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.

Generation UCAN: Gluten Free Sports Supplement: Part 2

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In my previous post I rambled a little bit about Generation UCAN, both the product and the company.

This post will discuss a bit more in depth about athletes and reactive hypoglycemia, and my personal experiences with reactive hypoglycemia and with UCAN products so far.  The next post will be after I have had a chance to complete additional testing with the UCAN product line.  UCAN has been very kind to supply the product for testing free of charge.  My opinions were and are not influenced by anything or anyone.

Hypoglycemia

Reactive hypoglycemia is not fun.  In a nutshell, it’s when your blood sugar drops after ingesting carbohydrate.  When you are hypoglycemic, you can feel dizzy, clammy, break out in cold sweats, get confused, and potentially more fun stuff.  Really not fun at all if you happen to be moving at the time, particularly if you are out on your bike.

Interestingly, reactive hypoglycemia appears to happen in up to 30% of endurance athletes (or more).  (Granted, these were small sample sizes to be sure, but interesting nonetheless.)  Additional reviews show that some athletes have the feelings of hypoglycemic episodes without actual hypoglycemia by definition (blood glucose levels < 70 mg/dl with symptoms of hypoglycemia that are alleviated by ingestion of food.)

Bonking

I have had episodes of feeling hypoglycemic (“bonking” in the cycling world) as has my husband.  I also have had an oral glucose tolerance test (for which the importance of when diagnosing reactive hypoglycemia has been questioned) and during this test my blood sugar (after drinking a sickly sweet orange flavored nasty drink-on an empty stomach) went from 80 fasted, to 113 30 minutes after drinking the gross stuff, then dropped to 57 mg/dl at an hour after drinking the nasty orange drink like substance and was still at 54 mg/dl 2 hours post drink.

Yuckers.  Thankfully I was only sitting in a crappy plastic chair at the lab and didn’t have to pedal or avoid obstacles.

Sports drinks and sugars

So, obviously something is up and the potential to feel crappy after ingesting a bunch of sugar is there.  Fortunately, given that I believe in the easiest way to eat a healthy gluten free diet, I don’t eat a bunch of sugar on a regular basis.  But, many sports drinks on the market are essentially simple sugars.  And when you have the potential to see a blood sugar drop like that, simple sugar is something you generally want to be very cautious about.  Even when you are out for a long bike ride or other endurance event.

Since I generally ride for 3-4 hours on weekend mornings, and get in 7-10 hours a week on the bike, having other options is important.  I always have a mix of protein, carb, and fat for “real” meals.  When riding, I stick to fruits and nuts to provide a slower digesting source of sugars, and look for drink products that supply electrolytes without carbohydrate.  (Then I got stuck out on a ride, ran out of food/fluid, and bought a Gatorade G2, figuring that was the least of the evils.  I promptly had a stomachache from the osmolality and barely made it home.  Good times.)

SuperStarch

Which made the idea of Generation UCAN and SuperStarch even more appealing to me personally.  SuperStarch provides carbohydrate without simple sugar and the reactive hypoglycemia that can go along with it.  As some of you may know, I dislocated my left elbow the day after Thanksgiving, which took me off the bike for a while.  I did some testing of Gen UCAN with my lifting activity and cardio (intervals) in the gym while I was off the bike.

I’ve informally compiled a combination of how I felt along with some glucometer readings, just for grins.  This is in no way truly scientific, but gives a pretty good snapshot of how my body reacts, anyhow.

On mornings when I went to the gym and lifted weights, pre workout I drank half a packet of UCAN protein enhanced sport drink, which is a blend of whey protein and SuperStarch.   The chocolate was quite good, the vanilla…not so much.  Vanilla is very chalky.  You expect UCAN to taste somewhat chalky considering the SuperStarch, but the vanilla was VERY chalky.

This is something they are working on reformulating strictly for taste.  (Just to recap from my previous post, UCAN’s products have been independently tested and found to be free from gluten.  They are also pursuing gluten free certification.)

An improvement in blood glucose level

Subjectively, I felt “good” and had energy to get through my workout without feeling over sugared and jittery.  As an example, my fasting blood glucose level was 88 mg/dl.  I had my drink, went to the gym and lifted for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of high intensity intervals on the elliptical.  An hour after my 2nd half of UCAN (with another .5 scoop of protein added in) my glucose reading was 84.  Those numbers held in that same region for all exercise of that nature.

As a reference, I experimented by eating a lot of simple carbohydrate one day after lifting (to the tune of over 100 grams of carb from kettle corn and Chex) and an hour later my glucose reading was 123 mg/dl.  That’s the highest I’ve ever seen it.  I’ve not yet tried the same amount of carb from SuperStarch to see the difference in blood glucose levels, (honestly, it’s just not as much fun but I will do it in the name of science) and plan on trying it sometime in the next couple of weeks.

This past weekend I went out for a 2 hour bike ride.  Fasting blood glucose level was 88.  Drank UCAN and protein, went for my ride, (only drank water while out) and after the ride blood sugar was 87.  Pretty darn stable.  Had I ridden any longer I would have had some additional nutrition.  Definitely no sense of bonking while I was out.  This was a steady endurance/tempo ride, so low-moderate intensity.  For higher intensity riding I would likely have needed additional calories sooner.  This is just my experience, so remember that your mileage may vary.

We are all biochemical snowflakes, and what is working for me may not work for you.  The best thing to do is try to track your intake as well as your response as best you can so you can see what is or is not working and make changes accordingly.

Yes you can.

Next post about Gen UCAN will be after I do some more testing.   Until then, and ss always, if you need more info on living a healthier Gluten Free and Fit life, there’s lots of resources on Gluten Free and Fit 101 that can help.  Have at it.

UPDATED 2/10/2012: WARNING!! Some Flavors of Muscle Gauge Protein Powder MAY Contain Gluten

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Please scroll down for the latest info.

I have not yet received confirmation from the company themselves, but as this has been an issue that I have been trying to get a straight answer on since 12/28/11, and today is 1/11/12, I felt it time to alert you all.

Previously, (10/6/2010) I had written a review of Muscle Gauge Nutrition protein powder.

At the time that was written, I was advised by the company in an email that:

not only is our facility gluten free and we test the products but on  top of that we make sure that any facilities we work in conjunction with send us full certificates of analysis for their products. ALL PRODUCTS ARE GLUTEN FREE AND ALL FLAVORS.

This email was dated 9/22/10.

I am not sure if something has changed in the formulation and/or manufacturing in the meanwhile, as the packaging of the Ice Cream Sandwich flavor of American Isolate which I had purchased still states “gluten free” and the ingredient profile does not indicate any gluten containing items.  I had never used this particular flavor in the past.

HOWEVER, when I opened the package I spotted what appeared to be cookie pieces.

Cookie pieces?

Alarmed, I sent a contact form on the company website asking about the “pieces” in the Ice Cream Sandwich flavor.  This was on 12/28/11.  I received a call from one of their customer service representatives that same morning.  I asked about the “pieces”, and he stated that yes, they were cookie pieces in order to mimic the ice cream sandwich flavor.

I asked about the ingredients in the cookie pieces, because obviously if these cookies are made with any type of gluten the product is in fact, NOT gluten free.  It seemed unlikely to me that they were using gluten free cookies in the product.  The rep assured me that he felt certain that the product was gluten free, and that he would send me the full ingredient list and certificate of analysis for that particular flavor.

Still waiting…

Well, I’ve yet to receive anything.  Granted, we have had the holidays, so perhaps that is the delay.  I did follow up with a repeat email to info@musclegauge.com on 1/4/12, and have not received any response at all to that inquiry, a week later.

I have also NOT “tested” it to see if I have a reaction.  Sorry guys, not putting myself into intentionally glutening for the sake of review.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  I did however, want to post this so the information is out there for others to be aware of.

This situation brings up several great points.

  1. Formulations change.
    As of this point I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps in fact it is still gluten free, but I am not banking on it.  A good reason to always recheck and double check ingredients and labels.
  2. The fact that there is no FDA guideline for the “gluten free” label.
    If there was, the product would not be able to be labeled gluten free unless it truly was tested at <20ppm.  At this point gluten free labeling in and of itself is a free for all, which is even a better reason to look for products with a gluten free certification.
  3. Vote with your dollars.
    At this point, I will not purchase any other products from Muscle Gauge and cannot recommend them.  I have told all the sports supplement companies that I have had contact with about the importance of maintaining a gluten free product that is not just gluten free but safe for celiacs, the benefits of GF certification, and the buying power and loyalty of the celiac and gluten intolerant community.  If companies step up and meet these requirements, they will be rewarded with the business of the huge, vocal, and growing gluten free market.  If not, then we will take our business elsewhere.

Once again, as I have received no clarification from the company I cannot say that the product in fact is not gluten free.

But the presence of cookie pieces and the lack of response to my inquiries makes me very nervous.  I hope that I am wrong and that they provide me with a COA showing that there is no gluten.  Meanwhile, I am assuming the worst.  I felt it my responsibility to alert you all to my experiences so you can make your own educated decisions.

If you have had any similar experiences, please do share and post them.  Together, we can make a change in awareness.


UPDATE:

After another email to the company, I received a response from the Founder and CEO Osagie Osunde.  He stated that the Ice Cream Sandwich protein flavor is in fact NOT GLUTEN FREE due to the fact that crushed Hydrox cookies are used as flavoring.

To quote his email:

The ice cream sandwich flavor is not gluten free because of the crushed Hydrox cookies that are in the product. All of our other flavors are gluten free.

I responded to his email with the below, copied and pasted:

Thank you for the response.  No COA is needed at this point. This is a huge concern because of the lack of allergen labeling.  I suggest you do a press release and voluntary recall for undeclared wheat.  I would prefer to not have to report the violation to the FDA, which can be avoided with a voluntary recall.

http://www.celiac.com/articles/22804/1/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-False-Gluten-Free-Labeling-/Page1.html

I have celiac disease.  Thankfully I saw the cookie pieces before I drank the shake, or I would have become extremely sick.  The container is labeled gluten free.  Obviously this is incorrect.  Gluten free labeling must be taken seriously.  If your other flavors are processed on the same equipment as the ice cream sandwich flavor cookies, the possibility for cross contamination is serious.

Please do keep me posted on your intentions in handling this issue.

That email was sent on 2/2/12.  I have had no response since.

I am hugely disappointed on multiple levels.  The blatant disregard for proper labeling, the lack of prompt communication, and the lack of response regarding what is obviously a gigantic liability issue.  I will be filing a complaint with the FDA.

 

Generation UCAN: Gluten Free Sports Supplement: Part 1

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Generation UCAN is a sports supplement company I recently was made aware of, and the more I’ve learned about their company philosophy, people who comprise the company, and products; the more I like them.  This is an introduction to them, and part one of a series because there is so much to share with you about the company, the product and the science behind it, and then my testing of it that it will require a few posts.  Plus I blabber.

First of all, you’ve got to love that name.  After all my talking about “do what you CAN do” of course I dig the statement that “Generation UCAN is an idea, a feeling, an attitude, a fresh perspective. We are a new generation with a ‘Today’s the Day’ mentality…We intend to empower minds and prove that “can’t” is a thing of the past. After that, we plan to host charitable fundraisers, tackle childhood obesity and stick a flag on Mars.”  Right?!?!

The main unique component in the products that UCAN makes at this point is called SuperStarch.

SuperStarch

It is a complex, slowly digesting form of a specially processed (non GMO) corn starch.  SuperStarch was formulated originally for one of the founders of the company’s son, Jonah, who was unable to process carbohydrate like most of us can.  He was requiring feedings every two hours, and his family wanted to find a way to make him less dependent on constant influxes of food.  Scientists were commissioned, and SuperStarch was formulated.

From UCAN’s website:

This complex carbohydrate provides a steady release of glucose, keeping blood-sugar levels (energy) steady much longer. This discovery is like gold for our athletes. But for Jonah, it just meant a chance to sleep through the night. It meant a chance to get out and play baseball or on the ice and play hockey in the cold Connecticut air with his parents watching proudly. It meant a chance to live.

So what does this mean to us?

Again from UCAN’s site:

Generation UCAN powered by SuperStarch puts the body in its ideal performance state, allowing for:

  • Optimized performance with energy when you need it, without the spike and crash.
  • Sustained energy with extended delivery of glucose, keeping you above baseline longer.
  • Enhanced fat burn from suppressed insulin response, tapping into your body’s fat stores.
  • Speedier recovery as your body begins rebuilding with our protein enhanced products.
  • No gastric distress, by emptying the slowly quickly and digesting slowly in the intestine.
Testing

I want to mention that Dr. Jeff Volek has been involved with the testing of SuperStarch, and if you have heard anything about Dr. Volek, you probably know that he is known as a low carb guy for sure.  The majority of his research and writings have been dealing with the benefits and usage of a low carbohydrate diet.  When UCAN wanted their product tested, they wanted a skeptic.  Someone who would truly test the product with no preconceptions of its efficacy.

They found that in Dr. Volek, and an independent double blinded study SuperStarch was found to be the carbohydrate that really doesn’t act like a carbohydrate.  It gives the beneficial aspects of carbohydrate on performance, but without an insulin spike that can be detrimental.  If you are interested in the sciency stuff, there is a lot of information on UCAN’s website that you can peruse.  It’s really interesting (if you are a nutritional science nerd like me, that is.)

Gluten free

Plus, UCAN’s products have been independently tested and found to be free from gluten.

They are also pursuing gluten free certification.  They currently have 2 main lines of products, an electrolyte/SuperStarch blend sports drink mix (primarily for endurance cardio events, like cycling/running/etc) and a recovery powder (a whey protein and SuperStarch blend, can be used prior to or after activity dependent on what you are doing.)  There are additional products in the pipeline which will be coming soon.

This information was all very cool for me to learn personally.  I have reactive hypoglycemia, which means when I ingest a large amount of carbohydrate, my blood sugar tanks (as in, goes too low) afterward.  My husband has the same issue, and we both experience it primarily related to exercise.  Fueling a long bike ride of greater than 2 hours can be a challenge.

Also, I have had issues with osmolality of common commercial sports drinks (basically my stomach gets upset because the liquid doesn’t digest properly, that whole pesky sodium/potassium/sugar balance thing.)

Osmolality.com describes it well:

When eating foods with high osmolality due to high electrolytes, amino acids and simple sugars, why do people suffer discomfort?  When nutrition of high osmoticity is ingested, large amounts of water will transfer to the stomach and intestines. Large amounts of water in the gastrointestinal tract can cause distention, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and shock.  The body tries to keep the osmoticity of the contents of the stomach and intestines at approximately the same level as that of the fluid surrounding them.  There is great variation from one individual to another in sensitivity to the osmoticity of foods.

Um, yeah.  So I’m sensitive. What of it?

The upshot of all this is that there were lots of reasons that Generation UCAN products appealed to me.

(Side note: If you are doing exercise lasting less than one hour, you do not need a “sports drink” of any kind.  Yes, nutrition before and after.  But let’s not go nuts and replace all the calories you’ve expended if you are trying to lose fat, mmmkay?)

Then, there’s the company attitude and philosophy.  If you check out their Facebook page, you’ll see all sorts of inspirational quotes and pictures.

Generation UCAN is an idea, a feeling, an attitude, a fresh perspective. We are a new generation with a ‘Today’s the Day’ mentality.

You can see why I identify with this company’s perspective.  It’s like I’m talking to myself 😉

If you are interested, I highly recommend you spend some time clicking around UCAN’s website.  It’s super user friendly and intuitive with a ton of information.

See, this is why I’m splitting this stuff up.  I’m over a thousand words already, for Pete’s sake!

As always, if you need more info on living a healthier Gluten Free and Fit life, there’s lots of resources on Gluten Free and Fit 101 that can help.  Have at it.

PureFit Gluten and Dairy Free Nutrition Bars Review

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No Wheat, No Gluten, No Dairy

Such is the tagline for PureFit Nutrition Bars.  I was contacted by Robb Dorf, owner and creator of the Pure Fit line, to take a look at the bars and give them a taste.  Robb graciously provided samples of the bars for this review.

First, a bit about what is in, and not in, these bars.

PureFit definitely gets points for being aware of food sensitive consumers.  The bars are:

Kosher-certified and vegan-approved… do not contain dairy, wheat, or gluten, and will not melt in their packaging. PureFit works diligently to provide high-quality, award-winning nutrition bars without artificial ingredients, sugar alcohols or common allergens, including milk, wheat or gluten.

However, they have one big ingredient which many are sensitive to-and that is soy.

Ingredients

The ingredient list for the Berry Almond crunch Bar: Soy protein isolate, ground almonds, brown rice syrup, Energy Smart™ (fruit juice, natural grain dextrins), Energy Blend (fructose, natural extract of chicory, dextrose) soy crisp (soy protein isolate, rice flour, calcium carbonate), agave nectar, soynuts, soy flour, textured soy flour, natural raspberry flavored fruit [(sugar, raspberry juice, raspberry extract) cranberries], almonds, inulin, raspberries, natural flavors. Manufactured in a plant that ALSO processes milk, egg and peanuts.

Too much concentrated soy?

Not a horrific ingredient list, in fact, not bad at all.  However, I am concerned about the amount of concentrated soy products.  I personally am sensitive to concentrated soy.  (To complete this review I spared my stomach and simply took a couple small bites of each flavor, spreading the testing out over an extended period of time.)

However, I can tolerate naturally occurring soy (think edamame, and gluten free tamari) just fine.  The amount of actual soy ingested from those items is significantly less that what you would find in a soy milk or soy protein product.  This is definitely an area where your mileage may vary.

Concentrated soy is quite the controversial ingredient.  You can find many instances of soy lovers and soy haters.

As was indicated in the allergen statement, the bars are processed on shared equipment, but not with gluten containing items.

Let’s move on to the taste.

Robb sent me a sample kit, which is also available for purchase if you want to give the flavors a try.  The flavors are: Granola Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch, Berry Almond Crunch, Chocolate Brownie, and Almond Crunch.  Believe it or not, the one I liked the least was Brownie Crunch.  Shocking, I know, as I am a confessed chocoholic.  All the flavors were a bit chalky in texture.  The Peanut Butter Crunch was the one I liked the most, and the Almond Crunch and Granola shared a very close second.  The Berry and Brownie just had too much of an artificial flavor for me to really get around.  They all required a hefty sip of water to chew and swallow.  They did have a nice crunch and chew texture.

Overall, I think these are a decent option.  The fact that they do not melt makes them good for “emergency” stash, like in your car glove compartment or in a natural disaster preparedness kit.  For that same reason they would be good fuel for outdoor sports.

However, for me personally these will not become part of my ordinary rotation.  Soy protein does not have a place in my diet.  It’s certainly a personal opinion, preference, and tolerance level.  My friend Kim at Gluten Free is Life also reviewed these bars, and she and her family were fans.  Just goes to show, what will work for one of us will not work for all of us, so keep an open mind whenever reading reviews of products.

Wish list

If there is a nutritional supplement company out there listening, here is my wish list for a protein bar:

  • Gluten free
  • Uses whey protein in some bars, and a gemma or rice protein in others for a dairy free option
  • Uses chicory root and/or stevia to sweeten
  • No sugar alcohols, no soy, no artificial sweeteners
  • At least 20 grams of protein per bar
  • Fat source of coconut
  • Low to moderate carbohydrate count

I know, a tall order.  So far the closest I’ve seen is in the Quest Bar. I’ll do a full review of them in the future.  I am very curious to see what their new flavor will be.  In the meantime, you can always make your own protein bars and control the ingredients and nutrition profile completely.

And if you want more, Gluten Free and Fit 101 has a lot more reading on living healthy and gluten free.

If you have tried the Pure Fit bars, I’d love to hear your feedback!  Also, if you’d like to weigh in on the soy controversy, feel free to comment below!


Gluten Free Protein Powder Reviews

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Gluten Free Protein Powder Reviews and Recommendations (or not!)

Protein powder. It can be so useful, so tasty, so convenient! It can also be completely vile tasting, or worse, make us sick due to cross-contact or hidden gluten. This page is for us all to share our experiences with protein powders, so we can learn from each other and hopefully spare ourselves from wasting money on a product that is nasty.

Please, please be aware that reformulations do occur, so always check labels prior to ingesting any product. If in doubt, contact the company directly.

Here’s what to do
  • Leave a comment below indicating the brand of protein, flavor, and quick summary of the nutrition facts if you have the label handy. Please also indicate the gluten status-if you’ve contacted the company please include that information, if there’s a gluten free label, no gluten containing ingredients, etc. Whatever is applicable.
  • Add your review: How was the flavor, the consistency, the mixability? Would you purchase it again? Feel free to use a 1-10 scale if you would like.

Of course, taste is individual, and what one person finds delicious another may find revolting-but I’m hoping that this will give us a good starting point.

Here are a couple I’ve done

Bring the reviews! I will be adding more as well. 🙂

Guest Post: Kim Bouldin from Gluten Free is Life

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Hi guys!  My name is Kim and I write a blog on gluten-free living called Gluten-free is Life.  Erin asked if I would do a guest post and I was thrilled and honored to write one.  I have been gluten-free for a little over 4 years now.

Kim and her daughter, Hannah

Training

I am currently training for my first full marathon.  I ran my first half marathon last October and learned a lot about nutrition and fueling and some of the unique obstacles that come along with following the gluten-free diet.  I believe that every obstacle is only as big as you make it out to be.

Where there is a will to get over an obstacle, there is a way to get over it.  There are just as many protein-filled foods out there to fuel a gluten-free athlete as there are to fuel any other athlete – it is all about creativity.

Training foods

Now that I am really ramping up my training, I have to pay close attention to the foods that I am putting into my body.  I have to make every calorie count.  For those that know me, I do have a sweet tooth.  I have to limit some of those treats now so that I have room for those nutrient dense foods that will carry me through my runs, especially the long ones.

Some of the protein-rich foods that I include in my diet are:

  • Egg whites
  • Lean chicken
  • Lean turkey
  • Salmon
  • Lean red meat (filet mignon)
  • Beans (garbanzo &black beans are my favorites)
  • Nut butters (almond butter has a special place in my heart)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Quinoa (Erin’s note-this is a combo of carbs and protein, but is unique in that for a carb source it is unusually high in protein)
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Tuna

All of the above foods are naturally gluten-free.

For carbohydrates, I include:

  • Oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill or Lara’s by Cream Hill Estates)
  • Brown rice
  • Breads made from whole grain gluten-free flours
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Gluten-free cereals
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Dried Fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots)
  • Bananas
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, spaghetti)
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (baked sweet or regular)

I make up most of my diet from the foods listed above & fill in where necessary.  I have been playing around with different foods for my pre-run fuel.  Some of my favorites have been:

  • Zing Bars (love the protein in these)
  • Rice Cakes w/ Almond Butter
  • Banana w/ Almond Butter
  • Blueberry Muffins from Purely Elizabeth

I don’t like to run with a lot of food in my stomach, so this has been something I have really been experimenting with.  While I like bananas, they make my stomach feel the fullest of all the options I listed above, so I have only been using that if I have no other options.

Refueling

For refueling, I try to grab a re-hydration drink of some sort.  I have been experimenting with coconut water & it seems to work well & doesn’t make me feel queasy like Gatorade does.  I will be reviewing some coconut water later this month on my blog.

Once I get the drink in, I reach for protein and some carbs, but mainly protein.  I usually go with a 1 egg/3 egg white frittata made with spinach & tomatoes.  I add in some Frank’s Red Hot to spice it up.

(Erin’s note-LOVE Franks’! Favorite hot sauce by a long run!)

I will also have rice cakes with almond butter & fruit spread on the side.  I have been toying with some protein shakes, but haven’t found one that I love yet. The You Bar Shakes were good, but they are dairy based.   I don’t do well with a lot of dairy or soy, so that makes it tough.  I have yet to try the rice protein shakes.  They are next on my list.

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome is eating after my long runs to get enough calories in.  I know this sounds silly to some, but I have no appetite after my long runs.  I have to break all the “rules” with listening to my body’s hunger cues, because they are just not there on days when I run 8+ miles.  I literally watch the clock to make sure I am getting some kind of food in every 3 hours or so.  I try to eat smaller meals on these days so I don’t feel “stuffed” and then in turn, sick.

These are the days that I really need to make every calorie count by getting the best nutritional bang for my buck.  I snack on dried fruit a lot on long run days – calorie dense &can be an excellent source of fiber, nutrients, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates.  I love adding dried fruit &walnuts or almonds to my salads.  I have found that eating “by-the-clock” on long run days works well for me.  It helps me keep my energy up through the day and not feel like I was run over by a bus the following day.

I am entering week 9 of marathon training now.  I have a half marathon race coming up on March 21, 2010 that I am using as a training run.  I am running this race to help raise money for the March of Dimes and a couple of NICUs in the Atlanta area.  Only 10 more weeks until my first marathon!  Wish me luck!

Erin’s note: GO KIM!

Kim was previously profiled here as a Gluten Free Athlete. She gives many great reviews and advice for families with children living gluten free at Gluten Free is Life.

Non Celiac Athletes Going Gluten Free: Is there a Performance Benefit? Part 2

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In Part 1, we reviewed some mainstream and popular athletes who had gone the gluten-free route. The experiences that they shared showed a perceived improvement in performance on a gluten free diet. These athletes were not diagnosed with celiac disease. So, what gives?

There are several potential reasons why the athletes may have in fact shown improved performance. These are essentially educated guesses, as we don’t really KNOW.

The sciency reasons:

1) The athletes were undiagnosed, but had celiac disease.

The statistics for celiac disease, and the numbers of undiagnosed, stagger me every time. Approximately 1% of the population (in the US, Canada and Europe) is estimated to have celiac disease. Here’s the kicker-95% of those are undiagnosed.
It’s very feasible that some of these athletes have been walking around with celiac disease and didn’t know it. Put them on a gluten free diet and all kinds of magic happens. We’ll talk about the magic in a bit.

2) The athletes were gluten sensitive.

This is a bit of a can of worms. “Gluten sensitivity” is a big umbrella term that covers a bunch of stuff. Celiac disease falls under this umbrella. However, as we are learning, celiac disease as it is currently diagnosed only refers to damage to the small intestine, which is also referred to as gluten sensitive enteropathy. Gluten can cause damage to many other areas of the body, not just the gastrointestinal system (your guts, for easy reference:) Gluten sensitive neuropathy
(nervous system-brain and peripheral nerves) is recognized as being the most common. However, gluten can affect many other systems of the body, and for more information on the various conditions I recommend you check out Shelly Stuart’s incredibly thorough 12 part series at her Celiac Nurse blog, for which a link will be at the end of this post.

A study performed in Iceland back in 1992 showed that 25% of the randomly selected 200 participants (48) showed high levels of gliadin antibodies. Antibodies are produced when the body mounts an attack against the offending invader-in this case, gliadin, the a portion of the gluten protein. 14 of these 48 people also had gluten sensitive enteropathy, or what is commonly referred to as celiac disease-gluten sensitivity of the gut. 25% is a lot of people to show a form of gluten intolerance. I’ve heard varying numbers and statistics thrown around for gluten sensitivity, even as high as 70%. This is difficult to pin down though. Interestingly, a study published in the journal Gut in 2007 (frustratingly, I could not
access the free full text, but the summary only-luckily there was an article that covered it on celiac.com) showed all NON-CELIAC participants in the study showed an antibody response when challenged with gliadin. All of ’em. Not some, all.
And that brings us to…

3) liminating gluten can have positive effects for all.

I’m going to preface this by saying that more research needs to be done, before the wheat growers association (I made that up, I don’t know that an organization by that name exists, but I’m sure there is one to that effect) comes and sues me. It is possible (how’s that for covering my butt) that wheat gliadin can cause intestinal permeability and immune system response in the intestines. Also, this permeability can cause additional damage to other areas of the body, including the nervous system. And given the research mentioned above, this may extend to everyone, not just those with diagnosed/undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It appears that there is a huge spectrum of tolerance to these wheat proteins-ranging from absolutely no apparent ill effects, on to celiac disease and related autoimmune disorders.

4) Improved absorption of nutrients all around!

If these athletes did have an undiagnosed gluten sensitive enteropathy, then it stands to reason that with eliminating gluten they were able to absorb more nutrition. More nutrition=feeling better=performing better. If it was a gluten sensitive neuropathy, they were able to think better. Thinking better=improved performance.

OK, enough science. You asleep yet?

Here’s the less technical reasons these athletes may have improved their performance.

1) Eliminating gluten meant eliminating a large number of processed foods.

Let’s be honest. Aside from hidden gluten, eating a gluten free diet does not have to be hard. Although I am grateful to the manufacturers for giving us gluten free options of processed food-there is just as much junk that’s gluten free as there is gluten full. Gluten free junk is still junk. Naturally gluten free foods are easy, can be inexpensive and highly nutritious. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store, keep your diet primarily fruits, veggies, meats/fish, beans, nuts, eggs, potato and rice. Easy peasy. It also is inherently more nutrient dense than eating processed food-gluten free or not. More nutrients=more fuel to muscles and brain=higher performance.

2) Eating gluten free made them more aware of overall food quality.

Sometimes as athletes we just look at food as fuel. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, we perform better with
higher quality fuel. Like a high performance car. Put in crap fuel, get crappy acceleration and knocks. With the added attention to eating gluten free, additional attention can be given to high quality food. This is exactly why I feel so strongly that celiac disease is a blessing in disguise. Built it reminder to eat well, should we choose to perceive it in that light. The athletes on the Garmin team (and now Radio Shack) are certainly receiving a very high nutrient density diet. These guys make their living performing, and their livelihood depends on them performing well.

So I have to say that yes, there can absolutely be a benefit to non celiac diagnosed athletes eating gluten free. Just like
in everything though, it depends on what you eat and how much-not just that it’s gluten free.

It will be interesting to see the press on the Radio Shack cycling team and the gluten free diet as the Tour de France gets closer. Lance’s return to the biggest race in cycling to sure to get a ton of coverage.

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts or experiences!


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