Food-sensitive Triathletes, rejoice!
We’re in the heart of triathalon season, and for people way more motivated than I am, these past several months have involved a grueling regimen of running, biking and swimming in preparation for insanely difficult events that start and finish before most of us even wake up.
When you’re training at a very intense level every day of the week for long periods of time, nutrition is key. Peak performance will depend on replenishing your muscle’s stored energy (carbohydrate, in the form of glycogen) for tomorrow’s training, and getting enough protein to replace the amino acids you may have burned for energy and that you need to repair the inevitable wear-and-tear on your hard-working muscles. What’s more, timing is everything. After training or an event, experts recommend consuming a food or drink with a carbohydrate:protein ratio of 3.4:1 within 20-30 minutes for maximum uptake by the muscles.
I’m told by sports nutritionists in-the-know that low-fat chocolate milk is currently all the rage, as it naturally contains the perfect proportion of macronutrients for recovery. Fat-free greek yogurt also fits the bill.
But what do these products both have in common? That’s right: lactose.
Many races also provide bagels with peanut butter at the finish line. Which certainly does no good for triathletes with celiac.
Alternatively, many athletes turn to powders marketed as “recovery drinks.” These recovery drink powders almost universally use whey protein concentrate (WPC) as the protein source. Depending on the quality, WPC can be anywhere from 29%-89% protein… and the less protein it has, the more lactose it will have. Which means that products made with WPC may contain a hefty dose of lactose, and can wreak havoc on a lactose-intolerant athlete’s GI tract during the next day’s run.
What’s a lactose-intolerant, gluten-intolerant triathlete to do?
I recently had the good fortune to meet a registered dietitian who is a prominent sports nutritionist here in NYC, and I posed this very question to her. She pointed me toward a recovery drink called Recoverite, which is marketed by a company called Hammer Nutrition. It’s gluten-free and it contains whey protein isolate (WPI) instead of whey protein concentrate (WPC). WPI is 90% protein, which means it contains a negligible amount of lactose, and should be tolerated by most people with lactose intolerance. (But it’s still NOT appropriate for people with an actual allergy to milk/dairy.) Most of the carbohydrate in this product appears to come from maltodextrin, which is an easily-digested starch that, in a gluten-free product, will have been derived from corn. The product comes in two flavors (Strawberry and Citrus) and contains the recommended ratio of carbohydrate to protein. My inside connection recommended making a drink and freezing it the night before a race, and taking it out the morning-of to thaw; by the time you’re done racing, you’ve got a nice, cold shake ready to go. Now for a full-disclosure: I have never actually tasted this product, so I cannot vouch for its palatability. The company also makes “Hammer Bars” that are gluten-free, dairy-free, preservative-free and organic to boot, in case you’re in the market for an energy bar that fits that bill.
Of course, if you can tolerate lactose, I’d always recommend choosing the real food over the supplement drink… so give the chocolate milk or greek yogurt a try! And if you can tolerate gluten, the bagel with peanut butter is a fine choice as well. But if you’re intolerant to both, it’s nice to know there’s an option B.
Another tip I gleaned is that athletes should find out in advance what their race will provide by way of post-competition food & drink. It pays to plan ahead so that you’re not caught at the finish line with nothing you can eat or drink.
And finally, the most important training tip of all: training time is when you should be experimenting with your nutrition strategy… figuring out what foods and fluids at what amounts at what times are best tolerated and provide you with maximum energy. Race day is NEVER the time to introduce a new regimen.
Now get out there and represent us well, ye gluten-and-lactose-intolerant-athletes! I’m going back to bed.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.