By Laura (The Gluten-Free Traveller)
Welcome to part two of Triumph Dining’s interview with Pete Bronski, coauthor of The Gluten-Free Edge. If you missed part one of the interview you can check it out here.
Let’s jump right back in..
You run ultra-marathons – what kind of gluten free snacks give you the energy required to run these sorts of distances?
While I sometimes have some Mary’s Gone Crackers or other gluten-free snacks in the pantry, most of my gluten-free snacks are either natural (fresh fruit, nut butters, etc.) or made from scratch at home. I do always like to have a little bit of high quality chocolate on hand. Also, this season I’ve had great success using First Endurance products for my hydration and nutrition. I use their Electrolyte Fuel System in my water bottle, and carry a gel flask of their EFS Liquid Shot while running. After running, I drink their Ultragen for recovery.
What do you eat whilst you’re training?
My diet while training is very straightforward. I try to eat a well-rounded diet balanced with carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. I don’t count calories or obsess over details. In a given week, dinners might include chicken tikka masala over basmati rice, a deep dish or grilled pizza with veggie toppings, sushi, meatballs over GF spaghetti with marinara sauce, and spiced pork tenderloin with grilled fajita veggies, salsa, and homemade corn tortillas. 4 or 5 days a week, I start my day with a fresh smoothie—beets, bananas, blueberries, spinach, kefir, and/or almond milk are common ingredients, plus whatever other fresh fruits and veggies we have in the house (not necessarily all at once!).
Do you have a favorite pre-race meal?
One that doesn’t make me sick. Honestly. I’ve had gluten cross-contamination the night before a race, and nothing is more disappointing than feeling like this event you’ve trained so hard for has been sabotaged at the last moment. Generally, my favorite pre-race meals are straightforward and easy to digest. I might opt for grilled chicken with a side of baked sweet potato fries. Sweet potatoes have become a staple of my diet this year.
Where is the most interesting place your running has taken you to?
There’s been no single most interesting place. A common thread to my trail ultra running has been the beautiful natural environments I run through. I think especially of the Hudson Highlands and Shawangunk Mountains in New York, and portions of the Rockies in Colorado. There’s nothing like being on an early morning 20 to 30-mile training run on a Saturday morning, and watching the sun rise from the top of some peak, whether it’s overlooking the Hudson River 1,000 feet below or standing atop a 9,000 peak outside of Boulder. There’s something about watching the mountains come alive – the animals appear, then eventually, the people, too, mostly hikers.
Certain races have also taken me to some pretty spectacular places. The Escparment Trail Run in the Catskill Mountains and the Virgil Crest Ultra in the Finger Lakes both have a unique charm.
How do you stay safe and avoid cross contamination when you’re on the road?
First, I bring a lot of my own food with me. Second, if I can, I like to cook my own meals—whether at a family member’s home, staying at a rented condo, or in a hotel room that might have a kitchenette. Lastly, if I must eat out at a restaurant, this is not the time to gamble on a place I’ve never been. I stick with trusted restaurants where I’ve never or seldom gotten sick: PF Chang’s, Outback steakhouse, Chipotle.
What advice would you give to athletes who are considering going gluten free?
If you have a gluten-related condition, then going gluten-free is a no-brainer. Your athletic performance will almost certainly improve. If you’re considering trying the gluten-free diet for a performance edge, consider this: at least initially, commit fully to the diet. Don’t just go low gluten. Eventually, you can make a personal decision about how strict you want to be with it, but until you know how your body and your performance responds, give it an honest try. Go strictly gluten-free for at least two weeks. Maybe even keep a food journal. See how you feel. Perhaps do the same thing while re-introducing gluten, continuing to keep the journal, and see if you feel different going back on it.
Most importantly, no matter what your motivations for going gluten-free, it is not hard. You have plenty of wonderful food choices, and a ton of options for carbs, if you want them (sweet potato, white potato, rice, corn, quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, tapioca, etc….) As sports physiologist Allen Lim—who’s worked with pro cycling teams—says in the book (I might be paraphrasing slightly here), “If we can pull it off in the midst of the Tour de France, anyone can.” And you’ll find gluten-free athletes excelling in a wide range of sports—they’re proof positive that being gluten-free and being an elite athlete can go hand-in-hand.