Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gluten-Free Diet for Stamina and Performance

Gluten-Free Stamina in Sports

If you are looking for a way to gain a performance edge over your competition (sports) would you consider adopting a gluten-free diet to achieve added stamina, endurance, and excellence?  Well, it sure sounds like some professional sports stars at the top of their game are now playing under the influence of a gluten-free diet to gain a competitive edge.  And, I am quite serious about this.

Gluten-Free Wins Wimbledon 2011

In a recent interview with NPR (National Public Radio), Mr. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated was discussing the Serbian professional tennis player, Novak Djokovic (the player that just won Wimbledon 2011), and how Mr. Djokovic attributes much of his on-court success to going gluten-free!  Seriously!

If you are not a tennis fan, Novak Djokovic has risen to become king of the court lately, winning 48 of 49 matches this year so far. He has taken the number one tennis player position from Rafael Nadal, another very accomplished player.  And, how did he do it?  Well, certainly he has a lot of skill, but he also has adjusted his eating habits...

When Mary Louise Kelly (NPR host) asked Mr. Wertheim about Novak's fitness regime, she posed an interesting query: "I understand he's [Novak Djokovic is] on a gluten-free diet"... to which Mr. Wertheim responded as follows (quoted from the interview on NPR):
It's been a very bad year for gluten in tennis. All the players are going to want to do this now. But you know, it's funny because a year ago if we had this conversation, people would say, oh, Djokovic, very talented player but we question his stamina. And now the stamina's really one of the strengths of his game. And he [Djokovic] said, look, I've cut these glutens from my diet and it's made all the difference in the world
And you know, some people are having a - if you'll pardon the pun - a hard time swallowing that explanation, but the proof is in the gluten-free pudding. I mean at some level he's really shown it on the court, that he's had much better lasting power than he used to have. And it's hard especially in tennis, 'cause you go to these players' lounges and the only thing they have to eat half the time is pasta and carbs. So you know, I'm not sure how easy it is to be gluten-free, but he [Djokovic] really says, look, that's been the key to my successes here.

Professional Sports: Gluten-Free Future?

You just can not ignore press like this.  And, who would have guessed a professional athlete would voluntarily adopt a gluten-free nutrition plan for working out and achieving top performance?  Like the SI person said, "all the players are going to want to do this now [i.e., try a gluten-free regimen in hopes of obtaining similar performance gains and stamina]".  Really, what do they have to lose?

Sure, the athlete may have to stop eating mounds of "normal" pasta, pizza, breads, and such, but I think that any professional athlete willing to train at the level they do to compete worldwide at the upper reaches of any sport is also willing to adhere to any diet that may give them an edge.  So, perhaps gluten-free foods are the future "secret weapon" (or not so secret) of performance enhancing diets for professional athletes.

One way or the other, it sure makes for interesting news for all of us that must live by a strict gluten-free diet due to Celiac Disease or other allergies and/or dietary restrictions.  I personally find new like this fantastic for all of us as it brings more attention to gluten-free foods and nutrition in general, and makes some people simply ask: "what is gluten-free?"  Now more people will certainly know the answer as they start reading about it

Introduction: What is Gluten-Free?

If you happened across this article and are interested in adopting a gluten-free diet, here are a quick few bullet-points to help you see what all you have to change (with regards to your food list and eating habits) to join Mr. Djokovic in his pursuit of stamina:
  • Do not eat wheat or wheat-derived products (generally) - this means no whole-wheat flour, no "white flour" (which is wheat-flour without the bran), no semolina pasta, no "normal" breads, no spelt (still has gluten)
  • Do not eat barley and its derivatives (like barley malt for example); thus, "normal" beer is out of the picture too - sorry.
  • Do not eat rye
  • Do not eat oats, unless "certified gluten-free" (i.e., free of cross-contamination)
  • Instead you will have to rely on alternative gluten-free grains, flours, meals, like those that follow (of course, you need to adjust the following list based on any additional allergies and dietary requirements you may have)...
  • Eat Buckwheat (pure buckwheat that is; not some "buckwheat pancake mix" from the store that contains wheat-flour!)
  • Eat nut meals like almond meal, chestnut, walnut, or coconut flour for example
  • Eat flax, amaranth, teff, millet, and chia-seed
  • Eat soy, chickpea (garbanzo), lentils, lupin, and other bean-flours / proteins
  • Eat quinoa : it is wonderful :)
  • When you need basic starches, you can eat sorghum, corn starch, rice flours (including white, brown, glutinous rice / sweet rice / sticky rice), potato starches, tapioca starch
  • And, like any good diet: eat plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits.
OK, time to get started with that stamina-inducing gluten-free diet! Keep the normal rules of proper balanced diet in mind and track your total carbs, protein intake, and fats... and get busy exercising.  In the end, let's hope we all can enjoy some competitive edge and stamina-boost from this diet (for those of use for who it is mandatory or otherwise).

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.


Beaglebea said...

Very interesting..I wondered what their secret was.

Cole said...

When I started eliminating gluten from my diet I noticed a difference not only in my body, but also in the activities I participated in. I felt less bloated and lighter on my feet. I imagine, that would be a huge advantage to any professional athlete. I foresee many other athletes following as they're always looking for a competitive edge.

Ray W. said...

I am 57 and was riding my road bike 30-40 miles a week,but fighting leg cramps after 10 miles.Going gluten free haven't had a muscle cramp in 2 years.Two medical doctors told me I would just have to adjust to getting older. I refused ,researched and found simple solution to muscle cramps,joint swelling, and pain.Feel great,lost 20 # which I needed to lose and still enjoy good food. Ray