It’s quite fashionable to be food intolerant these days, with an entire industry and subculture building itself around the recommendations of ‘holistic nutritionists’ who can supposedly diagnose food intolerance from eye colour and grip strength. The internet is filled with great writing and social commentary on the subject. Having said that, many people choose to avoid specific foods, such as bread, and feel legitimately better for it.
There are, however, a minority who have no choice in the matter; people who get pretty sick when they eat what most would classify as everyday items. One of their number, Joanne Hogan, is our interviewee of the week. Based in Girona, Jo is a professional cyclist with the Spanish Woman’s Team, Bizkaia – Durango. She has represented Australia in Europe for the last two years and, perhaps most importantly, has a history of embarrassing some pretty decent guys on the Hell Ride (the true global measuring stick of any cyclist).
Given there are an increasing number of people with similar allergies who want to perform athletically at a high level, we thought it would be interesting to hear how Jo deals with being a full time athlete while also being Coeliac and Lactose Intolerant.
Jo – you live two existences – one where you can control many of the variables of your training and diet (at home) and the other where you have little control of anything you eat or do (when you’re on the road with your team). How much of an issue is this for you?
I find it a pretty challenging part of competing and training overseas. When I left Australia to race in Europe this season, my bag was loaded with my regular race food, protein and vitamins. As I had only been to Spain once last year for a short tour, I wasn’t sure what sports nutrition products would be available locally. Luckily there is a health food shop located directly under my apartment. However, it isn’t as easy in other countries to find the balance between making sure you have enough with you, without being the person who always has the biggest bag!
Are some countries more difficult than others?
I have found the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Italy a little more difficult than Belgium, Holland and certain parts of Spain to find gluten free (GF) and lactose (LF) free products. Unfortunately I don’t have a nutrition sponsor and have to supply all my own sports nutrition products, so when I’m away and find a product I like I tend to buy out the shop! I also get things sent over from Australia.
You’re at home and can cook anything you want for dinner. Give us your top 3 GF + LF, athlete friendly meals.
1. Grilled chicken salad with lots of fresh vegetables and chick peas. The more colour the better! I usually dress my salad with a sprinkle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
2. Tofu and tempeh marinated in tamarind, honey and garlic with assorted steamed vegetables and depending on my training or racing schedule, some brown rice.
3. Red meat! I usually make a large batch of meat sauce with lots of vegetables (spinach, red capsicum, mushrooms) and beans and always have some in the freezer in case I arrive home late from traveling or am too tried to cook after training. I would usually have that with salad or brown rice.
What are your go-to easy meal/snack options when you’re traveling?
I am actually on the plane now! I then have to catch two trains. With me I have corn thins, fruit, boiled eggs, a nuts/ sultana mix and packet of tuna that I will add to a salad at the airport. I prepared for a big day of traveling! Making sure you drink plenty of water is also really important.
Is it difficult to find allergy-friendly food in Girona? Where do you shop?
There are several health food shops close by as well as the shop below my apartment, which is great. There is also a daily food market with fresh meat and vegetables that I go to at least once a week. I love the fresh seafood at the market, especially the salmon fillets! Food is very cheap in Girona in comparison to most other parts of Europe and Australia.
How has the way you eat evolved as you became more serious about cycling?
I came to cycling from a running background so nutrition has always been an important subject to me. I know my body pretty well now and what it needs, but I do find it difficult when I can’t get the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables that I would eat when I am traveling for racing. An example is a tour I did in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks ago. For a week I didn’t really have a fresh salad and limited vegetables. I have quite a bit of rice when I am on tour, as it is usually the provided substitute for pasta (which is the standard pre-race meal provided by the race organizers.) Pasta is big in Europe, LOTS of pasta! By the end of the week I definitely wasn’t feeling great. You have to be adaptable and as prepared as you can. Over-eating and over-fuelling your body is also something to be conscious of, especially on tours.
Tell us about how you fuel yourself on a big training day when you’re at home – say a 5 hour hilly ride?
Breakfast: Usually 3-4 pieces of fruit with a sprinkle of gluten free cereal or rice porridge. Also maybe a couple of boiled eggs or an egg white omelette.
During the ride: I love bananas so I would usually have a couple, a small bag of sultana/nut mix that I make myself, fruit/nut GF bars and/or a protein bar. I try to take more food with me than I may need, as it is usually difficult to find food when I am out training.
Immediately after: Coffee! 🙂 A protein smoothie, usually with protein powder, soy milk, yogurt and fruit. I would follow this up with a salad with fish or meat, omelet or stir fry that included some carbs and protein.
Dinner: Meat with salad and/or vegetables.
Part 2 to follow.