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Ignite Naturals Gel Review for the Gluten Free Endurance Athlete


Gluten-Free endurance athlete

As a cyclist, I eat my fair share of portable, hopefully non-meltable food.

In my post on fueling the gluten free endurance athlete, I outlined some options that I have tried myself.  I have a new gel that I’ve used since, and also a DIY energy gel recipe that you can use to refill a flask and save yourself some $$.

First, Ignite Naturals Reload Energy Gel.

I had wanted to try the Reload gels as they are made from “real food” ingredients.  The main ingredient is fig paste.  Yup, the stuff that is the inside of a Fig Newton.  The gels come in 3 different fruit flavors (which honestly all tasted very similar to me, but I am not focusing on any flavor complexities when I’m shoving gel in my mouth with one hand on the handlebars and trying to breathe.)

Each gel is about 100 calories and provides 25 grams of carbohydrate.  I found the packaging fairly easy to open with my teeth.  The gel itself is a bit thicker than I would prefer, I felt like I almost had to chew it.  When I reach for an energy gel, I do not necessarily want to chew.  It still went down fairly easily, with a swig of water to wash it all down. Overall, a great option and one I will continue to use.

Ignite Naturals also has a few other products that I am looking into, one I am particularly interested in in their Adrenal ReBoot.  As an endurance athlete training 8-15 hours a week, and with a history of autoimmune disease and hormonal imbalance, I am especially concerned with adrenal support.  Ignite Naturals is a company I will be doing additional work with in the future, as I am especially impressed with their dedication to natural ingredients and their company philosophy.

Now it’s my turn…

Here is my recipe for a DIY energy gel.

Live purely: I am a purely elizabeth Ambassador


Purely Elizabeth Ambassador

That’s right, kids… I am a Purely Elizabeth Ambassador

Way back in 2009, the year I started GFF, I reviewed a muffin mix from a new company called purely elizabeth.  At that time, purely was brand new to the scene, the gluten free food “trend” was just starting to take off, and there were very few companies that were attempting to use whole grains that were gluten free and also had some sort of nutritional value.  It was all starches, all the time.  Elizabeth was doing something groundbreaking by offering better for you muffin and pancake mixes.  I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth at a gluten free expo here in South Florida in March of 2010.  She is truly a special lady with a huge heart.  She and I definitely have the “generally healthy eater with weakness for baked goods” thing in common too.

Fast forward to 2012, and purely elizabeth has grown immensely.  They have expanded their product offerings, and are now available in Whole Foods (!) but all the while have maintained the dedication to good taste, good ingredients, and good nutrition.

The products are certified gluten free and vegan, non-GMO, and the cookie mixes are certified organic.  The ingredients are all top notch, and ones I would use if I were baking from scratch.

It’s not just about the food, though.  Purely elizabeth also promotes living purely, which we all may define differently.  For me, it’s moving my body, fueling it well, resting adequately, and choosing the positive perspective whenever possible.  And living purely also incorporates some tasty, nutritious treats of chocolate chip cookies after a long bike ride.

Purely elizabeth is a company whose products and values align very well with my own.  I am honored and pleased to have been chosen as an ambassador.  

If you’ve not checked out purely elizabeth yet, go to their website and read about how awesome they are.  Then, go to Whole Foods (they’re on sale!) and get you some.  OR, you can always order online.

Aside from awesome baking mixes and granola, if you need some more info for generally eating a healthier gluten free menu, check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for lots of articles to get you started.

Eight wheat-free snacks to sass up your party table


Eight wheat-free snacks to sass up your party table

When you throw a party, do a few different types of crackers and an assortment of cheeses sum up your party snacks?

As a person who suffers from Celiac disease, I’m often faced with an inedible plate of wheat crackers at parties that I don’t eat for fear of suffering a bad reaction. For instance at my recent high school reunion, I was decked out a sexy pink dress — in one of the new Jovani styles — and my whole evening was ruined by a dip containing teriyaki sauce.

The party scene can be often confusing and even scary for those suffering from a food allergy or intolerance—especially for those newly diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Making the transition to a gluten free lifestyle can be overwhelming. However, to help out, as a party host, there are a ton of easy, gluten-free party snacks to prepare for those with food allergies—for instance, foods like popcorn, mixed nuts, vegetable trays, and fruit trays. Not only are these a lot healthier for you—trust me when I say, if you offer the following list of snacks, no one will miss the Wheat Thins.

So to help you spread your party table with foods that everyone can enjoy, I’ve listed my top eight favorite gluten free party treats…

1. Cheese and Crackers

Yes, I know, I listed above that most crackers are inedible for those suffering from gluten issues. However, if you choose to serve your variety of cheeses with rice crackers—voila—everyone can partake.

2. Fresh Fruit Platter

There is nothing better than a fruit tray at a party—sliced strawberries, watermelon, and pineapple—delicious! Top that off with a healthy yogurt-style dip and you’re guests can still lightly satisfy any sweet cravings.

3. Antipasto Platter

A combination of mixed marinated vegetables (roasted red peppers, eggplant, onions, and mushrooms) meets the savory-saltiness of olives. Just remember that some stuffed olives contain gluten—so read the label before buying.

4. Sour Cream Dips

This one is super easy—just mix chunky salsa (whatever heat you desire) with light sour cream or plain yogurt, and stir in some diced avocado or spring onions for a tangy zip. Accompany with vegetable crudités and plain (make sure they’ve gluten free) nacho chips.

 5. Shrimp Cocktail

Every party is worthy of a king prawn cocktail—brush with a Cajun sauce or accompany with a garlic and butter dipping sauce.

6. Potato Skins

Cut potatoes in inch-thick slices and top with sour cream and chives, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon, or onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Bake until tender and serve!

7. Succulent Kababs

These can be of the meat, veggie, or fruit variety. For instance try:

  • Chunks of beef or chicken with red onion, peppers and mushrooms
  • Chicken and pineapple brushed with a balsamic glaze
  • Zucchini, eggplant, mushroom, and onion
  • Fresh wedges of watermelon, honeydew melon, and pineapple

8. Mini “Pizzas”

Take a traditional party favorite and give it a gluten-free spin by using rice cakes as the base instead of flour. Top with tomato sauce and your choice of fresh veggies, cheese, and meats. Then bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Rachel Barnard is a freelance writer for Apron Addicts, a popular site that features tips on hosting parties, entertaining and recipes.  For more ideas on gluten free partying, you can check out this post with some sweet treats and a Superbowl party menu.

I know I’ve been teasing my endurance athletes with my sneak peek of the DIY energy gel I posted on Facebook.  I tweaked it a bit more, and will post up next week!

Fueling options for the gluten free endurance athlete


Fueling options for the gluten free endurance athlete

As many of you know, I’ve gone back to my endurance athlete ways.

I played around with being a figure athlete for a while, when I wasn’t “allowed” to ride due to the complexity and fragility of the surgical repairs to my knees, but when I was cleared by my orthopedist to return to road cycling last fall, I jumped back in.

Since then, I’ve progressed significantly and am learning to get my head and preconceived notions out of the way of what my body is capable of.  

Training for endurance athletics versus training for aesthetics and strength require very different types of fueling, specifically during exercise.  I definitely run well on carbohydrate (yes, I know it’s not “necessary” to life, and some people do fine on low carb diets, even endurance athletes, but I am not one of them.  Trial and error and experience have taught me that I do just fine with carbs.)  In general, when training for strength and aesthetics, your actual exercise time is not very long, usually less than an hour.  There’s no real need for “during exercise” fueling.  On the other hand, I can easily be out for 2-4 hours training on the bike, on a generally 5 day per week basis.  That requires some fuel.

As an endurance athlete with celiac disease, I have to be very aware and careful with what fuel I choose.  I always carry enough food to sustain me, as I do not like to be dependent upon finding appropriate food while at a ride or race.  (The only exception is a banana-I feel very safe peeling one of those myself and eating it, and pretty much every convenience store/gas station has bananas these days.)

As always when it comes to specific brands and foods, if it is a packaged/labeled/manufactured item, always check labels and double check with the companies if you are not sure.  Although these items were safe and gluten free at the time this was written, formulations and ingredients change and it is always better to be careful.

There are quite a few options out there, so I’m just going to focus on the ones I’ve personally tried.  Let’s split it up into fluids, gels, and real food (aka food that requires chewing.)  Just for grins.  Let’s remember that sugars are OK when you’re exercising for a long period of time, and for the sake of this discussion that means > 90 minutes of a moderate intensity.


  • Good old water.  If your training session is 90 minutes or less of moderate or easy intensity, you’re good with just water or perhaps a low calorie electrolyte providing beverage, such as…
  • ZYM. I like ZYM Catapult because it has a little caffeine (a performance enhancer) but not too much, and I like the Berry flavor.  It has a little fizz to it but it goes away quickly.  I’ve also tried the lemon lime flavor which was quite good as well.  The flavoring is subtle.  These are handy because you can toss the tube into your pocket and take it with you, which saves me having to use Gatorade on the road to refill out of desperation.  (The osmolality in Gatorade is not my friend, tummy discomfort galore.)  I’ve heard Nuun tabs are similar, but I’ve not tried those.
  • Generation UCAN.  This is technically a pre-training drink, but it is a fluid, so here you go.  I did extensive testing and reviews of Gen UCAN, and still use it.  I alternate UCAN with a mixture of honey and coconut oil as my pre-ride fuel.  (I ride very early in the morning.)  UCAN is a carbohydrate and electrolyte drink, designed for use pre-workout.  Read my reviews here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
  • First Endurance Electrolyte Fuel System Drink Mix.  This is my drink of choice for providing carbohydrate and electrolytes in fluid form while training.  I’ve tried another brand (Hammer’s HEED) which I did not like the taste of and did not have as good of an electrolyte profile as the EFS does.  I like the Fruit Punch flavor.

 Gels (’cause when I’m riding hard, ain’t no way I’m chewing.)

  •  Honey Stinger Energy Gel.  This is my current favorite.  The packets are easy to open, and the consistency of the honey is slightly watered down so it is easy to swallow.  I like the chocolate and Ginsting (which is a regular honey flavor with a little caffeine) flavors.  I especially appreciate the limited ingredient list.  Honey is a really good carbohydrate source for athletes, by the way.  Check it out.  The research was funded by the Honey Board, but still.  It’s also good for lots of other stuff.  (As an aside, that is why on the days I do not use Gen UCAN as my pre training drink, I use a mix of coconut oil or coconut butter and honey.  The medium chain triglycerides in the coconut oil get used for fuel, and the honey is a great carb source.  I started using this on the suggestion of Kelli Jennings at Apex Nutrition.  As Kelli says “These are fast-acting, quick-metabolizing energy foods.  The honey provides moderately fast carbs that act similarly to maltodextrin (moderately fast and longer lasting than glucose), natural enzymes to improve digestion, and antioxidants.  The organic coconut oil provides fast-acting medium chain triglycerides which are used directly by the mitochondria of cells (energy producers) without the need for bile or slow digestion.”  I am working on a DIY energy gel using these and salt, but haven’t got it yet.) The packaging for these gels is easy to open, yet is sturdy enough for a full packet to make it through the washing machine without breaking open.  I speak with first hand knowledge.  Got to check those jersey pockets.
  • Chocolate #9.  Like Honey Stinger Gels, these have a lovely ingredient list.    These were VERY chocolatey, and had a considerably thicker texture than the Honey Stinger.  They were like brownie batter, which would be lovely under different circumstances, but trying to swallow it as quickly as possible lessened my enjoyment.  Plus, it made it harder to get out of the package with your teeth.  (Keep in mind, this is while I’m riding, so teeth and one hand.)  These have less carbohydrate than the Honey Stingers as well.  These were good, but for my purposes and taste I prefer the Honey Stinger gels.

Real Food aka you have to chew it.

(For me, these are used for a ride > 2.5 hours.)

  • Bananas.  Self explanatory.  Really, any fruit, but none have the comic potential that bananas do.  Cyclists are a funny group.  Bananas are one of the few chew-requiring foods that I can eat on the bike.
  • Jovial Fig Fruit Filled Gluten Free Organic Cookies .  Fig Newtons are kind of a staple in the endurance world.  I was feeling nostalgic, so went looking for a gluten free alternative and came across these.  They are handily packaged in 2’s, which is perfect for tossing in a jersey pocket.  Tasty, too.
  • Raisins or any dried fruit.
  • LÄRABAR .  I like the Cherry Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Carrot Cake flavors.  You may be different.  A friend of mine bought the Peanut Butter Cookie and hated it, while I like it.  The combo of nuts and dried fruit gives a little bit of faster carb and the longer lasting fat fuel.
  • Coconutz Fuel Energy Balls.  Check out my review of the awesome balls here.
  • Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews.  These are nice because they don’t require too much chewing, in a pinch you can even just swallow them.  My only gripe is that they leave your fingers sticky, so try to shoot them into your mouth from the package.
  • Sweet potatoes.  Kelli Jennings of Apex Nutrition gives some awesome recipes here.  I’ve not tried these yet but they sound great, although potentially messy.
  • Potato wedges with sea salt
  • Fig and Honey Rice Cakes from The Feed Zone Cookbook (great book, very gluten free friendly.)

More ideas

My friends Kim at Gluten Free is Life and Pete at No Gluten, No Problem are endurance runners.  Check out their blogs for some more ideas.  Also, Pete was co-author with my sister from another mother Melissa, the genius behind Gluten Free for Good of the eagerly anticipated book, The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. It will be released on July 3rd, so go pre-order it.  It’s going to be awesome.  And that’s not even because I was one of the gluten free athletes interviewed for the book, I promise.

Hopefully this gives all you endurance athletes some ideas!  Like I said, this is by no means an all inclusive list, these are just the items I’ve tried and used.  Please leave a comment if there is something else you use and like!

If you need some more info for generally eating a healthier gluten free menu, not just for sports nutrition, check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for lots of articles to get you started.

Celiac Awareness Month 2012: KISS it, and then Spread the Bread

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Celiac Awareness Month 2012: KISS it…

and Spread the Bread

But, the good folks over at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness were way more on the ball than me, thank goodness.  I’ve done some work with them in the past, and they are always doing stellar work for the celiac and gluten free communities.

National Celiac Awareness Month is here, and what celebration would be complete without a blogger campaign? This year, the NFCA rounded up 16 bloggers for a series chronicling every stage of the gluten-free journey, from Day 1 basics to advanced cooking and advocacy.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Keep It Simple and Safe, each blogger is offering 5 key tips or lessons related to that day’s topic.

Weekly Focus

  • Monday – Cooking/Baking Gluten-Free
  • Tuesday – Nutrition/Wellness
  • Wednesday – Raising a Gluten-Free Kid
  • Thursday – Dining Out Gluten-Free
  • Friday – NFCA Resources You Should Know About

Schedule and Guest Bloggers

Week 1: Just Diagnosed (April 30-May 4)

Week 2: Getting the Hang of It (May 7-11)

Week 3: Hitting a Roadblock (May 14-18)

  • Diane Eblin of The WHOLE Gang – 5 tips to get out of a food rut
  • Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free  – First gluten-free, now lactose intolerant? 5 tips to becoming a dairy-free diva
  • Michael De Cicco-Butz of Gluten-Free Mike – Traveling while gluten-free
  • NFCA – 5 resources to handle life’s hurdles

Week 4: What’s Next? (May 21-25)

  • Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple – Publishing your gluten-free recipes
  • EA Stewart of The Spicy RD – Healthy gluten-free foods you’ve never heard of
  • Katie Chalmers of G-Free Kid – 5 tips to empower gluten-free kids
  • Carrie Forbes of Ginger Lemon Girl – Starting a gluten-free dining group
  • NFCA – Ready to fundraise? Here’s how to start

My post is titled “5 Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls of Processed Gluten Free Food and Weight Gain.”  Check it out and share!  It’s something we’ve all been though at some point.

Also for Celiac Awareness Month, Rudi’s Gluten Free is offering their “Spread the Bread” campaign and donating $$ to the celiac organization of your choice.  I recommend the NFCA, but all the organizations are doing fantastic work and your donations will be well spent.  They are going to give up to $30,000 back to the amazing organizations making a difference in our community.

Through the rest of May, fans of Rudi’s Gluten-Free on Facebook will be able to select one of four celiac organizations (Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Sprue Association, Gluten Intolerance Group and National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) to receive a $1 donation from Rudi’s Gluten-Free and will then be able to download a $1 off coupon for any Rudi’s Gluten-Free product. It’s as simple as, “Get a Dollar. Give a Dollar.”  It’s a win/win!  I almost always have a loaf of Rudi’s Multi Grain Bread in my freezer.

For more info, you’ll want to check out Gluten Free and Fit 101, where I’ve compiled posts that I think would be most helpful to those starting on a gluten free diet, or those who have been eating gluten free, but are ready to kick up their nutritional know how and health status to the next level.

If you’re tired of searching around for information and want a step by step system for living a healthier gluten free life, then check out my “7 Quick Start Tips for Living a Healthy Gluten Free Fit Life.”

So there you go.  Happy Celiac Awareness Month!  Go spread some knowledge bombs and spread the bread as well.

How to get your husband to eat more veggies


How to get your husband to eat more veggies

I have waxed philosophic about how awesome my husband is on multiple occasions.

He is truly an incredible individual and the perfect partner for me.  Now, neither of us are perfect, but we are perfect partners.

Having said that, he does not eat nearly enough vegetables.  Recently, a colleague of his was telling him that he started juicing.  He offered Jeff a glass of juice, which he actually drank.  When I heard about this, I jumped on it.

“You mean you’ll actually drink that?!?!”  Never in a million years had I thought he would consider drinking a green smoothie or juice.  Bingo, I thought.  I can fit a whole day’s worth of veggies in a smoothie.  Plus, I’d been itching for an excuse to buy a Blendtec for a year.

I had been looking over the high powered blenders, the Vitamixes, the Blendtec, OmniBlend etc, and had decided a while back that I wanted a Blendtec.  (Lexie’s Kitchen has posted a great overview and comparison, if you need a place to start.)  The online shopping fest began, and I was actually very fortunate to find a new one for a very reasonable price on ebay.

Can you see all the nutrients in there?

We’re doing a green smoothie every weekday now.  Sometimes on weekends, but not nearly as consistently.  I’ve also used the Blendtec to make cookie, muffin, and quick bread batters, protein shakes, all kinds of stuff.  It really is versatile and super easy to clean.  I’m happy with the purchase for sure.  More happy, though, that I am finally able to get the nutrition from veggies into my husband on a regular basis.  I like him and I’d like to keep him around for a while 😉

I could have tried to make the smoothie look all nice, in a glass, with a garnish or something but let’s be honest.  You’re not here for the food photography.  This is how we roll in the GFF household.  BlenderBottle for the win. Those things are genius.

Check out the green smoothie recipe here.

All in all, I’m really happy with the Blendtec.  It fits well under my cabinets on the countertop, is super easy to clean, is no louder than my cheap blender was, and gets my husband to ingest vegetable matter.  Truly a win.

If you’d like some more gluten free stuff, go check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.  Lots of info there to read while you sip on your smoothie.

Getting out of your own way


Getting Out of Your Own Way…

You Can Do Much More than You Think

(Thank you, Sean.  Post today inspired by a friend asking me a question this morning.)

As some of you may know, I’m back on the road bike.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”

Although I have been an active, athletic person most of my life (although a clumsy one, I cannot lie) I have certainly had my fair share of ups and downs, injuries and accidents, surgeries and setbacks.  I detailed a bit about them in this post, but in case you don’t feel like reading that here’s the Cliffs Notes:

  • Rode horses
  • Got hurt, had knee surgery
  • Rode bikes
  • Got hurt, had knee surgeries
  • Lifted weights and wore high heels
  • Got hurt, had more knee surgeries
  • Finally got cleared to ride the road bike again, started riding and having fun but not training too hard or much
  • Dislocated my elbow
  • Scheduled follow up MRI showed that the patches that have been surgically placed in my knees look good, but there is  a new area of damage in the right knee (this area appears stable at this time, and we are going to follow up MRI in 6 months and see what happens.  There is no good surgical solution for repair in this area which is the central tibial plateau of the right knee.  We also still have no clue why this damage keeps occurring.  There’s been no trauma, I do not have widespread arthritic changes in the knees, but pieces are cartilage just keep shearing off for no apparent reason.  Very frustrating.)
  • Decided what the hell.  The cartilage keeps disappearing anyway, I may as well see if I can train harder and get better.

This last point is the most important one

Prior to about the past 2 months (since I got cleared to ride again after my elbow dislocation) I always rode in very organized, controlled, paced groups.  It was fun, it was social, it was exercise.  But I wasn’t really pushing my limits or seeing what I could really do.  But, for the first time in my life, I was riding my bike without knee pain.  It was pretty amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I still have discomfort, but it was nothing like the debilitating can’t-get-up-from-the-couch-dammit pain I’d had in the past.

My husband and I talked about the whole situation, since I was incredibly disappointed to learn that there was more damage in my knee.  Thankfully, it is not causing any symptoms for me.  We decided that I may as well do what I wanted to do, train how I wanted to train on the bike, since what I was doing (being cautious) was obviously not helping.  Why not?  I really had nothing to lose.

And bless the Goddess, after 10 years that incredible man of mine still knows my abilities way better than I do.  I had preconceived notions of what I was capable of doing and how I was capable of riding.  He did not.  I’d never really tried to ride fast.  I just thought I couldn’t.

He didn’t hold that limitation to be self evident

There’s a fast ride around here, it’s referred to as “Mike’s ride” because back in the day there was actually a Mike’s Cyclery shop that it started from.  The shop’s no longer there, but the ride is, and it’s an infamously fast ride.  Never in a million years did I think I could do this ride.  And Jeff, knowing me so well, knew the best way to get me there was to trick me.

Had he said “Let’s go do the Mike’s ride” I would have said he was out of his ever loving mind.

So instead he said “Let’s ride to the ride” (where the ride starts from.)  Then it progressed to “let’s ride with them until they start going fast, they go slow for a long time”, then “let’s just ride up to Hillsboro.”  I did, and I made it with the group, and I rode fast, and I was shocked.  Basking in surprise and success, I quit while I was ahead, turned around and went home.  Positive reinforcement for the win!  Next time, I went a little further with the group, until shortly I was doing the whole ride.  Shocking.

But here’s the real kicker, the real turning point.  One Sunday not too long ago it was ungodly windy, as it is so often here in South Florida during the winter and spring.  We went to do the Taft ride, another infamously fast ride.  And it was windy.  If you’ve ridden a bike in the wind, you know that a windy day can make the difference between a lovely ride and a gut wrenching suffer fest.

This ride was hard.  Really hard.  It started hard and got harder, and then got even harder.  The group of riders, which had started huge, completely splintered apart in a crosswind across a highway.  We were riding so hard I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack, or that my lungs were going to come out through my nose.  Snot was running down my face, I was gasping for air, my heart rate was pegged well over 180), and I was suffering like a dog.  This whole time my husband is sitting out in the wind, working twice as hard as he could have been just to keep me as sheltered as possible from the wind.  That day, I didn’t finish with the first group (not many people did) but I rode in with a big group of people.  I finished.  I did it upright (until we stopped, at which point I promptly almost fell down and sat on a curb for a while.)

I learned that my capacity for suffering (which is a good thing in cycling, it means the ability to push beyond your comfort zone and stay there) was a lot higher than I had thought.  I learned that I could ride fast in bad conditions.  I learned that truly, the only thing holding me back from being a faster rider was my preconceived notions of what I could and couldn’t do.

And since then, my abilities have improved exponentially.  I finally got my mind out of the way of my body.  With no knee pain, and my head out of the way, I am riding more (time and mileage) and riding faster than I ever thought I could.

What could you do if you just got your mind out of the way?

No obstacles. Only challenges. 

If you’re here for the gluten free stuff, go check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.  Lots of stuff there.  And don’t let your head get too much in the way of what you can do.

NOW Foods Ambassador!


I am honored and excited to announce that I have been chosen as an ambassador for NOW Foods and NOW Sports Products.

I have used NOW products for many years, and have always been pleased with their manufacturing principles and clarity of allergen labeling.  Their Super Enzymes product has made me much more comfortable from time to time.  Their liquid Stevia has a permanent place in my fridge.  In fact, in the video you’ll see the distinctive orange labels in my pantry.

But don’t worry, this blog is not going to become one big ad for NOW.  I am just truly happy to be affiliated with a company I hold in high regard, and believe in recognizing and supporting companies who do a great job.

If you need some more info for generally eating a healthier gluten free menu, not just what my kitchen looks like, check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for lots of articles to get you started.

CocoNutz Fuel Energy Balls: Gluten Free Sports Nutrition

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Coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut cream, shredded coconut, and now…

CocoNutz Balls.  Yes, indeed.  Because we all needed some more balls after my last post of cookie dough protein ball deliciousness.

It looks like a chocolate malty ball, doesn’t it?  It’s not.  Chocolate malt balls aren’t gluten free anyway, damn you, Whoppers.


A while back Casey from CocoNutz contacted me to see if I’d be interested in trying out CocoNutz for my cycling nutrition.  I knew I liked him already when I saw this disclaimer:

None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA—please don’t assume these statements will take the place of advice from a well trained physician or local witch doctor. We’re not claiming coconut oil will make you better looking or help you win the lottery—we’re just saying it’s a great product to aid in athlete nutrition.

A man after my own heart, right there.


CocoNutz Fuel have some stellar ingredients.  There are currently 3 flavors: Cherry Cashew Attack (favorite),  Berry Almond Explosion (2nd favorite), and Mango Macadamia Madness (least favorite).  None of them really look as well defined as the ball in the picture, but that’s OK with me.  Each flavor has the ingredients you would expect given the flavor, and each flavor also incorporates chia seed, coconut oil, Real Salt, and agave.  They also utilize oat flour, and it is certified gluten free oat flour.

In the FAQ’s:

CocoNutz Fuel is gluten free; however, please note: We specifically purchase oat flour that is gluten free to ensure integrity of the product, but CocoNutz Fuel currently shares a manufacturing facility that processes wheat, peanut and dairy products.

Major processing of CocoNutz Fuel is done on dedicated equipment, but as with any shared facility, a possibility of minute amounts of wheat could make it into the product. We do our best to ensure this doesn’t happen, but we want to make you aware.

Casey did tell me via email that wheat flour was not used in the current shared facility.  They are also planning on having the CocoNutz Fuel products certified gluten free in the future.

OK, back to coconut oil

You may be surprised at the inclusion of a fat source in an energy food geared toward endurance athletes.  In fact, the unique composition and properties of coconut oil make it very well suited for endurance athletes.  I’ve recently been working with Kelli Jennings RD, of Apex Nutrition LLC and she has me utilizing coconut products for recovery nutrition.

I was a little concerned about the coconut oil in the balls though, because I live in an area of the US where it frequently feels as if someone has thrown a hot wet blanket over the world. Yes, I live in hot and humid south Florida.  Coconut oil is solid at temperatures below about 75 degrees F.  Which means it tends to melt and liquify at temperatures above that.  The air conditioning in our house is set at 76, which means my coconut oil in the cabinet is always confused.  More importantly though, would the CocoNutz balls stay intact in a jersey pocket in the South Florida heat?

Before we answer that question…(a cliffhanger, yes.)

CocoNutz Fuel are designed as balls, obviously.  The balls fit inside a plastic tube.  The tube is reusable and refillable, so when you finish your batch of balls you just refill the tube with a refill pack.  Genius, and environmentally friendly.  Since the balls are small, if you only need a little bit of nutrition, just have one ball.  Need more, eat more.  Very simple.  The only problem I ran into was that the balls stuck together in the heat, which made getting them out of the tube a little tougher.  The “quick shake to seperate” did not do the trick, I had to peel them apart.  They did not melt into a mess, just stuck together.  Casey has told me that they are working on the stickage issue.

All flavors of the balls are tasty, and not overly sweet.  They do have nut butters and salt to add to the savory factor, which can be really helpful when you’ve been fueling on super sweet gels.

So, does the person going to spend 30 or 40 minutes on a piece of cardio equipment at the gym need to fuel with these little bites of deliciousness?  Hellz no, no CocoNutz balls for you.  These are treats, or fuel for extended exercise > 90 minutes.  But they sure are tasty.

If you need some more info for generally eating a healthier gluten free menu, not just for sports nutrition balls, check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for lots of articles to get you started.

Generation UCAN: Gluten Free Sports Supplement: Part 3

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This is the final (at least for now) installment on Generation UCAN.  To catch up, you can read Part 1 here which is about the science supporting the product, and Part 2 here, where I talk a little bit about my experiences with using UCAN.

I do want to mention again, that UCAN products are manufactured in a shared facility at the current time.  However, UCAN’s products have been independently tested and found to be free from gluten.  They are also pursuing gluten free certification.

Onward to the testing!

I’ve been back on the bike after my elbow dislocation for just over a month now, and ramping up my training. I’m now getting in about 9-11 hours a week on the bike, 1 hour of weights, and 1-2 yoga sessions per week. (Every 4 weeks I back off of the volume and “deload”-take a bit of a break.)

Training is going well and I am definitely becoming a stronger cyclist.  (As an aside, I am also learning to “suffer” more, which in cycling is a good thing.)

So how does this relate to UCAN?  Well, riding more and riding harder means I am using more energy, expending more calories.  If you don’t have adequate energy stores, you can “bonk” ie: run out of energy.  It really sucks.

Calories, mph, and prep.

It’s been a bit of trial and error for me to figure out how much energy (calories) I need to take in prior to getting on the bike, how long ahead of time, if I need to eat while riding, etc.  It’s still a work in progress, to be honest.  When I do hard rides I think I will need to drink 2 packs of UCAN before going out.  Hard rides for me are several hours in length and speeds can be close to or over 30 mph for some stretches.  Remember, I live in flat south Florida.

For example, yesterday I rode the hardest I’ve ever rode.  20+ mph winds, covered 49 miles in 2 hrs and 32 minutes and according to my Garmin burned 1100 calories.  That was an extremely hard ride, and there ain’t no way I was taking one hand off the handlebars to eat, especially not with one weaker arm still.  Days like that I think I will need 2 packs of UCAN pre-ride and likely some calories in my water bottle as well.  As it was, I took one pack of UCAN pre-ride with a half scoop of whey protein, rode for 45 min at a moderate pace on the way to the group ride, had a banana before the suffer fest began, and bonked just a couple miles from where the car was parked.  D’OH!!  I had obviously used my stored glycogen.  After I had some food and sat down for a while I felt much better. 😉

I have not yet reached the level of science geekdom to take a glucometer to measure blood sugar while I’m out on my rides, although I have seriously considered it.  I do have a couple more measures of note to share with you since the last time, though.

Blood sugar testing

In my last post, I shared that my blood sugar had gone up to 123 after eating approximately 100 grams worth of carbohydrate from Chex cereal and kettle corn (along with some protein.)  I repeated this experiment using approximately 100 grams of carbohydrate from UCAN after a hard-ish but long (over 3 hours) ride.  I tested my blood sugar about 45 minutes later because I was starving and wanted to eat again, and my glucose level was 73 ng/dl.

Of course, as I mentioned before, this is not the best scientific method that I am using here.  I may have expended more calories and energy on this second test, so had more “room” for those carbs.  But you can clearly see there is a big difference in my blood sugar response between the two forms of carbohydrate.  I can’t lie though, I do like to chew my food rather than drink it.

Here’s another example.  Last weekend I decided I wanted to chew my pre-ride meal.  Instead of taking UCAN and protein before my ride, as has become my custom, I had a bowl of Mesa Sunrise with raisins and a protein shake (I mix the powder with water and use it instead of milk.)  I kept fueling through my ride, Larabars and Honey Stinger energy chews every hour or two, and felt fine.  After the ride I had a Quest Bar and gluten free pretzels, then we went for brunch where I had an egg white omelet with chicken, grits, and fruit.  We came home, took our dog for a 20 minute walk, and I promptly felt awful.  Checked my blood sugar and sure enough it had fallen to 58 ng/dl.  Funky, eh?!?!

Could it be that my blood sugar was more unstable after having the faster digesting carbohydrate, and stayed that way?  Sure seems like it, although of course I’m just guessing.  What I do know is that I will NOT be experimenting with chewing food prior to my rides.  Going forward I will happily drink my UCAN and protein.  the only question will be…

1 pack or 2?

I am willing to forgo chewing for more stable blood sugar while I am out on my bike, you can bet your gluten free biscuit on that.

As I mentioned before, the folks involved in the UCAN company are truly all phenomenal and have an awesome company mission.  They frequently post motivational quotes and pictures on their Facebook page, which I definitely recommend you check out.  (FYI, If you don’t already “like” GFF on Facebook, that’s where I post lots of interesting articles and blog posts that I come across that I used to post in the “roundup” posts.)  So, check out both Gluten Free Fitness and UCAN on Facebook.

Discount codes

Lastly,  as yet another piece of proof that UCAN rocks, they are offering a discount to GFF readers.  Use code “UCANCYCLE” at checkout.  This will get you a discount, and it will also indicate that you were referred from GFF and earn me credit.  So thanks!

If you need some more info for generally eating a healthier gluten free menu, not just for peri-workout nutrition, check out Gluten Free and Fit 101 for lots of articles to get you started.

So what are you waiting for?  UCAN do it!