Celiac Disease and the Endurance Athlete: My Journey to Find Food that Fuels Me

I am an ultra marathoner and  I have celiac disease.  I envy those runners who can run through the aide stations at races and grab anything that suits their fancy.  For myself, I have to worry about gluten – both in ingredients and the easily missed cross-contamination during the food preparation.

I run ultra marathons.  I’ve done races of 24 hours in duration and distances of 100 miles, 50 miles, marathons, and many other distances.

While I’ve had a long struggle with food at races, I’ve slowly found solutions that work for me.  Having Celiac disease is not a reason to not participate in endurance events.  I hope to provide you ideas here which will help you if you suffer from Celiac or otherwise need to eat gluten free.

Some Disclaimers

Eating a strict gluten free diet is tricky to say the least.  You need to worry about a product’s ingredients as well as the potential for cross contamination at the food processing factory.  The ingredients and food processing of a particular product can change at any time.  Please do your own due diligence to research any of my product suggestions and ideas that follow to make sure that you are getting current and accurate information for your health needs.

Also, I’m certainly not a nutritionist.  My choices may not be the best nor the ideal nutritional advice.  My quest has been to find race food that gives me gluten free energy without upsetting my stomach.  Just this goal alone has been hard enough and my quest is in no way done (I’m still experimenting).

I encourage you to test food ideas you find interesting to make sure that they fit with your body’s preferences.  These options just happen to work for me.

Preparing for my First 72 Hour Run

I took this picture of my food options I brought to my first 72 hour race during December 2013 through Jan 2014.  As you could imagine, preparing to be self-reliant on gluten free food for 72 hours takes some planning.

Sourced in Canada:

  • Quaker Crispy Mini’s cheese rice cakes.  This has been a staple food for my running and are great because of the salt.  However, I just learned that Quaker Canada no longer guarantees these as gluten free (only the large size rice cakes of certain flavors are considered gluten free) even though I spoke with the company in years past.  This was just pointed out to me on an on-line forum and demonstrates the need to continually re-check company information.   Believe it or not, the rice cakes have a good amount of calories while being easy on the stomach.  An example of how I do things a little different than many.
  • Cocoa Sweets cereal.  These I just found at Walmart and are delicious and gluten free.  There is something about these that keep me loving them even into long races.
  • Nature Valley Path Honey’d Corn Flakes
  • True Nature bars from Costco (great for protein)
  • Motts Applesauce
  • Jet Puffed marshmallows (note that I actually prefer Peeps – so good!)
  • Wine Gums
  • Real Fruit Gummies
  • Lays Chips (great when you need really salty

Sourced in the USA

  • I’m loving the selection of gluten free Chex cereal – cinnamon, apple, vanilla
  • Large rice cakes (labelled gluten free) – white cheddar and caramel flavors
  • Peanut butter (protein!)
  • Dots gummies (you see now that gummies are my candy of choice for racing)
  • pudding packs

Meals to Prepare (the tins at the bottom)

  • Pre-made rice, potatoes, ham, beef, and cheese mixtures for more meal type options for later in the race.  The volunteers can heat them up.
  • Gluten free noodles for volunteers to cook (I’ve never liked re-heated gluten free noodles)

Some other options I’ve used in the past (not in the photo);

  • bananas (I always ask for un-cut bananas at the aid stations
  • jello
  • Fruit of all types.  Raspberries are particularly good when nothing else seems to taste good.
  • Nuts

On hydration

  • I’m not a fan of drinking hours or days worth of Gatoraide or similar “sports drinks”.  I’ve found Hammer Endurolytes capsules to be perfect while drinking water for a well round source of electrolytes

Well, there you have it!  My ideas on gluten free food to fuel your endurance racing.

Some options you might find odd.  Some options you may not find appetizing at all.  Part of dealing with Celiac disease and being an athlete is to experiment for yourself and not being afraid of thinking outside the traditional sports nutrition “box” to service your needs however you can.

Good luck with your racing!  Feel free to contact me if you have comments, questions, and/or suggestions.

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