Any athlete — vegan, gluten-free, both vegan AND gluten-free, or even none of the above — should aim to fuel their body with healthy food choices to support optimal performance. Some of these healthy food choices are naturally gluten-free, while other snacks can be made gluten-free, no sweat (save the sweating for the workout)!
When preparing for a competition, practice, or workout, it is important for athletes to focus on fueling with carbohydrates and then recovering with protein and more carbohydrates. How much to eat before, during, after, and between activity depends on the size of the athlete, intensity and duration of the workout, and personal goals. So, even though an athlete may not be competing on a certain day, it is still important to choose healthy snacks to perform well at practice and be ready for the next competition.
The gluten-free lifestyle has grown rapidly in popularity, even among athletes. While some athletes boast of the benefits of a gluten-free diet, be careful and make sure to do your research before swearing off gluten if you don’t have an allergy, intolerance, sensitivity, or disease involving gluten. A wheat allergy is a classic allergy, most frequently to glutenin proteins (wheat gluten), but may also include gliadin proteins which are more severe allergens. Symptoms of a wheat allergy include tiredness, GI distress, asthma, and coughing. Similar to an allergy, a wheat intolerance is a reaction to a metabolite or ingredient of a food such as lactose, caffeine, gluten, etc. but an intolerance does not cause a histamine release unlike allergies. On the other hand, a wheat sensitivity is a reaction to a food component that is not allergic, pharmacologic, or autoimmune response. Symptoms of a wheat sensitivity includes abdominal pain, rash, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, depression, and joint pain. Separate from all of these conditions is celiac disease. Celiac disease is a reaction caused by activation of the celiac gene. This is an food autoimmune disease and not a food allergy. If you’re an athlete with any of these gluten issues (or are trying out the gluten-free lifestyle), it is obviously critical to find alternative, appropriate, and healthy snacks to fuel performance. So, read on for a list of some great gluten-free snack ideas with athletes of all kinds in mind:
Gluten-free or not, smoothies are an athlete’s best friend. They are easy to make, convenient for travel, a great source of fruits and vegetables, and a way to stay hydrated! The fruits and vegetables blended in smoothies are also the perfect source of carbohydrates to keep athletes ready for their next activity. Smoothies also are a good food choice for recovery as well– vegan protein powders mix in wonderfully. Not a fan of protein powder, though? No worries, check out this recipes for three protein powder free protein smoothies.
2. Nut Butter Sandwiches
There are some great gluten-free breads on the shelves now but OGP also has awesome recipes to make your own delicious gluten-free sandwich bread. Spread on your choice of nut butter (almond butter is a favorite) to make a nice little sandwich with healthy fats and plant-powered protein.
3. Raw Fruit and Dried fruit
When prepping for a competition, snacking on fruit is the way to go to fuel your body with carbohydrates. Both fresh fruit and dried fruit are simple, easy, smart snacks. In fact, one small box of raisins includes a whopping 34 grams of carbohydrates to energize you to play your best. Try packing trail mix as your next pre-game snack!
4. Chips and Dips
Packed with protein, flavor, and healthy fat, hummus is a tasty and satisfying snack to munch on after competing. Experiment with these variations of traditional hummus: oil-free kale edamame hummus, and roasted red pepper hummus. Try spreading these delicious dips on corn wraps or pair with fresh cut veggies or veggie chips. Pop this snack mix into a portable container, and you’re doing grab-and-go at its finest.
5. On-The-Go Waffles
Plan ahead and next time you’re making waffles in the morning, make an extra large batch and freeze the leftovers! A waffle recipe like this mango gluten-free one (with no added sugar!) is a great one to take advantage of around game time. Pop a frozen waffle in the toaster a couple of hours before it’s time to hit the field, gym, or court. For a heartier snack, spread on some almond butter and you will be good to go.
Muffins are also great grab-and-go snacks for athletes as long as added sugar is limited. Try these healthy quinoa, apricot, and oat muffin clusters. Gluten-free, vegan athletes can’t go wrong with adding quinoa to their diets, especially when they’re in an awesome muffin form.
7. Power Bars/Balls
OGP has a ton of recipes for power bars/protein balls/energy bars– whatever you want to call them, these recipes all offer gluten-free carbohydrates and protein to keep athletic performance at your best level. Try any or all of these power biscuit bars, superpower bars, crunchy raw vegan protein balls, and no-bake superfood energy bars
8. Gluten-Free Granola Crackers
Gluten-free raw vegan granola crackers?! Yes, it can be done. Just because you’re gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this old faithful snack that is perfect for active people! Check out an idea for this masterpiece of a snack.
9. Chia Parfaits
Add chia seeds to your favorite vegan milk and let the mixture sit in the fridge for a few magical minutes and then you have yourself the perfect base for a fruit parfait. Add in your choice of fruit and nuts for a healthy snack. Need ideas? Whip up this blueberry variation for breakfast before your game!
10. Chickpea Creations
Chickpeas should be the gold standard of a vegan gluten-free staple. There are extremely versatile, whether blended for hummus, grinded down to flour, made into crackers, or roasted by themselves. These chickpea and sesame crackers are a great post competition snack; trying dipping them into some fresh salsa! The salt from the crackers will replenish lost electrolytes while the protein from the black beans in the salsa (and the protein from the chickpea flour!) will aid in muscle recovery. Another athlete-worthy chickpea snack is roasted chickpeas. Check out this recipe for savory smoky chickpeas!
What are your favorite ways to snack as a gluten-free or gluten-light athlete? Any great on-the-go snacking ideas we haven’t covered here? Let us know!
Image source: Crunchy Raw Vegan Protein Balls