Amy Keller, MS, RDN, LD, is a dietitian and celiac support group leader from Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Q: I have set a goal to run my first half-marathon. I’ve been eating gluten free for about a year, and I’ve been a runner for about three years. Is there anything special I need to do with my diet to start working toward my race?
A: Congratulations on setting such a healthy resolution. Gluten-free runners have the same requirements for good nutrition as those who eat gluten, although it can take extra planning. While you’re training, make sure you eat a balanced diet, with plenty of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Many runners find that they gain weight when training for longer races, so be mindful of calories, even if you feel like you’re exercising a lot. During training, experiment with how you plan to fuel during the race. Runners often rely on carb gels or chews for energy—many are gluten free, but still check the label to be sure. Carb gels can also be upsetting to a sensitive stomach, so try out all fuels during training. Never wait until race day to try a new gel or chew.
On the days leading up to your race, take in extra carbohydrates to store in your muscles. You’ll sometime hear this called “carb loading.” While most runners do this with pasta, runners who are gluten free can accomplish it with other carbs, including rice and potatoes. Don’t forget to hydrate before and during the race, and just like with fuel, practice this during training. Getting dehydrated can increase your risk of an upset stomach or cramps.
For more advice from our experts, check out these Q&As:
Making the Gluten-Free Diet Work for You
Packing a Gluten-Free Emergency Kit
Preventing Gluten Cross-Contamination in Medications