Gluten Free Tips From a Coeliac Runner

Gluten Free Tips From a Coeliac Runner

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  June 6, 2017


Around the time I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in 2007, I took up running. Over the next few years I took part in a couple of 5K and 10K races, and my training of a few short runs a week remained consistent. All this meant that I didn’t really consider how I fuelled my runs – I was eating a healthy, gluten free diet, with lots of meat, fish, rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, nuts and the odd glass of vino now and again just to make sure I was still enjoying myself.

But at the end of 2013, when I decided to enter the 2014 Chester Half Marathon, I realised that I needed to start taking my diet more seriously when it came to training. How would I fuel my long runs? What about post-run recovery? Reading Women’s Running, I started to look at the articles about nutrition a bit more carefully and developed some tips that have served me very well…

Fuelling up

I found GF porridge would fuel me well at breakfast for runs under an hour, but longer than that and it didn’t seem quite enough. After much experimentation, I found the perfect pre-run breakfast for me was two eggs, scrambled, on GF toast, a large mug of green tea, and an iron supplement and vitamin C to help my body absorb the iron.

The thought of using energy gels during runs really turned my stomach, and I had heard mixed reports about how sickly they are, and how for some, they can cause an upset stomach on the run. I didn’t want to risk being caught short during the race, or worse still, not even being able to finish. So I looked into alternate options.

How to eat gluten free during a run

It was basically trial and error as I upped the mileage during training. Once I was over the 90 minute run, I started to take out various GF nutrition bars – Nakd and 9Bar were the ones I used most, but both were quite a struggle to eat on the run. I wasn’t
used to eating with my mouth open whilst gasping for air as I struggled along the miles. One day I went out with some dextro energy tablets and started scoffing them about half an hour into my run. By the time I got back almost two hours later, I felt really tired, and a bit woozy. What was going on and how was I going to make it round the course?

The night before, I took the advice of a seasoned half marathon friend who said meatballs were the answer, so, kindly, my husband served me up a massive plate of homemade GF meatballs with GF spaghetti. Delicious!

Trial and error

I decided to hedge my bets for race day and take a couple of Nakd bars and my energy tablets. As race day dawned, it was set to be a sweltering day, and the weather didn’t disappoint. I had never run in such heat! Consequently, as I started to eat my Nakd bar at 30 minutes in, I realised that I was struggling to eat and feel comfortable, I was just too hot and nervous, so I had to think up a new plan, and fast. At the next drinks station, I grabbed some water and took an energy tablet – I felt great. Could this work all the way to the finish line? At the next station, I had another bottle and another tablet – yes, this was working! I finished the half marathon in under my expected time, in crazy heat, and had fuelled it with half an energy bar, about five energy tablets, and plenty of water.

After finishing long runs, I try to have a mug of milky hot chocolate, a banana, sometimes some rice cakes with almond butter, or a GF bagel. And once the official race was over, a GF beer!

I’ve found most nutritional advice given in articles and podcasts can be easily adapted to a GF diet, and increasingly there seems to be a growing awareness about GF diets – always give yourself time to try out what works best for you, and if something doesn’t work one day, don’t worry, just try something different next time.

How to run gluten freeWant to share your perfect running recipe? Email us at [email protected] or talk to us in the comment thread below – we will do our best to get back to you soon. Follow us on twitter via @womensrunninguk You can find some ideas in our animated ‘Workouts’ section here.

Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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