Yesterday was a pretty long email… and today I want to touch on nutrition (so it may get a little long again.. but it is needed). An area many people struggle with, but today I’m not going to focus on when to eat for performance or what you should and should not be consuming in a race.

No, today I’m going to discuss who foods can create intolerances and then associated major systems such as debilitating muscle pain, sub-optimal recovery (if true recovery happens at all) and even disease like arthritis.

I want a touch on a couple of stories… one is mine and one is an athlete of mine and in both cases the solution was nutrition. Back in 2005 I was out for a run with Charlotte and we were heading to Centennial Park. I didn’t even make the park (and we only lived less the five minutes from ‘Fox’ gates entrance.

Within a couple of hundred meters I went from normal running to having immense pressure in my left shin. I can only describe the feeling as getting a pump with a needle attached and pumping in air into my lower leg. The pressure was intense as was the pain.

A limp home and then a number of attempts to release it and test running again ended up with me getting some no fun tests. It was thought that I had compartment syndrome (you don’t want surgery for this). The testing for this is running on a treadmill with loads of needles stuck into your legs and running till the pain comes on so they can test the pressure. Yes a lot of laughs there. The positive was that the test showed up negative.. the negative was nobody had an explanation for what it was or could be.

So no running until I could figure it out. Charlotte was training for Busso and since we had some race day and training nutritional woes with her, we where playing around with a few things. She had been tested for celiacs disease which came up as negative but she was laying off things like dairy and grains to see the difference in symptoms if any. So I played along and also took grains out of the diet.

Race day came and Charlotte got 2nd and I was pretty motivated.. so I tested running the next morning on that Busso foreshore. 1km, 2km 3km .. no problems.. oh this feels good. I went on to run 16km .. ecstatic would be an understatement.

But I hadn’t put two and two together as to why. The ah ha moment would come a little later. We went the day after awards on a long haul flight to the UK. A few days later I was excited to go running again. I made it about 1km! Same symptom and no idea why.

What changed? It was so glaringly obvious. My diet. Charlotte was in post race celebration mode and it was time to let loose. I let loose on the foods and I paid the price.

I had never had problems with eating grains etc before. Hell, I had done so all my life with no ‘know’ ill effects (that I had put together). But here plain as day there was a problem and the problem was fixed by removing the cause from the diet.

Then earlier this year one of my athletes Kirsten had muscular issues that became quiet debilitating (in her quest to find an answer she even had an overweight doctor tell her that maybe all this exercise wasn’t so good for you.. yep and they’re people that the masses listen too). So I have asked her some questions about it below.

KG, earlier on in the year you were dealt with some pretty harsh muscular pain. Can you describe it, when it came on and how long it lasted for?

After taking some 3 weeks down time following IM Brazil in early June, I returned to training on the 1st July (off TS programming). The goal event was the Coastal Classic (1st Sept) , a 30km trail run through the Royal National Park (NSW). Just something to keep things ticking over during the winter months.

I started back aiming to do 4 short runs for the first 2 weeks. Following my first two runs (we are talking approx. 5km slow) I pulled up really sore – literally within 20-30min post exercise – which then over the next 24 hours went on to become what I would describe as a severe episode of DOMS.

Seriously I was in a lot of discomfort and it hardly made sense considering the level of activity. But I had experienced something similar following my return post IM Melbourne so didn’t read too much into it assuming it would pass. I was wrong. The cycle of discomfort post exercise continued for the entire training phase for Coastal Classic, some 6 or 7 weeks. I would find myself arriving for each session still significantly sore from the last, spend the warm up moving quite gingerly – once moving it would improve/disappear and I would be able to get the run session done fine – but again within 20-30min post exercise I would be sore again.

Whilst it wasn’t ideal I just seem to roll with it hoping it would pass. I ceased doing weight training during this period thinking maybe this was contributing to the ongoing discomfort (I’m not new to weight training – have been doing this regularly for the last 6 years).

It got to the stage where even my colleagues at work would make comments regarding the way I was walking & suggesting I was perhaps overtraining… maybe I needed a rest? Seriously? This was the least amount of training I had done for 12 months – heck I even gave myself rest days??? It was 2 weeks prior to the Coastal Classic that I experienced my most severe episode – following a 22km trail run I was basically on the lounge for the rest of the day. I decided to back off the training for the next few days and only did minimal until race day. Surprisingly I had a reasonable run on the day – but again suffered post event. I was due to go back on program with Kristian the Monday post Coastal Classic and dropped him a line advising that we may have to put things on hold for a while – as I
explained to him what had been happening.

I know for the most part you were /are diligent in doing the self massage with the TPPT tools, but unfortunately this didn’t seem to be working and we needed to look at other avenues such as nutrition. Before we get to discussing the nutrition aspect, you spent some time and money getting tested and seeing various doctors. What did you get tested for and what information/advice did you come away with?

You are right – usually I am quite diligent in doing the self massage but to be honest, for the most part it was just too uncomfortable to contemplate. Following the Classic I did arrange for some testing through the NSW Institute of Sports Medicine – hoping to shed on light on my issue. I spent in excess of $500 on numerous tests – from Vitamin D deficiency, anaemia, electrolyte imbalance, thyroid function, kidney function, viral infection and a host of others – none of which returned any abnormal findings. Apparently, my case was ‘perplexing’ and maybe just maybe an age related issue??? Seriously? At 45 an age related issue? Already? I definitely thought I had a few good years yet.

You made some nutritional changes as an attempt to rid yourself of the muscle pain. What did you do? What was the hardest part?

Then along comes Kristian with several suggestions – one of which was trying a change in my diet. Would I be prepared to go gluten free for 4 weeks and see if it makes a difference?

I was a little hesitant, why would this work? I was tested and I’m not gluten intolerant. But I did go gluten free for the 4 weeks and have to say that the muscle soreness significantly reduced during this period. So much so that Kristian had me back training consistently although at reduced intensity and muscle load. What was the hardest part? Definitely giving up BREAD, reading every food label & making suitable choices when eating out.

From your feedback over the past month everything looks to be going in the positive direction. No more extended muscle pain just the expected normal amount. Have you kept to the eating protocol?

I agree, the last month has seen plenty of positives. I’m now back training regularly and the muscle pain is no longer taking centre stage.

Have I kept to the eating protocol? Almost! I have generally continued to follow a gluten free diet with the exception of some bread (usually Sourdough) on weekends.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sometimes ideas can come from left field!

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So what does all this mean? I believe we can reach a certain threshold in our body where we don’t feel any real noticeable impacts and then the proverbial straw breaks the camels back. So all of a sudden we have a toxic level of maybe a specific gluten in our bodies and our body screams enough is enough and gives us a response to try and stop us from continually feeding the machine (we just don’t know how to listen). I know when I changed my diet for a good few months everything felt better and symptoms disappeared. The same has happened for KG. Now she has put some sourdough back into her diet and maybe after
clearing herself of some toxic buildup, her body may end up tolerating it as it’s probably accounts to less than 10% of her total weekly meals.

But it may not .. and the choice between debilitating pain and going truly gluten free would be pretty easy.

The diet I recommend KG to go on was by a doctor friend of mine Dr Peter Osborne who I’d say is the authority when it comes to TRUE gluten free eating. Last week I did an interview with Dr Peter and am waiting for him to send me the recording. Once I have it I will post it on the blog because he covers some really good points and how the testing we get can provide false negatives. The main tests really on test for celiacs which is only one strain of gluten sensitivity. There are many more. We also discussed going on a true gluten free diet as an endurance athlete as getting the right amounts of fuel in is crucial.

If you cannot wait till the interview, you can check out the Gluten Free Solution here and Dr Peter Osbornes website Gluten Free Society.

Any questions let me know.

Kristian “making you healthier” Manietta

PS. I mentioned yesterday about a coaching opportunity for Ironman Melbourne. I had someone ask, what about IM NZ. Yes I can provide the same opportunity for NZ but you’ll have to move quick as there is only 18 weeks left. We would need to get cracking. Send me an email as I have a few open spots left.

PPS. TSU .. it’s so close and I’m pushing hard to open the doors. Lots to do but doors should open Thursday 1st November.