The SCD Athlete

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Exercise During the Early Months on SCD

In the early months of the SCD diet, your digestive system will go through an important reconversion from being driven by (bad) bacteria feasting on nutrients that they were not meant to have back to a proper, healthy digestive system. Nutrients should normally be processed by the digestive enzymes produced by your body. Your intestines (small and large combined) are 25 to 30 feet long, the width of many a house. That is a lot gut to convert and heal and the digestive system requires a lot of energy when it goes through this vital conversion. During that time, it is important to take it slow and conserve energy. Elaine counseled that exercise should be limited to walking and avoid strenuous exercise in the early months.

Getting Back Into Athletic Activity

Each person has an individual pace of healing so there is no rule here. Listen to your own body and each of you will know when you can resume the vigorous activities that you enjoyed before you got sick. Start slowly and build up gradually. Cut back if it is too much at first. Give the digestive tract first priority. You will get there. Some will feel their old energy or even more energy as early as in six months. For others, it may take longer, perhaps a year; however, sooner or later, your old zing will return.

Below, some of our experienced SCD athletes share some of their tips about being active while on SCD. You will find these ideas helpful no matter what your level of activity. There are persons on SCD who are: highly competitive, serious athletes; committed recreational athletes; those who like to keep in shape and those who just like being an active, healthy person.

We all know that exercise is very beneficial to our health.

Preparation and Training

Whether or not an athlete is on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, as part of their training regimen, all athletes must take care of their bodies. They know that the best performance comes from to being in the best shape for their sport. Proper conditioning also means avoiding post event injury. In addition to training and conditioning, and staying flexible to avoid muscle cramps, it is equally important to eat properly, get sufficient rest, take the right supplements to avoid deficiencies, stay hydrated and maintain balanced electrolytes both while training, at the event and afterward. This is true for everybody.

Lisa posted - I would like to echo what my coaches and team always reminded me of when I was training for my marathon. You need to get healthy to run. You do not run to get healthy. Running, especially at a competitive athletic level is extremely hard on a person's system. You should be supplementing, eating and sleeping appropriately too. You can probably endure the lackluster symptoms you may have now, but your body might be trying to tell you something. Listen carefully.

The challenge for SCD athletes is that most commercial athletic products allegedly for athletes such as Gatorade, sports energy bars, etc. contain lots of impermissible SCD ingredients, in particular, sugar. Also, the traditional "carbo loading," that traditional spaghetti dinner on the night before the marathon, could make most SCD athletes so sick that they would have to drop out of the race. To add to the confusion, there is also lot of false information about what is really good for athletes driven by advertisers who sponsor athletes to promote their sports drink or sports bar or other food product.

The SCD athlete, just like the SCD traveler must plan ahead. The SCD athlete cannot rely on foods and drinks provided by others at an event without making special arrangements. SCD athletes may be "low carb" athletes, not they are not "no carb" athletes. With some diet adjustments, using SCD specific carbohydrates, SCD athletes can compete effectively. The SCD athlete simply has to substitute SCD permissible carbohydrates and fluids. SCD athletes can and do run marathons or bike centuries (100 mile bike trips).

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is key. It is important to replace the fluids and salts lost in sweat. The salts are commonly referred to as electrolytes. Those on SCD cannot use ready made commercial sports drinks as the commercial drinks are full of sugar. The solution is to drink E-lyte or ELETE. These are drinks with electrolytes and nothing else. They are sold as concentrates. For example, a 20 ounce bottle of E-lyte will make 2.5 gallons of finished drink (that is 40 - 8 ounce drinks). Electrolytes can also be added to soups or stews. Electrolytes are absorbed into the body very fast to quickly replenish and re-balance the body. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are the primary ingredients in electrolyte drinks.

If E-lyte is too expensive or unavailable here is a recipe to make your own electrolytic drink. In a quart of water, dissolve 1/4 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. For flavor, take about a cup of the Knudsen's Just Juice or use 2 tablespoons of honey. (Warning -- honey and baking soda fizz when mixed and that is okay.) This should be kept as cold as possible and discarded after 24 hours. See Sports Drinks for more suggestions for making your own electrolytic drinks.

E-lyte is sold by Body Bio Both E-lyte and ELETE are available on E-lyte and ELETE are also handy for the fluid requirements of colonoscopies. See Medical Procedures and Hospital Stays. If you find the taste a little flat, see Beverages for suggested flavorings.

Muscle Cramps

Magnesium is an important component of electrolyte drinks because magnesium is the key to stop or prevent those dreaded muscle cramps. Muscular action is a cycle of contraction and relaxation. Cramping results from too much contraction. Magnesium helps muscles relax because it encourages potassium to enter and relax the cells. Calcium is at the contraction side of the movement cycle. Calcium encourages sodium to enter the cell, causing contraction.

Bob posts that in the biking and Iron man (triathlon) world, it is falsely thought that calcium can be used for electrolytes. He finds it amazing how many ambulance and hospital personnel are misinformed on this point. Cyclists even eat Tums for the calcium; however, calcium is used by the muscles to contract. The fact is, taking in extra calcium may facilitate cramping. Magnesium is needed to relax the muscles. The Swiss Alpine club members know this and use magnesium all the time for soreness.

After the race, Bob writes that an epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) foot bath is really great. Apparently the effect of the epsom salt is not diluted over the whole body, but concentrated in the feet and can sometimes feel more powerful that way. The salt drains toxins from the muscles that built up in the race.

Note that magnesium is one of the key components in electrolytic drinks.

Sports Energy Bars

Almost all commercial sports energy bars are of no use to those on SCD as they have non-permitted ingredients.

There are recipes in the http://health,groups,yahoo,com/group/BTVC-SCD archives on making your own SCD sports bars but there are easier ways to achieve the same thing. Marilyn suggests that it is just as easy to take two pecan or walnut halves, put those around half of a pitted medjool date cut length wise and wrap in some plastic wrap.

You can also mix some nuts with honey in a small plastic container and bring a spoon. Alternatively, bring some small packets of honey and some nuts.

A banana with a handful of almonds is a "no work," high energy, satisfying, nutritious energy bar equivalent. Although not in bar form, a banana comes in its own handy wrapper and is much cheaper than commercial energy bars.

Another easy high energy snack is to make some trail mix. Mix almonds, raisins, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, etc. in a plastic bag.

A frequent question on http://health,groups,yahoo,com/group/BTVC-SCD is about Lara Bars. Just reading the ingredients, Lara Bars would seem to be okay but many SCDieters have reported problems with eating them. The problem may be that there are unallowable ingredients that are used as processing aides or unallowable ingredients that are too small to be required to be listed or it may be the sensitivity of particular individuals.


Angela posts - I ran the Nike Marathon back in 2005. It is definitely a challenge because you really have to take in a lot of calories. I used Coconut Water to replace the non-permissible Powerade/Gatorade drinks. {Wiki Editor's note: While there is some controversy on this point, per the Wiki Editors' board, coconut water is not permissible on SCD. Coconut water is the juice that comes from the center of a coconut. The coconut water available to buy is all from young, green coconuts. SCD requires eating only ripe fruit based on the chemical changes that occur during the ripening process. In contrast, coconut milk is made from blending the meat of the coconut and water and then straining out the pulp. Coconut milk is SCD permissible.}

You need to replace your electrolytes, especially during summer training. There have been studies done with endurance athletes (cyclists) and there are better results with the plain electrolytes rather than the so-called sports drinks, mainly because the potassium and sodium content closely resemble that of the human body.

Angela maintains her energy during training or an event by using packets of honey instead of the Power Bars and Gummie Bears that others snack on. (To purchase honey in convenient portions for running or travel, go to and enter "honey packets" for the Kraft brand 9 gram soft squeezable plastic packets of honey or Kraft brand one half ounce honey cups with peel off tops. Go to for Smuckers' brand one half ounce cups of honey with peel off tops sold in quantities of 200 packets per box.)

Angela continues - There is actually no strong scientific evidence that supports carbohydrate loading helps with endurance events. I am a medical librarian and have actually researched this. So really you just need to eat a lot and often to replace your calories. Before my long runs, I would usually just eat Welch's grape juice jello, watermelon, and sometimes a smoothie with SCD yogurt. Post workout I usually have bananas and eggs. Post workout, it is important to get some protein into you. Most marathoners (not on SCD) have digestive issues during their race. I never did. I think it was because on SCD, I had to eat simple foods rather than the complex carbohydrates, so my body easily and completely digested my food.

Biking and Skiing

Bob posts - My wife and I workout almost every day, running (in the winter, bicycling in summer) and sometimes strength training. Next weekend we will be going to an avalanche/free ride ski camp in the central Alps. I will rely upon (ripe) bananas, dates, raisins, and little almond cakes made with honey and dates. Without grains I cannot get any explosive energy but then again, I'm 60 and at my age our explosive ability wanes and our endurance improves. I have to rely upon a lifetime of skill development just to stay up with the young guys. But the good news is that when my body began cleansing itself from the undigested food and toxins the bad bacteria make, my muscles got stronger. I am much more flexible now and my balance has improved.

Dave posts what he brings on his long bike rides. Before I go I load my water bottle with Knudsen's Just Juice (the brand is SCD permissible) with about 20% juice, ice and water 80%, and an SCD permissible electrolyte supplement ELETE (see above). The electrolyte supplement contains the minerals we need for hydration and nothing else. As you can see, I have made an awesome SCD permissible equivalent of Gatorade. I take a very small bottle of the ELETE concentrate with me (they sell a very small bottle that I refill from a larger bottle). When I refill the water, I still add the electrolytes. I bring SCD permissible carbohydrates: medjool dates, dried apricots and a few very ripe bananas. I mean very ripe. So ripe they might look very bad. This took me through the 100k and I only took two bananas.

Day Hiking

Wendy posts - Hikers need high energy, easy to carry foods and plenty of water to be consumed throughout the day. This is not only to maintain energy and health but to prevent the biggest danger to hikers, hypothermia. Hypothermia is the inability of the body to maintain its internal temperature. A dangerous aspect of hypothermia is that the condition also adversely affects a hiker's ability to make rational decisions leading to bad choices on the trail.

A bunch of small snap lock or screw cap plastic containers are handy to prevent any leaking in one's back pack. Popular SCD foods to bring along: a nut bread sandwich or two, SCD crackers, cooked meats, ripe bananas, pieces of SCD permitted cheeses, hard boiled eggs, plenty of nuts, fruit - either cooked or, if you are able to tolerate it, dried or raw. A plastic bag full of dried apricots or/or raisins mixed with nuts is a popular hiking snack along. Hikers talk about carrying GORP. GORP means "good old raisins and peanuts" but you can use almonds, cashews and raisins, etc. Customize your GORP to what works for you.

Wendy created a quick way to have a substitute for the standard trail lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when she did not have nut bread on hand. Take three tablespoons of almond flour, an egg, a tablespoon of water and a generous squirt of honey and beat all in a shallow bowl with a fork. Pour mixture into a small non-stick skillet greased with a little butter or PAM. When it is cooked on one side, slide onto a large plate to flip it over to cook the other side. Let it cool on a paper towel, cut in half. Spread peanut butter on one half. Put halves together and take it along. It has just the right sweetness.

You can bring some yogurt with you. If you freeze a serving, beforehand, the probiotics will still be fine and you can eat it at lunch. Since the weight you carry is important in hiking, lugging around a lot of ice or blue ice gel is not useful for most of us. What you do need to carry is a lot of water, a quart per person at the very minimum and two quarts is better. Carrying the water is heavy enough without adding ice packs.

There are recipes in the http://health,groups,yahoo,com/group/BTVC-SCD archives on making your own SCD sports bars; however, it is just as easy to take two pecan or walnut halves and put those around half of a medjool date cut length wise. You can also mix some nuts with honey in a small snap locking container and bring a spoon.

To be sure you have enough food and drink for the day. It is better to take too much food and water than too little. Allow for the fact that the hike may take longer than you anticipated. Hiking needs energy. It is important to eat small amounts throughout the day and stay hydrated.

An drink with electrolytes is a good idea too (see above).

Overnight Back Packing

Some of the day hiking foods above are too perishable to last after the first day. Since light weight, easy to carry and stability without refrigeration are key, SCD back packers might want to get a dehydrator and focus on that side of SCD cooking. SCD permissible beans could be prepared, cooked, dehydrated and then re-hydrated on the trail. SCD beans can be the substitute for the traditional hiker staple of pasta. Also, you could make your own beef and turkey jerky, SCD crackers, banana chips, apple chips, vegetables, etc. Lots of nuts, dried fruit and cans of SCD allowable tuna fish and salmon. A loaf of well cooked nut bread would also work well and would last a few days. Hikers work up an appetite and they need lots of calories. If you need probiotics, they should be taken on the trip in capsule form. Taking some electrolyte concentrate along would be a good idea.

With a dehydrator, one can prepare several weeks of dried meals the way Melanie Black ( did for her son Jacob's camping trips. Note than many of the foods on her list are very advanced.

In Summary

It goes without saying that any ingredient that you are planning to use should be thoroughly tested to see if it is well tolerated by you before the hike or the race. Listen to your body and do not push it beyond what it can handle. Get back into your activities gradually and soon you will be able to do all that you did before - maybe even more.

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