In regards to nutrition there is so much information out there. A lot of it is crap, some of it is good info, but most of it does not pertain to your specific needs. What a maddening situation!
To begin let me say that I have never been tested for Celiacs disease. Mostly because I just do not want to know the truth. Still I avoid as much gluten as I possibly can and when I do I feel SO much better. I have also had a lot of problems with a high FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet. So now I am on a low FODMAP diet. There are a lot of foods my body would just prefer for me not to ingest. As an endurance athlete this causes me a lot of problems. Then to add more problems to my diet I watched “What The Health” and now I feel compelled to not eat dairy or too much meat.
So, as an endurance athlete with such a long list of “do not eats” what do I do for nutrition?
First let me say that I consider myself a PEAGAN with a non-comital side in regards towards gluten free (I have been known to enjoy normal pasta or a flour tortilla with my burrito on occasion). For me balance is key, as is consuming locally grown organic foods or proteins that are ethically raised with no hormones or antibiotics.
Gluten Free (GF) has come a long way since I first went GF. You can now enjoy pastas and breads. As part of the low FODMAP diet I have eliminated dairy. There are many great vegan options for butter and yogurt. I have found almond milk to be delicious (while almonds are high FODMAP they are not one of my triggers). For those days that I am craving a delicious bowl of shrimp alfredo I found this dairy free alfredo recipe that even my wife loves (alfredo pasta is her favorite food).
In an earlier article I mentioned that my personal trainer Chris gave me some great pointers, including nutrition. One of the nutrition suggestions he gave was to check out the DRI Calculator. I put together a spreadsheet (if you would like to download it go ahead). The spreadsheet should be all set to compile your meal totals and daily totals. Using the DRI Calculator and my spreadsheet I calculated my daily food intake. Through this I was able to determine a few surprising things. My protein intake was too high while my carb and calorie intake was about half of what it should have been (interestingly my fat intake was spot on). I was pleasantly surprised at my nutrition. Tracking my intake for a week helped me eliminate inefficient foods and find other foods that helped me meet my daily intake requirements.
Earlier this summer I went for a four day backpacking trip. It was the hardest physical effort I had ever done. Over four days we covered 70 miles. The temps hovered in the 90’s for most of the trip. Day two we hiked a marathon with 40lb packs. The mosquitos were the stuff of nightmares. My feet were covered in blisters and four months later I still have not grown all my toe nails back. In other words it was a great trip. It was an experience that taught me not only a lot about myself emotionally and spiritually; but opened my eyes to the need for proper nutrition.
One of the biggest issues for me on that trip was my joints. By day two my knees and hips were in excruciating pain. I could not open my legs to take a full stride. I was relegated to hobbling. Back at home I overcame the issues with my joints by doing two things: strength training and taking daily GNC’s Mega Men Joint vitamin pack. It has been three going on four months now that I have taken daily vitamins, minerals, and fish oil and I have noticed a HUGE improvement in my overall health. My energy levels have also increased, so much so that I have completely stopped drinking coffee. As a stay at home dad with a toddler who wakes up anywhere between 0500 and 0630 this is saying something.
Electrolytes & BCAAs
On the previously mentioned backpacking trip my buddy would hook me up with electrolyte pills when I was feeling particularly miserable. They helped immensely. So when I got home I purchased powdered electrolytes and BCAA (Branch Chained Amino Acids) powders to consume during and after my rides. I am a heavy sweater and I have noticed a quantifiable increase in not only energy during a ride but much faster recovery times. Before I started taking supplements I could be sore two or even three days after a hard ride. Now I feel great after a good nights sleep.
I have experimented with several different kinds of BCAA powders. My favorites are Gnarly BCAAs Berry Lemonade and Earth Genius PurEdge Recovery Lemon Tea. I am a firm believer in not consuming fake sweeteners such as Sucralose. The aforementioned BCAA powders have Stevia and/or Cane Sugar. I have also tried the XTEND™ FREE BCAAs – Strawberry Kiwi but the flavor was putrid and I ended up returning it.
As for electrolytes I use Beyond Raw Chemistry Labs Electrolytes. I have noticed a decrease in muscle cramps and lethargy since incorporating electrolytes into my during and post ride beverages.
Kind of random but the Trainer Roads podcast is great. I highly recommend checking them out.
Consuming ice cold pickle juice after a hot ride is straight up miraculous. Try it, even if you hate pickles. Research shows that it helps with reducing muscle cramping.
Check out this article for common training misconceptions. I found it enlightening.
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To be clear I have zero training as a nutritionist. Furthermore everything you read on the internet is not necessarily true (spend 5 seconds on cnn.com and you will see what I am talking about). What I have shared is just what I am currently using or trying. Nutrition, training, and fitness are not linear. They flux over time as the athletes needs change. What works for me may not work for you. Oh and I received zero compensation from Gnarly Nutrition, GNC, Earth Genius, or Beyond Raw for writing this article.