Living Gluten-Free as an Athlete [Guest Post by @LCCotter]

Today I’m excited to have gluten-free expert and blogging buddy Lindsay Cotter here on I’m not gluten-free myself, but I’m sensitive to gluten and have started reducing it. Take a look at Lindsay’s in-depth knowledge about how to work around gluten!


G’day! I’m Lindsay (aka James wife) from Cotter Crunch. I am a gluten-free blogger, pro triathlete’s wife (aka the Sherpa), nutrition manager, and yada yada yada. So many titles, should make for some interesting posts, right? Well, for the most part.

Actually, the majority of my posts are about our gluten-free lifestyle and recipes. You see, a few years ago I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. This little issue changed our diet dramatically in the Cotter household. Little did we know how much it would actually change it for the hubs’ training and racing as well (and for the better).

cycling cotters

So here I am today, wanting to share with all you athletes out there, the benefits of a gluten-free diet. Should you go gluten free? Is it hard? I think everyone should give it a try and see for themselves.

Let’s get started, shall we?

To start off, what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a form of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. These proteins are found in the endosperm of wheat, rye, and barley. The glutenin is what gives these type of flours the elasticity in their dough and makes them all warm and gooey.  The bad thing is that this protein is usually pretty hard to digest and for a lot of people it can cause a harsh reaction in the digestive system. Ya, bummer!

Celiacs are those actually diagnosed with a genetic disorder and are highly allergic to gluten.  This can cause several digestive problems and lead to malnutrition and malabsorption in the intestines. Others might develop a gluten “allergy” or “sensitivity” which can have several of the same symptoms of a celiac (fatigue, inflammation, abdominal bloating, diarrhea/constipation, etc.) yet the effects are not necessarily as damaging or pervasive. Allergy suffers can probably handle a gluten every now and then, Celiacs cannot! For more on this topic feel free to read HERE.

So what if you’re an athlete and you think you have a gluten sensitivity? How would that affect performance?

Athletes need EXTRA nutrients in order to fuel and recovery properly, right? But what if your digestive system was not absorbing these nutrients? You’d probably feel pretty crappy despite the number of calories/ratio of macronutrients you were taking in.

According to Dr. Wellingtons article on, gluten-free diets do have some advantages for athletes:

1. With gluten removed, the body’s immune system can rest and absorption can be restored. The body can then function at optimal levels and repair muscles more efficiently.

2. The hypoglycemic effect that results from intense exercise is minimized.

3. A gluten-free diet helps to maintain a stable blood sugar level during exercise, which is optimal for an increase in muscle strength and stamina.

Sounds pretty good to me! But the question still remains…..what the heck do I eat?? 

My suggestion………..


Simple gluten-free eating

  • Focus on fresh vegetables, fruit, starchy vegetables (like squash, sweet potato, etc).
  • Look for certified gluten-free breads, cereals, pastas, oatmeal, granolas.

Gluten-free products

  • Focus on the other grains (gluten-free grains) – brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, teff, sorghum, corn (corn tortillas), millet, amaranth. (You can find a lot of these grains and flours in the bulk sections as well.)
  • Dig the fat – nuts and nut butters, avocado, oils, flaxseeds.
  • Pump up the protein – Quality protein such as organic meats (watch for deli meats with added starches and nitrates), fish, eggs, naturally fermented tempeh, etc.
  • Be sure to read labels. Especially on condiments. They can sneak in words like wheat starch, rye, barley, and malt syrup.

Okay okay, so now we’ve covered the basics. But what about when it comes down to training/racing and those post race refreshments?

This is where it can be tricky. I like to bring my own food just in case. Like a Gluten-Free Bagel and chocolate milk or COREPOWER. But here are some other choices that might be available at the finish line or post ride.

  • Gluten-free energy/protein bars (Lara bars, Perfect Foods bar, the protein Honey stinger bars, KIND bars)

Lara Bars

  • Dried fruit, fresh fruit, trail mix, fruit roll ups, fruit leathers
  • Natural sports drinks, fresh juice, lemonade, milk, chocolate milk (OR even better-COREPOWER)
  • Tacos with corn tortillas (black bean, veggie, or beef/chicken/ egg cooked in natural oil or butter)
  • Natural potato chips or tortilla chips
  • Pickles (love that sodium fix)
  • Smoothies with fresh fruit and/or natural yogurt
  • PB and banana Sandwich with a GF bagel or bread.
  • Phew, I think that’s about it for now. If you need any more recipe ideas, just visit my recipe page on the blog. Lots of good choices, and even some homemade GF energy bars or feel free to check out my HEALTHY BITES or ebook!

Healthy Bites

So what do you think? Is Gluten-free living for you?




Being that I am gluten intolerant, I choose to live Gluten Free for my health. These are just my suggestions from what I have gathered along my GF journey.  If you think you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, my best advice would to seek a professional or ask your doctor. (Feel free to email Lindsay with questions at cottercrunchathotmaildotcom!)

… Thanks Lindsay! Be sure to also check out my article on Lindsay’s blog, Motivation Monday: 5 Ways to Get Better Results from Strength Training.

About Lindsay

Howdy from Texas! I’m Lindsay Cotter from I have passion for triathlon and supporting her husband, James Cotter, in his professional triathlon career. My blog subtitle pretty much sums up what I write about à life as a pro triathlete’s wife, nutrition manager & fitness consultant and instructor, kombucha lover, and wannabe wino who has a joyous passion for GLUTEN FREE cooking! I should also add in there “Sherpa wife.” Oh and when i am not doing that, I’m making Healthy Bites, my gluten free small business.

Where to find Lindsay?

This article originally appeared on

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  1. Maybe. As a type 1 diabetic with thyroid issues, celiac disease could be on the horizons. Definitely working on reducing my gluten load.

  2. Great guest post!
    I have been reading so much recently about the benefits of not eating gluten. I am always looking for more research so this post came at a great time!

  3. I am trying to reduce my gluten as I think it contributes to my migraines, but I love bread and pasta. Thanks for the post and sharing your tips, I will definitely implement them into my diet!
    Toni @ Runninglovingliving recently posted..An “Almost” Winter ColdMy Profile

  4. Thanks for sharing these practical ways of living gluten free. I don’t believe I have a sensitivity to gluten, but I have been trying to reduce my grain intake overall and focus more of my diet on vegetables, fruits, and high quality protein sources.
    Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout recently posted..My Year in RunningMy Profile

  5. I have been gluten free for well over a year now and it has changed my situation dramatically. I no longer have the inflammation in my ears that caused dizziness and balance issues – and now I can do Pilates and yoga which I had to give up for that reason.

    Great to see you here today, Lindsay!
    Elle recently posted..Coming into the Home StretchMy Profile

  6. I should tell you that I mentioned you both on my last blog post!
    Elle recently posted..Coming into the Home StretchMy Profile

  7. Loved seeing you here Lindsay!!!!! 🙂
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted..Giveaway winner, Bananas & Balls!My Profile

  8. Lindsay, I really appreciate these tips. Been having health issues lately and I believe a growing sensitivity to gluten is at least part of that and know I just feel better, mentally and physically, when I avoid gluten. I’m also a “sherpa” – my husband started competing in Ironman races last year – and look forward to sharing this great info with him too. Thanks!
    Shira recently posted..Is holiday baking shaking up your healthy habits?My Profile

  9. Love this post! I don’t have any gluten sensitivities or allergies, but have friends that do and knowing another resource to share with them is great. I see that it can make life seem limiting and clearly it is not. I actually use a lot of the same sources for refueling after running. 🙂
    Jenn Speer recently posted..Four things that might be hurting not helping your fitness journeyMy Profile

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