Now a days, gluten free diets are gaining insane popularity even among people who don’t have Celiac disease. Is it something that all athletes should take part in? Or will it hinder their performance on the big race day?
Gluten is found in many foods including rye, oats, wheat, malt and barley. Eating gluten free is essential for athletes with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Individuals with either disease can experience constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramping, bloating, and malabsorption (not the most fun thing to experience while on a run…believe me, I know). However, eliminating foods that include gluten may help prevent these symptoms.
The most important thing to remember if you are making the switch is to eat a healthy gluten free diet! It means paying constant attention to what you eat. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, rice, quinoa and nuts are just a few ways to faze gluten out of your diet. I try to stay away from too many of the processed gluten free products on the market since they are typically higher calorie than their gluten filled counterparts (and more expensive). But when a craving comes for pasta, I am happy there are gluten free options out there.
All runners know they should increase their carb intake prior to a long race to help keep their energy levels up. Normally, this gives athletes the opportunity to chow down on a big bowl of spaghetti the night before a marathon or Ironman. But, will swapping your carbs for gluten free products help boost your performance? Sadly, there is no found evidence that proves eating a gluten free diet will increase your athletic performance if you do not have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. However, if more people eat an increased amount of fruits, vegetables and ancient grains and less processed foods, they may be pleasantly surprised.
I tell my clients to stick with what works for you on race day. You don’t want to start an unnecessary gluten free diet and end up restricting yourself too much. This will lead to fatigue and hindering your race performance. Getting caught up in another fad diet is not the way to go. Gluten free living should be left to those who medically need it.