Diet is a huge part of ensuring peak performance come race day. Whether we like it or not, the foods we eat each day helps shape our body, our mind, our mood — you get the idea.
In high school, I was having really bad stomach problems. My family and I have never really eaten processed or junky foods (like Doritos, processed snacks, etc.) — we have always bought organic and have eaten relatively healthy — so I didn’t think what I was eating could be what was making my stomach hurt. But one day, I was proven otherwise — after eating Annie’s mac and cheese after a workout, my stomach pain became so intense that I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. I was also feeling sick during a lot of my workouts, and I wanted to get to the root of what was wrong.
After a few days in the hospital and a few weeks of various tests, a “mild lactose intolerance” was the only thing that came up. The doctor explained that sometimes my stomach was fine with dairy, but that other times I reacted extremely to it. Happy that (so we thought) the culprit for my stomach pain was gone, I now had to get used to the idea that I had to cut dairy out of my diet.
After a few months of trying to continue to eat dairy with Lactaids (bad idea), I decided to cut it out of my diet completely. It was definitely a big change — a lot more foods have dairy in them than I thought — but I was feeling a lot better.
A few years later, I forget that I used to miss eating dairy. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with IBS, a stomach condition that also forces you to restrict what types of foods you eat. I cut gluten completely out of my diet (I have a gluten sensitivity, not celiac disease) about two and a half months ago, and I’ve felt a huge difference.
If you’re thinking about dairy and gluten free, here are a few tips:
- Coordinate with your family or school to make sure options will be available for you. Let others know (politely, of course!) of your dietary needs before eating out or eating with company if need be.
- Find “Safe” Foods One of the biggest adjustments of going GF and/or Dairy free is learning to find “safe” foods while eating out or with company. It IS possible, though! As a backup, clean foods like salads are usually always available.
- Educate yourself! Some foods that may seem “safe” can prove to be otherwise (for example – many soy sauces have gluten!) There are myriad websites and food stores that carry information and products suited to GF/dairy free lifestyle. Try Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s (or your local supermarket’s GF section — many are starting to pop up) and blogs like http://glutenfreeegirl.tumblr.com/
- STICK TO IT! Cheating can make you feel sick or derail your new dietary lifestyle.
- Plan ahead – If you know you’ll be going out with friends for the day or on a trip where some GF/dairy free snacks may not be available, plan ahead! Pack some bars, juices, or other snacks! (one of my favorites are pistachios)
- Find Favorites – It’s important to find some “go-to”s in your diet that work well with your stomach (especially while training). Some of my favorites are below!
Stick to it! Eating clean makes you feel a lot better — with added energy, boosted mood, and overall better health. It helps a lot with training, too — no more stomach aches and diet-related fatigue during workouts.
More on this soon (and on GF/dairy free race nutrition).
Have you ever considered a GF/dairy free diet? Do you already eat this way?