Gluten Free Fitness

Gluten Free Athletes

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!


Resources:

Non Celiac Athletes Going Gluten Free: Is there a Performance Benefit? Part 1

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My Dad handed me a Men’s Journal magazine, saying “they talk about gluten free in here.” I looked at the front cover and sure enough, there it was at the top of the cover. “No More Wheat-the Surprising New Diet for Athletes.” My very sophisticated first response was “huhmph” or something along those lines. I am rarely at a loss for words, but I was caught without anything pithy to say.

Several months ago, a friend of mine had mentioned that the Garmin professional cycling team was going gluten free. (Prior to my last knee surgery I was a fairly avid cyclist-now I just can’t take the chance of crashing onto one of these very expensive knees.) The driving force behind this decision is Dr. Allen Lim. He now is working with Team Radio Shack (Lance Armstrong’s current team.) We’ll get back to the reasoning behind going gluten free in a bit. Let’s take a look at some athletes who have taken the gluten free route and their experiences.

Winning without wheat

The Men’s Journal article titled Winning Without Wheat discussed the Garmin’s team experience and results with going gluten free. It was noted that the athletes were gluten free during the racing season-not necessarily the off-season. During the season, the riders reported performance improvement along with reduced digestive issues. (I found it interesting that the article did not mention if the athletes had been tested for celiac disease, or if any of them chose to continue eating gluten free off season.) It was not reported if the performance improvements were perceived, or if there had been specific testing parameters on a “regular” versus gluten free diet.

The word on wheat

An article in Bicycling magazine titled The Word on Wheat discussed the idea of voluntarily going gluten free, and the potential pitfalls of a gluten free diet. (which I addressed in the nutrient deficiencies in the gluten free diet post and refers you to Peter Bronksi’s well written review) They also mention celiac disease versus non celiac gluten intolerance.

A pro triathlete named Desiree Flicker is quoted as saying:

It does end up being a lot healthier because it forces you to stay away from overly processed foods.

Flicker was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 29 after dealing with gastrointestinal issues for almost 10 years. She noted a performance improvement after going gluten free. (To me this is a “well, duh” moment-of course a celiac will have improved performance on a gluten free diet-but we’ll get to that.)

Gluten free to ease digestion

The rationale presented behind originally moving the Garmin team to gluten free is basically to ease digestion. There are multiple fragments of gluten that can cause adverse reactions, even without specific wheat allergy or celiac disease.

The spectrum of non celiac gluten intolerance is an area that seems to be expanding rapidly. Improved digestion leads to improved absorption of nutrients, which can then translate into improved performance.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation

Keep in mind that while this can be a correlation, it’s not necessarily a causation without proof. In other words, it looks like a gluten free diet may be associated with improved performance, but without specific controlled variables we cannot say that a gluten free diet caused the improvement in performance.

I was unable to find any research studies that examined the effects of a gluten free diet and performance. It does appear that there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence where people have experienced improved performance.

Based on these anecdotes, it appears that there is potential for improved performance in athletes to eat a gluten free diet even if they are not diagnosed with wheat allergy or celiac disease.

In Part 2 of this article we will take a look at why a gluten free diet may correlate with an improvement in performance.

Stay tuned! If you have experienced improved performance with eating gluten free speak up! Leave a comment below!

Supplements for the Gluten Free Athlete: Glutamine

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Here’s a shocker-I have a fitness background. In the fitness world, there is something that is affectionately referred to as “bro-science.”

Interestingly enough, there is actually a definition for “bro-science” at urbandictionary.com:

Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.

There has been much debate surrounding glutamine in the weight training world. It was touted as a recovery booster/fat mobilizer/muscle sparing/ all that and a bag o’ chips for many moons, and turns out that the research doesn’t support that position. (Gleeson, M. Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport training J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):2045S-2049S among others.)

Fight bro science

There are many good bros and female bros (bras?) out there fighting the good fight and protecting the world against the proliferation of bro-science. A few are Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, Leigh Peele, and Cassandra Forsythe, as well as my buddy JC Deen. There are many others of course-but these are a few I reference regularly and have in my Google Reader.

Ok, so what does this have to do with celiac disease, living gluten free, or glutamine supplementation?

Glutamine and gut health

Although glutamine may have limited benefit from a sports performance/physique enhancement perspective, it may be much more useful for gut health.

First of all, what is glutamine? Glutamine is an amino acid. It is considered conditionally essential (meaning there may be times when the body cannot produce enough, and it must be ingested through the diet.) The gut tissue has been found to absorb up to 65-76% of ingested glutamine.

Also, glutamine is used for fuel by the cells in your body that fight disease and infection. When plasma glutamine levels are lowered, this can contribute to suppresion of the immune system. In short, glutamine helps reduce inflammation, improve immunity, promote repair, and assist in production of other important factors in the gut.

I have to note that in looking through the scientific research, I have found studies that support these statements, and other studies where no significant difference has been shown. As always, this is a case of buyer beware-educate yourself, discuss it with your doctor or health care practitioner, and make an informed decision. It will not hurt you, but it may not help either. There has been quite a bit of supporting evidence that it is beneficial for gut health.

Some of you may be thinking:

But glutamine is an amino acid found in gliadin-and a reaction to gliadin is what is examined when gluten intolerance is being tested.

Dr. Stephen Wangen in his book Healthier Without Wheat: A New Understanding of Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease, and Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance clarifies

Do not be confused by the fact that gliadins contain glutamine. This does not mean that glutamine is a problem for people who are gluten intolerant, nor does it mean that glutamine should be avoided. In fact the opposite is true…

Two forms of glutamine

Note: Glutamine can be found in two forms, and this is particulary important to note if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. There is L-glutamine, which is the free form amino acid, and glutamine peptides. Glutamine peptides are often sourced from wheat, and can cause a reaction in those with sensitivity. Avoid glutamine peptides, and if you choose to supplement look for L-glutamine.

Dr. Wangen states that due to the fact that the small intestine uses glutamine as a primary energy source, providing extra L-glutamine can assist in speeding the healing of the digestive tract. He recommends a dose of 3 grams (3,000 mg) split into 3 doses throughout the day.

Shari Lieberman also discussed L-glutamine supplementation in her book The Gluten Connection: How Gluten Sensitivity May Be Sabotaging Your Health–And What You Can Do to Take Control Now. She recommended 500 mg-3 grams of L-glutamine.

There also have been studies of non-celiac endurance athletes which have shown protective immune system qualities when the training load is high. (L. Castell, The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition Volume 13, Issues 7-8, July-August 1997, Pages 738-742 )

So what does this mean to the celiac or gluten intolerant athlete?

It means that supplementing with L-glutamine may be a worthwhile expense. If you are training hard, your immune system and gut can use all the help it can get with recovery. It can help with antioxidant control of free radicals produced in exercise. By maximizing your gut health, you are maximizing absorption and therefore fuel.

What’s your opinion? Have you taken L-glutamine? Leave your feedback in the comments!


Resources

Stephanie Diamond: Gluten Free Athlete Profile

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Stephanie has had some very cool adventures in life and in fitness!

Stephanie and her husband-that's the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in the background!

Stephanie and her husband-that’s the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in the background!

Stephanie Diamond, age 33

Hometown

I grew up in Hope Valley, Rhode Island. I currently live in Bujumbura, Burundi, Central Africa.

Sports and accomplishments

Running and hiking. I trekked to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2009.

Celiac trigger

I was under a lot of stress at my job and I’d lost nearly 10 pounds in a short amount of time. I was already pretty thin, so losing weight was a weird thing for me. Plus I was moody and just not feeling great. Being aware of the symptoms, it didn’t take me long to make the connection to celiac disease. I also quit the job. I was diagnosed in the summer of 2003. A couple years earlier, my brother had been very ill; it took a year for him to be diagnosed with celiac disease. I was able to see the symptoms in myself and get tested and get on the gluten-free diet before I got as sick as he did.

Training

I’m building my base for half marathon training. I run 3 to 5 miles several times a week. On my off days I play tennis, go hiking, or do yoga, depending on my level of energy. I never really got into strength training, even when I had to do it for my high school and college teams. When I was training for Kilimanjaro I weighted a pack to about 20 pounds and walked up and down the mountain that I live on. Three miles, three times a week. It really helped prepare me for wearing the pack on the trek.

Nutritional philosophy

I become a monster when I have an empty stomach so I graze most of the day. I listen to my body and eat what it tells me to. Sometimes that’s a lot of fruits and veggies, sometimes it’s a big chunk of meat. I do try to balance things. But I love ice cream, cheese, and other heavy, creamy foods. I run so I can eat them.

I love the grass-fed beef and other meats here in Burundi. I never thought I would eat goat, but it’s delicious! We get good fresh milk and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Many of the local traditional foods are gluten-free and I’ve had fun trying them. Lots of rice and cassava and beans. They brew beer from banana and millet. It’s a yummy treat.

When trekking, a good portion of my weight is Lara Bars and Kind Bars. They are convenient for snacking on throughout the day. I also bring gluten-free instant hot cereal for breakfasts. I love to start a day on the trail with a hot breakfast.

Pre/post workout food

Pre workout I eat very little. Before tennis or hiking I’ll usually have a bowl of gluten-free granola mixed with some flax cereal because I need to be sustained for a couple hours.

On running days I’m up and out so early to beat the heat that my stomach’s not awake yet. I usually have a little water and sometimes half a Lara Bar. I rely on having had a big healthy dinner the night before–lean meat with veggies, rice and beans, or quinoa pasta.
Post workout I love toast with peanut butter and a tropical fruit smoothie. (Mango and pineapple are always in season here. I love it!) I brought my breadmaker, so if I get 3 hours of uninterrupted electricity I can make my own gluten-free bread. There’s no Whole Foods to run out to for a loaf if I’m really craving it.

Sports supplements

I take a multivitamin with my snack after a hard workout. I started doing that on the Kilimanjaro trek. Every afternoon when we got to camp we had a snack of popcorn and tea. I took a vitamin and some ibuprofen. Luckily I don’t need the ibuprofen on a daily basis. But it helped on the mountain.

Upcoming plans

I’m looking for a half marathon to do the next time I’m back in the States, which will hopefully be this winter. I haven’t run one since before my celiac diagnosis. I’d also like to spend a week or two on the Appalachian Trail next summer. I wish I had time to try the whole thing!

Advice for other gluten free athletes

Regardless of whether you’re gluten-free or not, you have to find the foods that work for you. It takes time and dedication, but anyone who wants to be healthy has to do it.

Final notes

I’m just a regular person who likes to spend time outdoors.

I was a picky eater before my diagnosis, and I was scared my choice of foods would be all but demolished. But the gluten-free diet pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve tried so many new, delicious foods that I could have been eating all along.

Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on that last day was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s mentally and physically draining. But now I feel like I can do anything. It’s a little corny, but it’s true. I think of it whenever a challenge comes my way.

As you can see, Stephanie has some unique and very interesting stories. Please check her out:

Life in Africa blog: http://whereintheworld-stephanie.blogspot.com/

Gluten-free blog: http://stephaniefood.blogspot.com/

Twitter ID: @StephanieSD

Thanks so much for sharing your story Stephanie! I’m ready to go out and hike the closest mountain! (Here in South Florida that would be the bridge over the Intracoastal.) OK-maybe not, but all of these athletes have been truly inspiring.

Kelly Baker: Gluten Free Athlete Profile

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I first ran into Kelly on a bodybuilding/fitness message board. She keeps a journal there, and with gluten free in the title-I was intrigued. Kelly always keeps a positive outlook and has encouraging words for others. Here she is!

Kelly Baker

Kelly Baker

Kelly Baker

Age 31, resides in Columbus Ohio.

National Physique Committee Figure Competitor, Women’s Tri-Fitness Competitor

I was diagnosed July 21, 2008, and oddly enough it was an attempt at finding the best diet for my body. A training partner had undergone the test, received a Celiac diagnosis, and had had the most staggering transformation I’d ever seen. I figured it was worth a shot as I had thought myself lactose intolerant for years.

I didn’t have a true “trigger” so much as I was becoming more symptomatic over time. I’ve probably always been like this.

Training Program

I use the P/RR/S (Power, Rep. Range, Shock) system, combined with plyometrics, and various forms of cardio. I try to be as sports-specific as possible depending on what I’m competing in. My husband and I are looking to do some serious cycling next summer, so I will be more cycling focused between NPC shows.

Nutritional philosophy

I have other major intolerance’s in addition to Celiac Disease in the forms of soy, dairy, eggs, and most nuts and seeds. I stick with lean protein sources and lots of vegetables, fruit, and gluten-free grains. I avoid processed foods as much as absolutely possible. The more ingredients it has the less I trust it.

For pre and post workout nutrition, I have chicken and a rice cake for both. Sometimes I eat Steel Cut oats in place of the rice cake.

Favorite sports supplements

The following from ALR Industries; Chain’d Out, T-X, Zero-Stim, Hyperdrive 3.0, ProAnabol, WTF Pump’d, Primed Ultra, Poison, Comatose, and Lean Dreams. For cycling related power-ups GU Chomps work very well.

(Editor note:I have contacted ALRI in an attempt to obtain a listing of their gluten free products and have not yet received a response. Kelly notes she has never has an issue with their products.)

Upcoming competitions/training plans

I competed in my second Figure show on October 3rd, which will be followed by some medical testing to determine the extent of an injury to my knee. I plan to compete next March in Figure, take most of the summer to do some serious cycling (75-100 mile rides) and compete in two more Figure shows in October 2010.

Advice for other gluten free athletes

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. In some ways it is harder for us to function nutritionally, but in a lot more ways it is easier. We must give our systems quality fuel, and we think about what goes “in” much more than a normal person would. For anyone competing in Bodybuilding or Figure it makes the diet a lot easier. Our diets are cleaner to begin with which means less rebound between shows so returning to show conditioning is easier for us to do.

Final notes to share

July 21, 2008 I got my life back. I’d always been fatigued no matter how much I slept, suffered from low blood sugar crashes several times a day, and couldn’t make the gains I was working so hard to make. That day, I found out that 90% of my diet, pristine by conventional nutrition standards, was toxic to my system.

Once my diet changed the fatigue drained away, the hypoglycemic incidents stopped, and I no longer agonized over the way I’d react to anything that went in my mouth. Discoering I was a Celiac along with my other intolerances was freeing. For nearly 30 years, I had no idea what it was like to actually feel good. and I would not trade any of this for the world.

Thanks for sharing Kelly-best wishes with your knee and your future plans!

Editor note: Read this article about how celiac can help improve you awareness of proper nutrition and thus your diet.

Gluten Free Athlete Profile: Kimberly Bouldin

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I originally “found” Kim through her blog-she has some great stuff so make sure to check her out. Then she “twitted”-or whatever-“tweeted?” about going running and I said to myself-“Self-check this lady out!” Here she is!

Kimberly Bouldin

Kim and her daughter, Hannah

Kim and her daughter, Hannah

Hi, I am Kim. I live in central Ohio, right outside of Columbus with my husband and 2 kids. My current sport is running. I am training for a half-marathon on October 18th. I hope to train for a full marathon next May! I just ran my first race ever in July, a 10K (ran it in 53:22). I finished 2nd in my age group & 25th overall (out of 75). (Editor note: Whoohoo! Way to go! I was a gymnast growing up. I started at age 5 until I was 13 or 14.

As far as celiac and diagnosis, I had suffered on & off since I was a teen with anorexia. I had a recurrence as an adult, after the birth of my daughter. It wasn’t nearly as severe as the first time, but still, something that needed addressed. I began to see a dietician. The dietician is the one who suggested I get tested for Celiac disease after my telling her about all the foods that bothered me when I ate them. I had previously been told that I had IBS (editor note:see-the garbage can diagnosis strikes again!). My bloodwork was positive and I was instructed to go gluten-free. It was only after I went gluten-free that I saw a GI doctor, who wanted me to go back on gluten to confirm the diagnosis with an endoscopy/biopsy. I declined because I felt so much better off of gluten….it was night & day.

That was enough for me. I went on to have my kids tested and my son was diagnosed at the age of 10 with Celiac disease. He did have the endoscopy/biopsy done. I knew better by the time he was tested. He is a thriving, happy 13 year old hockey player now. 😉

I am not positive what my trigger was, but I suspect it was the birth of my first child in 1996. I started
having stomach issues after having him. They got much worse after the birth of my 2nd child in 2002.

Training

Right now my training consists of lots of running. LOL! I run 5 days/week and my max was 35 mpw-miles per week (editor note-I hardly even drive 35 miles per week). I also try to incoprorate strength training, but that has gotten tough as my mileage increased. I am now in the tapering stage of my training, so I am working back in some crosstraining & strength training.

Nutrition

My nutritional philosophy is pretty simple: I strive to eat mainly whole foods that are naturally gluten-free. I do enjoy the occasional treat (dark chocolate is my best friend), but I feel best eating little to no processed foods. I also stay clear of artifical sweetners as much as I can. They really seem to irritate my stomach. If I need to sweeten food or baked goods, I use sugar or agave nectar.

Favorite pre-post workout foods are plain & simple – bananas before. Afterwards…egg white omelet w/spinach & tomatoes, waffles or brown rice cakes with almond butter and fruit spread and fresh fruit.

Favorite sports supplements

Long runs over 8 miles require fueling mid-run & drinking gatorade (powdered & diluted) to keep me from getting dehydrated. For my mid-run fuel, I rely on Clif Shots or Shot Bloks for the most part. They are caffeine free (I don’t drink caffeine) and don’t bother my stomach.

Upcoming competitions

Half Marathon on 10/18/2009 and full marathon in May 2010

Advice for other gluten free athletes

Make sure to treat your body right. Make sure to properly fuel your body for the best performance possible.

You can find out more about Kim at her blog Gluten Free is Life

Thanks for sharing, Kim, and best wishes on your upcoming races!