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Great North Run 2011: Pasta Parties can Slow you Down PDF Print E-mail


Great North Run 2011:  Pasta Parties can Slow you Down

Column #127, 3rd September 2011

In a previous Special Report (The 3 Biggest Mistakes Runners Make) I discussed the myth of carbohydrate loading with pasta parties.  This is all but guaranteed to slow down 80% of runners and yet this archaic strategy is still endorsed by many runners, coaches and organisations.  Today we go into much more depth.

I’ve spent the last 10 years studying nutrition and human function from the likes of Charles Poliquin, Paul Chek, Bill Wolcott, Dr Tom O’Bryan and Jeffery Moss and all have some degree of focus, guidelines and caution related to gluten and grains.  In addition all share in one way or another an individual-specific approach to optimal nutrition.  I have learnt that there is no one-size-fits-all diet out there and that the advances in human biochemistry and physiology are just as important as keeping it simple and getting the basics right.

Instead of getting caught up in fad and extreme diets you can become enlightened and realise that it is 100% about you and what food you do well on.  The only catch is that this means that you need to raise your awareness and consciousness around your food.  Pay attention to what you do well on and what you don’t do well on.  Does the food you eat increase and sustain your energy, lift your mood and satisfy your hunger?  If not, then that’s a pretty good indication that your body does not consider it nutrition.

This relates to the popular runners’ strategy of Carbohydrate-Loading and Pasta Parties.

The sports nutrition method of carbo-loading is not in the dock here.  The ability to build more energy stores before you embark on an endurance event is definitely part of the package………..but is Pasta the best way to do this?

In short, one of the most significant changes you could make to your diet could be to completely eliminate Gluten.  This might rock a few worlds and shake a few foundations but that’s what change usually does.  Latest research indicates that sensitivity to gluten could affect up to 80% of the population (O’Bryan, 2008).  The inflammation caused by gluten sensitivity can impair digestion, reduce energy levels, lead to nutritional deficiencies, cause degenerative diseases and be the origin of joint and muscle pain.

Does any of that sound familiar?  Just consider for a moment how much that could impact your running performance, not to mention health.  The idea that pasta should be consumed in great amounts is largely based on it’s carbohydrate content.  The idea that we can only generate energy from carbs is just simply incorrect and bad science and if you still want to apply the principle of carbohydrate-loading then there are many natural sources available in abundance in the form of fruits, vegetables and high-quality supplements.

This step could literally revolutionise your performance.  Remember you don’t need to (and in fact shouldn’t) take my word for it.  Just listen to your own body.  If you take enough interest in what its trying to tell you, it’ll let you know.  Give it a go and eliminate gluten from your diet for 3 weeks.  Keep a food and performance diary and when you reintroduce it, you’ll soon find out if you do well on it or not.  This will feedback some information, but it is not diagnostic and you should consult you health practitioner before making any changes.

What is Gluten Sensitivity / Intolerance?

Warning:  At points we might get a bit technical….but it’s all important stuff and worth learning in layers.

Reactions to foods differ in allergy, intolerance and sensitivities and the same is for Gluten.  Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is an inability to digest the protein portion of grains including wheat, barley, rye, oats (contaminated), spelt and kamut. For those who are gluten sensitive these grains may cause an autoimmune response in the gut, leading to experiencing constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, headaches, and fatigue.  None of which will promote your running performance.

Gluten sensitivity gradually wears down the micro villi hair like structures which line and protect the gut wall. Food sensitivities can then develop as food particles pass through and into the blood stream causing an immune response resulting in further sensitivity symptoms.

Gut bugs (infections and parasites) can now also cause damage as they inhabit the gut wall. This damage can result in food sensitivities and systemic inflammation.

Here are 3 interesting facts that Dr Tom O’ Bryan (the world’s leading expert on Gluten) shares;

  1. Gluteo morphins stimulate the opiate receptors in the brain, which produce endorphins. These endorphins create an addictive dependency on the very food that is causing your pain i.e. Gluten.
  2. Just 1mg of Gluten (that’s around 1/8 of your thumb nail) is enough to initiate an immune response from your memory B cells which remember the Gluten structure and stimulate an immune response for 60-90 days.
  3. Gluten sensitivity can cause cross reaction with other foods such as coffee, chocolate and potatoes

Below you will see a long and varied list of potential symptoms of gluten sensitivity.  Here’s why:  Gluten is made up of two molecules called Gliadin and Glutenin.  For a long time it was believed that the immune system response to the gliadin protein, results in damage to the gut, but recent research suggest that even the glutenin protein is a culprit.  This means that the intestine cannot absorb nutrients efficiently leading to negative affects on health.  Due to the fact that this environment is one where bad bacteria, parasites and infection thrive, Leaky Gut Syndrome may occur.  Now small particles of food leak through the intestine to the rest of the body.  The body then produces an immune response to these roaming proteins, which may lead to an autoimmune reaction, where the body begins to attack itself.  These problems may lead to the following symptoms:


* Weight loss or weight gain

* Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron levels

* Gastro-intestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)

* Fat in the stools (due to poor digestion)

* Aching joints

* Depression

* Eczema

* Head aches

* Exhaustion

* Irritability and behavioural changes

* Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage

* Cramps, tingling and numbness

* Slow infant and child growth

* Decline in dental health

Sources of Gluten

Well of course we are concerned with the wheat and Gluten content of pasta and bread that are on offer at Pasta Parties, but check out the wild and wonderful sources of Gluten out there.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale. Oats may contain gluten if cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains, so are not recommended unless certified as glutenfree.   There are a substantial number of foods, food additives and non-food items that also contain gluten that are expanded upon if you sign up to the program.

Gluten’s 9 Major Impacts on Running Performance

You can probably already hazard a guess at a few and if you want further information on how Gluten really impacts on your performance then the sign up to the Full Program and receive the Special Report in Week 11.  Here’s a sneak peak:

  1. 1. The Feel-Good Factor.
  2. 2. Osteo-Arthritis.
  3. 3. High Stress, Low Recovery.
  4. 4. Thyroid health.
  5. 5. Brain Function.
  6. 6. Autoimmune Disease
  7. 7. Menopausal Symptoms.
  8. 8. Body Composition.
  9. 9. How much is too much?

You’ve probably noticed that this topic is not just about Pasta Parties and Carbo-Loading and is much more far-reaching.  This information impacts our health as much as it does our athletic performance.

Steps to Take

  1. Don’t wait until the week of your race to find out what works for you.  Test it out and note your responses.
  2. Remember this is about individual nutrition.  You may not be sensitive to gluten in any way.  This information is not diagnostic and you should contact your health practitioner before making any changes.
  3. An Elimination Diet involves removing the specific food from the diet completely for a period of time and then reintroducing it in the future, checking for responses.  You could try eliminating all gluten containing foods for 90 days.
  4. Identify and Eat Right for your Metabolic Type.
  5. Follow my Foundation Principles to Health.
  6. Reintroduce gluten and monitor reaction, physical, emotional, cognitive etc…
  7. If you really want to know, you need to do a lab test.  This will identify whether your body is sensitive to Gluten.

Great North Run Training 2011

These tips are perfect if you are training for a half marathon such as the Great North Run in September 2011.  Each week will progress your running fitness towards your goal and help prevent injury.  The daily tips are free to follow on Facebook (Running Conditioning) and there will be free Special Reports to download during the program.


90-Day Running Conditioning Program

Free Daily Conditioning Tips for all FB Fans

First 50 People get 50% off.

Great North Run Conditioning Facebook Page


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Jack Walton
Written on Friday, 02 September 2011 00:00 by Jack Walton

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