Gluten Free Fitness

Gluten Free Athletes

Ignite Naturals Gel Review for the Gluten Free Endurance Athlete

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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.

Fueling options for the gluten free endurance athlete

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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.

Fluids

  • 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.

Getting out of your own way

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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.