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Gluten Free Tips for Healing after Injury

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Gluten Free Tips for Healing after Injury

If you are on the G-FF Facebook or GF-F Twitter, you may have heard me discuss injuries.  A few months back, I twisted my ankle and fell, giving myself a grade two ankle sprain.  I heard and felt the dreaded “pop” as I fell.  Luckily, I landed softly in the hedge.  Mind you, I wasn’t exercising or running, I just had too much going on in that minute and fell on my own sidewalk. I headed back inside, rinsed off my travel coffee mug, grabbed an ice pack, and off to work I went.

About a week or so later, I felt much better.  Swelling was minimal, range of motion is almost equal to the other side, and the feeling of instability is subsiding.  Not to mention my awkwardness still taking up space in my head.

I have learned through the years that it is preferable to let an injury heal properly and then return to activity.  Rushing it is not worth it.  Future injuries are much more likely if the original was not allowed to heal.  However, I am also an athlete, and so when injured get a bit cranky.

I have a friend that has been dealing with a stress fracture in her foot for several months now, and she is dealing phenomenally well with the change in her routine.  After the first round of anger, disappointment, and frustration, she is channeling her efforts in a new physical manner.  (I am very happy to report that she is able to do resistance training, on track to getting back to her endurance routine)

Talking about our recent injury experiences, I decided it was high time I wrote a few tips to help keep yourself sane, and speed along your healing when injured.

The 5 Physical Tips:

  • In an acute injury, RICE.

  • Rest-self explanatory
  • Ice-10-20 minutes at a time, make sure to have 1 layer of cloth between your skin and the ice/ice pack.
  • Compression-if needed and swelling is apparent, you can wrap the affected part with an elastic wrap. Don’t pull too tight, you don’t want to cut off your circulation.
  • Elevation-this is where you get your affected body part up above the level of your torso.  Think-prop your leg up on a bunch of pillow with the remote control or a book.  “Honey-can you get me some tea?  I have my leg elevated with ice on it.”
  • Gently move the affected part within a pain free range of motion as much and as often as possible.  Rule of thumb in general: is it hurts, don’t do it.
  • Be sure to maximize your nutrition.  Eat high quality, bang for caloric buck food. This is not the time to try to lose fat.  Do not restrict calories.  You need calories to help rebuild and repair.  Shoot to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight on a daily basis.  Stay well hydrated
  • Sleep.  Lots.
  • Consider supplementation. Ideally you are getting a ton of great nutrition from your food, but these are a few that I have found helpful.  They are not necessary by any stretch, but they may help.  Many athletes will take advantage of any edge to potentially get back to sport quicker.  Of course, please always check with your medical professional.  So, in no particular order:
  • L-glutamine-a conditionally essential amino acid.

L-Glutamine is especially interesting to celiacs, as it appears to be heavily absorbed in the gut and aid in gut health.  It’s been anecdotally used in the strength community for recovery for a long time, but the research does not back that up.  Research does show it is absorbed primarily in the gut-which for us is a good thing, as healthy gut=more nutrients absorbed=optimal healing.  I wrote about L-glutamine as a supplement for gut health here.

  • Probiotic, especially if your injury required antibiotics.  Antibiotics negatively impact the “good” gut flora, so you want to restore that.
  • Multivitamin, perhaps some extra Vitamin D, and a Calcium/ Magnesium combo to cover nutritional bases.
  • Proteolytic enzymes .  Similar to digestive enzymes, but specifically for systemic use for protein.  These act in a similar manner as a non steroidal anti-inflammatory like Advil, with less worry of side effects.
  • Good food. I know I said it already, but it really is that important.

         

The 5 Mental Tips

  • It’s OK to be mad and upset for a while. It’s completely normal to have an emotional response to injury.
  • Don’t stay mad.  Allow yourself to move through the stages of mourning.  Yes, it’s been determined that reaction to injury in an athlete is very similar to stages of grief as outlined in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book On Death and Dying.  Obviously there are differences as well.  However, the 5 stages are:
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

It’s OK to recognize, accept, and then move through each one of these phases.

  • Take charge of your return to wellness. Plan it out.  Give yourself control.  What CAN you do?  Focus on the activities you can do, and set goals for yourself based on those activities.  No negative connotations.  This is not bad, it’s just different.  Your injury may have been out of your control, but you can certainly control your path back to sport.  Make concrete plans and a blueprint for your recovery.
  • Be positive. This sounds silly, but visualize your return to doing what you love.  I also imagine a tiny little construction crew inside my body, repairing, spackling, repainting all the busted up bits.  Visualize sending healing light and the nutrients from your food to the injured area.  I know, it sounds trippy, but I’ve found it helpful.  Laugh if you wish, I completely understand.  Don’t get me wrong, you have to also take the appropriate action to make yourself well.  All the visualization in the world won’t make a bit of difference if you are passed out on the couch with an empty package of sugar laden gluten free donuts and a 5th of vodka.
  • Set yourself up for success. Be realistic when setting your time frames for progress and return to sport.  Guidelines given by your doctor, therapist or other health professional are given for a reason.  It truly does take time for healing to occur, and regardless of how much we maximize our healing, we can only speed it up so much.  To some extent, time must pass.

In a perfect world, we would never get injured.

Chances are good that at one point in your life, you will be forced to take a step back.  When that happens, arm yourself with these tips to keep your sanity, and the sanity of those around you.

If you’re new to G-FF, please make sure to check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.  Feedback has been awesome, and for that I thank you.

In the words of Helen Keller: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Share your injury tips in the comments!

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.