Hi, all. I’m Evan of Food Makes Fun Fuel, and besides being an avid runner, I’m also a gluten-free foodie.
But first, what is gluten? Gluten is the main protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with Celiac disease or gluten-intolerances can’t properly deal with this protein which can cause a number of nasty side effects.
Though I’ve never been formally diagnosed, I summed up the effects of gluten in my body after an indulgent weekend in a post aptly named How Gluten Makes Me Feel. Since then I haven’t looked back; I know I feel much better living and running without wheat.
But without this staple carbohydrate in my diet, I’ve had to look towards other places to get a good balance of carbs and nutrition. Things like pasta, bread, pizza, cookies, cakes—all runners’ favorites—are strictly off limits. A diagnosis like this might seem like the end of the world. And yet the world of gluten-free carbo loading can be so diverse and so tasty once you see what’s out there.
White potatoes get a bad rap. Any TV nutritionist or dieter will tell you they’re too much starch/not enough nutrients. The truth is potatoes can be just as nutritious in a diet as bread, pasta, or anything else starchy. An average potato has 3-4g of fiber (skin on!) and is a good source of potassium—a runner’s need-to-have nutrient. The carbohydrates in potatoes aren’t simple sugars, either, but rather complex carbs which means they’re more filling and satisfying.
Serve: Cut a potato into wedges, rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Bake the wedges for 60 minutes at 350 until crisp.
Here’s the thing about quinoa: While it’s true that it has a high amount of protein for a plant-based food, it’s still primarily carbohydrates. And that balance of carbs and protein is great for replenishing and restoring ourselves after exercise or to prepare for it. Quinoa is technically a seed but has nutritional profiling much more like a whole grain and is often lumped into that category.
Serve: Heat 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water on the stove to boiling. Drop the heat and cover for 15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid. Add cut vegetables, onion, vinegar, salt, and oil to taste.
There’s a reason they pass out bananas at the end of every race(and not just because they’re cheap). Bananas are about an 80-10-10 mix of carbs-protein-fat. They’re also one of the best sources of potassium that we have. An average banana contains 400-500mg of potassium. And filled with 12.5g of resistant carbs, too, this is one starch that you should never fear to add to your diet.
Serve: Keep a bag of frozen bananas in your freezer. After a hot run, add 2 frozen bananas to a food processor and blend to make creamy. Fold in 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and serve.
Brown Rice & Byproducts:
Before there was wheat and bread and pasta and all that is gluten, there was rice. Rice, another grain, is almost nutritionally identical to wheat except with a different form of protein. It’s been a staple in Eastern diets for thousands of years and is slowly proving itself to be available in a gluten-free market. You can find breads, tortillas, even cookies made with brown rice flour.
Serve: Boil rice with 1 part rice, 2 parts water over a stove. In a pan, toast a handful of fresh sesame seeds. After the rice has finished cooking, season with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle on top ground nori and the toasted sesame seeds.
Bob’s Red Mill:
I could never give up things like cookies, brownies, and pizza. Of course, that’s what goes out the window in everyone’s mind when they hear a “gluten-free diet”. The good thing is that doesn’t have to be the case. Plenty of companies now provide gluten-free mixes/flours to replicate any place gluten might be. My favorite company out of these is Bob’s Red Mill because they’re often made with whole grain ingredients and bean flour rather than white rice flour.
I hope I’ve shown that giving up gluten doesn’t mean giving up anything that you love. You can still run hard and eat deliciously without it.