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Gluten-free diet for runners – good or just a fad?

Being Gluten Free is no longer a diet fad and has become a lifestyle change for many, Deepthi Velkur writes about what it means for you to go gluten free.

Gluten-free diets are gaining popularity among the fitness community. The effects of gluten-free diets may not necessarily provide the benefits many athletes hope will give them a competitive edge. Sports nutrition experts believe enhancing nutrition does not mean avoiding gluten – a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Here’s what runners need to know about going gluten-free.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a stretchy protein that is found in grains, especially in wheat. A vast majority of our gluten consumption comes from bread, pasta and baked goods. Other grains that contain gluten are barley, rye, and oats. You’ll also find gluten in ice cream, sweets, processed meats, alcoholic beverages and condiments such as soy sauce.

So should you go gluten-free?

Embracing the gluten-free diet is a medically necessary diet for individuals with celiac disease or related disorders. Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease, where the body starts attacking the lining of the gut when you eat gluten. However, there are several non-celiac athletes who have cut out gluten from their diet and claim to have far fewer intestinal issues when they run, and even say that it enhances their performance.

Now, there’s no medical evidence that proves going gluten-free leads to enhanced running performance, but there is evidence of the potentially harmful effects that gluten can have in some people, for example, gluten can cause inflammation and irritation in the intestinal lining. Statistically speaking, nearly 90% of distance runners suffer from some form of digestive discomfort mostly cramps, diarrhea and bloating during or after exercise – cutting out gluten may help this issue in some runners. Other amateur runners also report they feel less brain fog, less muscle and joint aches, better sleep patterns, and more energy levels when they cut out gluten.

Is the diet workable with the Indian food plan? Yes, says a qualified nutritionist Naini Setalvad “We have many substitutes like bajra, jowar ragi, rajgira, singhada atta, white poha, kurmura and sabudana,” she explains. Food grains such as soy, quinoa, corn flour, millet, arrowroot, amaranth and rice flours all go with the gluten-free diet. Nevertheless, she warns, “If you stop dairy, as an Indian, you would feel less full”.

According to Priya Karkera, a dietitian and nutritionist expert “Milk can be replaced with almond and coconut milk and quinoa, a cereal, can be used to prepare khichdi, upma, and kheer.

Grains are an important food source of carbohydrate, which runners require to boost their training and recovery. Runners going grain-free often develop symptoms of overtraining syndrome, including persistent exhaustion and deteriorating performance.

The final word

If you’re thinking of going gluten-free, the big question is can you manage one? There is no evidence to support that this diet boosts performance. When you cut out a large food group, including food with gluten, your compromising on your health and its nutritional balance. Always consult your doctor or a health professional before changing your diet drastically.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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A Vegetarian Diet for Runners

A well-planned running diet can be very effective even if it doesn’t include animal protein, writes Nandini Reddy

Runners need more calories and optimal nutrition to ensure that they have enough fuel for runs and recovery. All diets need not have animal products and vegetarian diets can be as effective for runners. What one needs to remember that the diet should have vitamins, minerals, fats and protein aside from carbohydrates and fats.

Why you should consider a vegetarian diet?

Vegetarian diets have a high amount of carbs and fibre and are rich in Vitamin C and folate. Runners who are vegetarians also find it easier to maintain a lower body weight thus their joints take less pounding when they run. A well-planned vegetarian diet will have your daily calories and nutrients coming from fruits, vegetables whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds and diary. A runner would need a 2500 calorie well-balanced diet with about 70% of the calories coming from carbohydrates.

Suggested foods

  • In your every day diet ensure that you include enough plant proteins from beans and diary.
  • You can meet your daily protein requirements with protein drink that contain whey.
  • Complex carbs like jowar and bajra release energy slowly and are great for runners.
  • The biggest nutrient that vegetarians lack is Vitamin B12 which is essentially found in animal protein, but you can include fortified soya or rice milk to get your daily requirements.
  • If you like rice, then you might want to switch out polished rice to unpolished rice or red/black rice.
  • Palak or spinach is a great source of Vitamin C and iron, two ingredients that are essential for runner endurance.
  • Curd is a great source of calcium and can be included as a lassi or buttermilk or during lunch.
  • You need to ensure that you have fats in your diet. Olive oil, rice bran oil, avocados and nuts are great sources of fat.
  • Natural fats help lubricate your joints and it is important for runners to have healthy joints.
  • Nut butters are also a great source – you choose between peanut and almond butters. They can be added to smoothies or just spread on toast. If you are creative, then you can make a salad dressing with them.
  • Diary and derivative so milk like paneer are good sources of protein but they have an upper limit of consumption every day. If you are looking at building body mass, then full fat milk should be included.
  • If you are vegan the you can opt for almond milk and rice milk
  • Sprouts make for a great snacking option

Sports nutritionists today are open to planning diets that are vegetarian and cover the protein requirement that is essential for runner endurance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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