Running and eating. These are the two things I love the most in the world. I actually have been the pickiest eater and literally the most unhealthy eater. In law school, Wingos or Papa Johns delivery late night was an everyday occurrence. I didn’t start eating better until I started running. The more I read about how nutrition affects your running, the more I wanted to eat better. HUGE REVELATION GUYS- you can't put diesel fuel in a car that takes premium and expect it to run good- just like you can't expect world class results from a fast food diet.
I cleaned up my eating a TON and integrated vegetables for the first time in my life (not kidding)- but it wasn’t until the day after the Tucson Marathon (at the end of my first year of running) when I got blood results back from the doctors that I really took my nutrition a lot more seriously. I had been experiencing serious fatigue during this time. Can’t really explain it but I run just as much now (around 60-70 miles a week) and it is nothing like what it was then. My blood results showed that I was very anemic and extremely malnourished. Crazy for someone that constantly is eating (or thinking about eating at all times). I was told that the malnourishment was on the level of children deprived of nutrients in Africa. Basically my stomach was all messed up and wasn’t absorbing any of the nutrients I was taking in. So like a car running on fumes, I was already malnourished and then placing some pretty serious demands on it. No wonder I felt exhausted all the time.
For me to get better, I had to take some time off (basically most of last year) and really focus on recovering and removing food allergies that were wreaking havoc on my body. For me the big kicker was gluten.
Taking out the gluten really made things get better pretty quickly. When your body is in a constant state of inflammation, it doesn’t function or recover as well. Picky bars creator Stephanie Bruce's story is pretty nuts and similar to my gluten struggleeee:
"My iron levels were dangerously low despite attempts to supplement twice a day for years. I couldn’t recover from runs let alone life and feared my running career was ending before it really began. I searched for the right doctors to help me discover what was happening. I finally found a team who put me on an elimination diet and when we brought gluten back in, bingo! I took a few more tests and got a Celiac diagnosis that changed my life forever. I now had a reason for all those years of “my head hurts, I’m nauseous”, no energy, low iron and all around fatigue. After cutting out gluten from my diet my running career dramatically took a turn for the better. My iron levels shot up and I ran 2:29:35 in my 2nd marathon after running 2:40 2 years earlier."
I so can relate to the struggle to figure out suchhh an important factor in your life- let alone your running. It's crazy how something like that can have such a huge impact on your life.
So is it even POSSIBLE to be a runner without PASTA???
YES!!!!! I'm here to dispel that myth right now. I haven't had any gluten for about 18 months and all of my races have been done without carb-loading in the most traditional sense. I can’t do any gluten or dairy and I’m pretty restrictive on what sugar I will take in. What does that leave? Nothing. Just kidding. I find foods I can eat- but not going to lie- it’s not the easiest. Running and pasta go together like peanut butter and jelly. Basically, I just eat protein and vegetables (pretty much Paleo). My body can function pretty well on that even with all my running. I honestly don't go really out of my way to eat carbs- but if I have a race, I will add some sweet potatoes and potatoes in the days before the race and that seems to be a great fit for me. My body is pretty used to functioning on lower carbs- but when I do need them- those potatoes really go to work.
Also- race morning there are PLENTY of gluten-free bars out there to eat before a race- I opt for this over the traditional bagels or toast breakfast. My favorites are Lara Bars Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Picky Bars (I have a monthly subscription to their bars and get 18 a month. I promise you I ate them all in like 4 or 5 days last week. Ugh. SO good.), or NII Bars. I actually don't like eating that much before a race (maybe I need to start eating more) but I'll eat half a bar to a full bar and that's good for me. Just something so I'm not starving at the start line.
How strict am I about gluten?
VERY! It's pretty annoying- but if there is any chance that it may have wheat in it- I won't eat it. A lot of things you wouldn't think have gluten in them- do. And that's pretty depressing. Which is why for our Friendsgiving this year, I brought my own gluten-free gravy since 99% of gravy is made with flour. What's more depressing than not eating gravy or yummy tomato bisque soup though is dealing with the consequences of not having a gluten-free life- which was basically like being robbed of my life. My energy is so much better now- which makes me SO happy.
Here is a raw chocolate cookie recipe that I'm OBSESSED with. I'll eat one (or 50) as a pick me up in middle of day, as something light to snack on before I run, or as dessert. They are raw and so yummy- plus gluten free so I can eat to my little heart's content.
If you're looking for some more info on why people go gluten-free or what that would look like in a running world- here's some good info.
I focus on eating a non-inflammatory diet because I believe that helps me heal quicker from hard runs and doesn't further irritate my stomach. Gluten-free eating isn't necessarily for everyone- but if you think you may be celiac or be gluten-intolerant- it may be worth it to get some tests done or do the elimination diet. It could really make a world of difference if it has been affecting you.
The great thing is that there are SO many options out there to fuel yourself in a gluten-free lifestyle without actually compromising your need to carbload. It just means rethinking your version of carbloading.
From back in the day before I trained for races and when I still ate normal carbs. Please read our shirts - TAKE NO CHANCES. CARBLOAD.
I am getting my tempo on on Saturday and a long run Sunday morning. Still trying to decide if I'll be doing a 5k on Thanksgiving. I definitely want to- but I just don't know if my legs will feel speedy again by then. I'm hoping that work and life starts getting a little less crazy this next week so I can focus a little more on quality running. Basically I have just a few days to see if I can pull off a PR on Thanksgiving (giving me an extra excuse to have about 50 extra helpings of mashed potatoes).
HAVE AN AMAZING WEEKEND!!!!