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5 Foods Perfect for Gluten-Free Athletes

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For runners with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, it can suddenly feel like everything on the planet contains gluten! 

While there are certainly tasty foods off the menu, there are a ton of foods that you can still eat even if suffering from gluten sensitivity.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, I wanted to break down all of the foods that you can eat and give an example of a satisfying gluten-free day. 

5 Delicious Gluten-Free Foods

1. Fruit and Veggies

During your next trip to the grocery store, be sure to spend a little extra time in the fruit and veggie aisle. Everything found in this section of your grocery store is still on the menu!

If it’s grown in nature, it is gluten-free and packed with vitamins and nutrients to keep your performance at your peak. It’s the perfect sports nutrition for every gluten-free athlete.

Nutritious fruits and veggies include:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Berries
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Tropical Fruit
  • Avocados

2. Complex Carbs

Many think that gluten-free means carb-free, which isn’t the case! You can still get your fill or carbohydrates when opting for a gluten-free diet; you just need to know which ones are still on the menu.

Complex carbs are not only gluten-free, but they also pack in more nutrition like fiber, and they digest slower which is great for weight loss.

Good complex carbohydrates include:

  • Nuts
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Legumes
  • Lentils

3. Beans

Beans are a great way to ensure that you hit your protein goals for the day without the added fat and cholesterol found in traditional protein sources like beef and pork.

Adding beans to your diet will help keep you fuller longer and include additional health benefits such as improving gut health, preventing a fatty liver, and even lowering blood glucose levels.

4. Animal and Plant-Based Protein

There is no reason to ever go hungry with a long list of animal and plant-based proteins on your gluten-free list! Main dishes such as steak, chicken, pork, and tofu are satisfying gluten-free protein sources.

However, it’s important to note that your protein source may not be entirely gluten-free when dining out. Many restaurants use marinades or rubs that contain gluten or grill their proteins on griddles that are cross-contaminated.

5. Eggs

As a runner and a vegetarian, eggs are my favorite go-to food. They are gluten-free, low in calories (around 70 calories for one egg), high in protein, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B Vitamins (B5, B12, B2), folate, selenium, and phosphorus.

Plus, they are insanely versatile. I use them for omelets, quiches, egg-drop soup and always toss them into a salad for an added boost of hunger-squashing nutrition. 

Gluten and Athletic Performance

Unless you have a gluten intolerance, no studies found that eliminating gluten from your diet will make you a better athlete. However, many runners and endurance athletes found that removing gluten from their diet made them feel and perform better. So, why is that?

While gluten won’t slow you down as a runner if you aren’t intolerant, the foods you reach for may improve your performance. By eliminating gluten, you are likely reaching for healthier foods. 

Processed foods such as cookies, pizza, beer, cake, pie, and muffins are entirely off the menu and are probably slowing you down. (As well as contributing to your waistline!). 

The foods you eat on a gluten-free diet likely contribute to your overall sense of well-being and improved performance. 

Carbs on a Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-free and carb-free are not the same things! 

Carbs are rich foods and essential for runners, and as long as you are reaching for the right kind of carbohydrates, you can successfully eliminate gluten while indulging in carbs. 

Gluten-free carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, and legumes are excellent carb sources that will keep you full without gluten. 

Example of a Gluten-Free Day

For a runner, the perfect gluten-free day that will keep you full and fuel your runs looks a little something like this:

Breakfast

  • 2 eggs cooked to your liking
  • 1 slice of gluten-free bread with smashed avocado 
  • 8 oz oat milk

Mid-Morning Snack

  • Greek yogurt topped with nuts
  • Fresh fruit (banana or apple is a great choice)

Lunch

  • Grilled salmon salad with dried cranberries and walnuts tossed in olive oil and lemon juice

Mid-Afternoon snack

  • Carrots with homemade hummus

Dinner

  • Grilled chicken with steamed potatoes and vegetable of choice (i love grilled asparagus with lemon juice!)

Optional Dessert 

  • Flourless peanut butter cookies

3 Things To Keep In Mind

Eliminating gluten is tricky and is often found in foods that seem gluten-free. For instance, soybeans used in tofu bricks are gluten-free, but soy sauce contains gluten.

 Here are a few tricks to ensure that gluten doesn’t sneak into your gluten-free lifestyle.

1. Avoid cross-contamination: If your household toaster is also used to toast up white bread, those crumbs can find their way onto your gluten-free bread. When you are at home, you have more control over cross-contamination. 

When dining at a restaurant, you have a little less control. Be sure to ask your wait staff about their methods to make your food, and always let them know about any food intolerances. 

2. Be skeptical of sauces: While your steak may be gluten-free, the rub or marinade may not be. Simple condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, and tomato sauce surprisingly all contain gluten. 

It’s essential to read the labels. Bottled sauces may be more convenient, but your best bet is to make your sauces and marinades at home!

3. Whole foods are the best foods: If you don’t want to take the time to read the long list of ingredients on the food that you eat, keep it simple! 

Opting for whole foods found in the fruit and veggie aisle has nothing to hide! Making a meal with simple fruits and veggies and pure protein (such as a chicken breast) is the easiest way to ensure you go gluten-free.

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