start.
Your diet has a much larger impact on your weight than your exercise.

Lifestyle Change 1:  Changing How Much I Ate

I knew that I had to change my diet.  I had watched many people failing at dieting in the past.  The thing that most of them had in common was that they made changes that were too drastic to be able to maintain.  I decided that I would start out by only changing one variable:  how much I ate.  I decided NOT to change what I ate, figuring that I could change that after this part had worked.  Hence, I did not stop eating fast foods and the other things that dieticians disdain.  No, I just cut back on my calories for the day.

I did not starve myself.  I know that that cues the body to store fat, which is the opposite of my goal.  I set up a little spreadsheet with and schedule of how many calories to eat during each part of the day.  I did not cut out nay meals or snacks, just consumed fewer calories at each stage throughout the day than before.  I was also determined to not deprive myself of my ice cream.  I saved an allotted number of calories for the ice cream that I always had in the evening.  I did not have as much as before, but I had some.

No depriving.  No skipping meals.  I merely cut back about 300 calories a day for several months.  I lost 20 pounds through this method and it never came back.  It was a lifestyle change.

Lifestyle Change 2:  Regular Running

I had leveled off at around 190 pounds and maintained that weight +/- 5 pounds for several years.  The second stage of weight loss occurred when I started running again.  I had taken about 24 years off of regular running, so any increase in mileage would make a difference.  I went from maybe 3 miles a week to around 25 miles per week.  Over the next several months, I gradually lost weight until I leveled off at around 180 pounds.  I was thirty pounds lighter after these two lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle Change 3:  Changing What I ate

The third lifestyle change was not my choice.  I was sick for 6 months and eventually we guessed the problem: gluten intolerance.  The transition to gluten-free living was quite difficult.  I had to give up real bread (gluten-free bread is NOT the same).  Especially at the beginning stages, my GI system was quite frail.  I had to eat simple whole foods as much as possible.  I had to avoid red meat for a few months.  I still do not each it very often.  I gave up all dairy products for the first few months too.  My diet revolved mostly around plant-based foods:  legumes, fruits, & veggies.  During this time, I ended up losing about 20 more pounds and leveled out at about 160 pounds.  Although I have added some foods back in, I maintained most of the changes in what I eat.  as a result, I remain leveled off at 160 pounds +/5 pounds.

So there you have it.

  • Exercise accounts for only about 20% of my permanent weight loss.
  • Changes in how much I eat account for 40% of my weight loss.
  • Changes in which foods I choose to eat account for 40% of my weight loss.

None of these changes were exercises in starvation.  None of these changes were radical shifts in how much I worked out.  They were relatively mild.  My weight loss journey took several years.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

wise running logo 7_25_12

 

 

Running 101: Blisters and Chafing

cross country shoesRunning is awesome.  We love running fast and running far.  What we don’t love so much is the blisters and chafing that can come with it.  If you are a veteran runner, you have probably mastered the art of avoiding these painful skin ailments.  If not, here is some basic info to help get you started down the road to relief.

What Causes Blisters & Chafing?

Heat, moisture, and friction are the killer combination that cause skin to gradually weaken and become irritated.  Eventually irritation becomes damage.  The bloody nipple is the scourge of distance runner.  Ouch!  There are other areas that chafe, too.  These can be even more painful!  Blisters, of course, are usually on the feet.  We are all familiar with these.

Preventing Chafing

The best cure for blisters and chafing is prevention!  If you know the areas that chafe, then you can proactively use these techniques to avoid that chafing:

  1. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your clothes.  For example, I used to get chafing where my thighs rubbed each other.  When I switched to Under Armour underwear, the thighs no longer touched each other.  Problem solved.
  2. Applying a skin lubricant, such as Body Glide, will often solve your problem before it starts.  This handles the nipple chafing that I used to get when running over a certain distance.
  3. Other people use a combination of home remedies that they have tried.  Ask your running friends what they do!

Preventing blisters on your feet can be a bigger challenge.  You are coming down on your feet with the weight of your body. Any movement that your feet do within your shoes can potentially create friction and lead to blisters.  Here are some common strategies for avoiding blisters:

  1. Change your socks.  Cotton is not good.  Get a specialty wicking running sock.  Also make sure that the socks have a snug fit.  Even when wet, there should be no bunching or gathering.  These cause blisters every time!
  2. Moisturize with lotion regularly.   Even though moisture is a part of the equation, soft, moist skin is less prone to developing a blister.  Lotion.
  3. Put a layer between you and your socks.  Mole skin or a similar product can take the heat instead of your skin.  A layer of petroleum jelly can accomplish the same thing.  Some people even use two pairs of socks.
  4. Change your shoes.  Your shoes should be comfortable.  Not so loose that your feet slide around a lot.  Not so tight that your toes can’t wiggle freely.  Your toes should not be rubbing on the front of the shoes.

Healing from Chaffing & Blisters

For chafing, I personally apply triple antibiotic ointment on the area and simply avoid contact as much as possible.  I will put a band-aid over the affected area while I am running until it goes away.

For blisters, my first strategy is to let it heal on its own if at all possible.  When I succeed, this becomes a thick callous right where I need it.  It will prevent a future blister.  If it is too big or too painful, then you must drain it.  Clean a needle with alcohol and lance the blister carefully.  Gently press the blister to push the fluid towards the hole to let it escape.  I follow this up with triple antibiotic ointment and a band-aid.  I try to make sure the band-aid is on tight enough to not allow the blister to fill up again.  Then I try to avoid contact as much as possible.

Can you run on a blister?  Yes, unless it is huge and taking a thick layer of skin with it.  I dealt with this once.  I finally had to stop running for a week while my foot healed.

Take care of your skin and your skin will take care of you with less pain and more gain.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Hydration for Running

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Your body is mostly water.  It only makes sense that a hydrated body functions better.  If you want health and performance, you will keep your body topped off with liquids as you go.  So, on a hot day, you might drink as much as a cup of water or watered down sports drink every 15 minutes. If you put it in as fast as you sweat it out, your body will thank you by staying healthy and performing as best as it can.  On the water hydration coupleother hand, it is possible to drink too much.  Current recommendations are to drink to thirst. If you are thirsty, drink.  If you are not thirsty, don’t. Any way you handle it, make sure you have access to plenty of water and/or sports drink while you run.

You should still be careful after the run! Most of us continue sweating long after the last step of the run.  Hence, it is important to keep your tank topped off!  There are now quite a few choices for sports drinks to recover after the workout.  The top choice remains the same as it has always been… good old water!

Electrolyte Supplements

Water is not all that leaves as we sweat!  We also lose minerals that play a critical role in our bodies.  They are called electrolytes.  Without these minerals and enough water, the muscles begin to cramp.  Muscle cramps are painful and cause damage.  Even if you do not reach the point of cramping, failing to replace the electrolytes means poor performance and frustration.

For some, simply drinking a sports drink provides enough electrolytes.  Other need more than the amount offered through sports drinks.  Electrolyte supplements come in powders, tablets, pills, & capsules.

Even though I require much more electrolytes than the average runner, I use the strategy of taking as little as possible.  You discover this by starting with the minimum suggested dose on the supplement label.  How do you know if it is enough?  Personally, I know that I have not taken enough Endurolyte Capsules if my leg muscles are twitching as I am relaxing after the run.  If so, I will take another capsule or two until it subsides.  Over time, you begin to learn what is right for you.

Regardless of which drinks and supplements you use, it is your job to make sure you get enough.  Your body is depending on you and so is your running performance.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

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Gluten, Running, and Me

not okayLess than one year ago, I was so sick that I could not walk down the hall without being completely exhausted.  I started getting a little fatigued in March of 2012, DNFed a race in April, and by June I was bed-ridden.  Too exhausted to go anywhere.  I and my doctors took educated guesses but got nowhere.  We looked at iron deficiency, I tired eating organic foods, I had lots of tests, and even an MRI.  No answers.  Finally in September, I tried a gluten-free diet.  I was clearly improved after 2 weeks.  After about 6 weeks, I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time.   Gluten was obviously the culprit.  Gluten makes me fatigued.  If I have a little gluten, I feel a little fatigued.  If I have a lot, I get very fatigued.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.  Gluten is not just in bread. gluten is used as a binding ingredient in many different foods.

How I Avoid Gluten

Since gluten is such a wonderful ingredient to use, it is terribly difficult to avoid.  While packages are getting better about identifying wheat and/or gluten, there are still a lot of hidden dangers out there.  Here are my basic strategies to avoid gluten:

  1. The best way to avoid gluten is to stick with simple, whole foods that you prepare and cook yourself.  If an item has more than two or three ingredients, I try to avoid it.
  2. I avoid eating out as much as possible.  I used to eat out a lot, but now I consider it dangerous.  Restaurants may have gluten-free menus, but that does not guarantee that the cooks and servers were careful in preparing and delivering the food.  When I do eat out, I try to go for simple foods.  Steak, potato (not fries), and plain veggies are my staples when eating out.
  3. Pot lucks meals are great for bonding with people, but represent a minefield.  See rules 1 and 2.
  4. When you decide you want to add another food to your diet, make sure you only try one new food item!  That way, if you feel fatigued the next day you will be able to know when/where it happened.

Recovering from Gluten

My initial recovery from the fatigue caused by gluten was very challenging.  The gluten issue made my digestive system very weak.  As a result, I could not effectively digest many foods that do not have gluten.  It was months before I could once again eat meat, ice cream, and other essentials of daily living.

I started with a very short list of foods:  rice, quinoa, corn.   I also used a gluten-free vegetable-based protein powder to make sure I got enough protein.  I had trouble getting enough calories while my digestive system recovered. I avoided dairy and quickly realized that most meats were too tough to digest well.  I tested one new food each day until I figured out a list that I could handle

My weight dropped 20 pounds in two weeks while I struggled to find foods I could digest easily.  Peanut butter and raisins became important sources of calories for me in those early days.  They are packed with nutrients AND they provided enough calories to maintain my weight.  They still remain staples of my diet.  Every time I go away for a day or more I make sure too pack peanuts and raisins.  When I struggle to find safe food, I can rely on my stockpile of peanuts and raisins.  Manna!

In the 8 months since I went gluten-free, I have been able to add many foods back into my diet that were initially too difficult to digest.  I can eat meat once again, but not very frequently.  A simple cut of steak is 10 times easier to digest than ground and/or processed meat.  I can order a gluten-free pizza at a trusted restaurant about once a week without concern, just not within a week of a race.

Getting  Glutened

From time to time, a restaurant or a friend will inadvertently include gluten in my food.  I will feel it the next day.  Even if it was a minute amount of cross-contamination, I can tell.  This is especially true on days where I am pressing my limits on speed and endurance.  A small amount of gluten will be evident in the fact that I just can’t maintain the pace I would otherwise be able to manage.

In order to recover as quickly as possible, I use the following strategies:

  • Return to the simplest foods that aided my initial recovery.
  • Take Gluten-Ease or any other source of gluten enzymes.  This will not cure you immediately, but it will expedite the elimination of the gluten that is in the system still causing damage.
  • Take probiotic capsules and eat yogurt.  This will help restore balance to your digestive system more quickly.
  • Take a glutamine supplement.  Not only does it help recover from a running workout, but it also helps rebuild the lining of your intestines that was damaged by gluten.

If you have a relatively small gluten intolerance like me, it may only take a few days to recover.  If you have Celiac disease, it may take months.  Eat clean until you feel better and beyond!

A Word About Gluten-Free Products

Gluten-free is a tricky term that can mean many different things.  Here is what I have learned:

  • To be sure that a product is truly gluten-free, it must claim on the package that the product is routinely tested to make sure there is no cross-contamination.  The second-best indicator is if the package claims that it is produced in a wheat and gluten-free facility.
  • “Naturally gluten free” means that they have not tested the product for contamination.  They did not purposefully add gluten, but you don’t know if it is contaminated or not.
  • Most things labeled as gluten-free are what I call “replacement products” because they are made to replace items made with wheat and or gluten.  These products are never really the same as their wheat-based counter-part.  I have never had a gluten-free bread that tasted or acted like bread.  You will be much happier if you do not expect replacement products to be the same as what they replace.

In the end, my best advice is to stick with simple foods.  The staples of my current diet are:nutrition fruit

  • peanuts
  • raisins
  • bananas
  • plain yogurt
  • fruit – especially berries
  • beans
  • brown rice
  • olive oil
  • eggs
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • any vegetable that is colorful and yummy
  • plant-based protein powder
  • glutamine supplement
  • cheese  [I still can’t process many cheeses.  Colby Jack is my staple]
  • ice cream [I try to stick with ice cream that has 5 or fewer ingredients.]

I am NOT saying that this should be your diet!  I am saying that you need to find the foods that your digestive system is good with AND provides the nutrition that you need to run hard and be healthy.  This was my journey, and I am still learning as I go.

Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!

_____________

The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99