Friday, December 13, 2013

Ten Tips on Fueling an Active, Gluten Free Lifestyle

Do you like to run? Lift weights? Compete in triathlons? And are you trying to do this while sticking to a gluten free diet? If so, these tips are for you.

1. Protein

This is important whether you're an athlete who is on or off the GF diet plus it's important for anyone on the GF diet since protein can be skimped on easily. Make sure you get the right amount of protein for your weight - roughly half. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need 75 grams of protein per day. Add extra if you're trying to build muscle.

I highly recommend PlantFusion Pea Protein for anyone who is dairy free.

2. Before Workout Snack

Eat a snack 30 - 60 minutes before a workout. This can be as simple as half a banana, but it also could be some whole grains and protein.

3. Post-Workout Snack

This should be eaten within 2 hours of a workout and should be protein-packed. There are many options available. You can do a Kind protein bar, a smoothie, eggs, meat, peanut butter on bread or with fruit, nuts, or yogurt, for example.

4. Smoothies

I use the PlantFusion Pea Protein in my smoothies, but if you eat dairy, whey protein can be good too. Adding some berries, bananas, almonds, and mild-tasting vegetables can give any protein smoothie and extra edge.

5. Sleep

If you've started a new workout regimen or are trying to move on to the next level in your fitness level, make sure you get an hour of sleep more than you would normally need. For most people, that's at least 9 hours.

If you have trouble sleeping, try sticking to the same bedtime and wake up time every night and don't go more than a day without a good workout. Your body won't be able to adjust if it's used to workouts daily and you skip. If you wake up and find you can't sleep, five to ten minutes of yoga each night can help. Also, eating a sleep-inducing snack before lying down can help, such as whole grain bread, eggs, a banana, or a glass of milk.

6. Watch the Sugar

Too much sugar can cause energy lows and will also make healthy food less palatable. Reduce or eliminate the sugar especially first thing in the morning and in the two hours before going to bed. If you have a sweet tooth that fruit won't satisfy, eating something salty probably will help.

7. Veggies

What they say is true. The vitamins and minerals in vegetables will make you healthier and a better athlete. Duh!

For tips on adding vegetables to your diet, check out my post "Five Easy Ways to Add Veggies into Your Gluten Free Diet."

8. Eat Enough

This may seem silly, but no, really. The gluten free diet is hard and if you're trying to only eat healthy foods, it's easy to skimp on something many Americans struggle with - calories. If you've hit a plateau in your performance, consider counting calories to make sure you're getting enough. Do you feel shaky after workouts? It could be that you need more calories. Note: This doesn't mean reaching your calorie demands by eating junk food. Plan ahead and bring healthy snacks along with you. Eat BEFORE you're hungry.

If you're reluctant to eat more because you're trying to lose weight, you'll likely be sacrificing your performance for weight loss - AND the weight loss may fail. You may choose to lose the weight and then become more serious about your competitions. Another option (my preferred one) is to first work on building muscle, then once they are established, cutting the calories a little. When you just start lifting weights or begin a new fitness program, sometimes it's hard to suppress the hunger. My recommendation is DON'T TRY! Just pick something healthy to eat! After a few months, you might be surprised by how much thinner you look and how much weight you lost without even dieting.

9. Hydrate

Hydration includes both water and electrolytes. Most GF people don't eat out a lot, which also cuts out a lot of sodium. If you're sweating and drinking a lot of water, that can wash the electrolytes out of your body quickly. There are plenty of sports drinks available, though I've never been a fan because they are usually very sweet. Coconut water is something many people enjoy. You can also eat salted popcorn and add salt to your meals when you otherwise might not. Salt isn't something GF athletes should be trying to avoid unless a doctor specifically recommends it or unless you know you usually consume too much.

10. Whole Grains

This is especially important for an athlete with prolonged workouts, such as long bike rides or runs of more than half an hour. You need carbohydrate reserves for these workouts. Be sure to eat more quinoa, buckwheat, teff, brown rice, or whatever your grain of choice is the day before a long race or work-out. Check out my article on Whole Grains for more gluten free whole grain ideas.