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What Gluten-Free Athletes Need to Know

July 5, 2012

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Thanks to recent media hype, the gluten-free diet has become a prominent fixture in today's culture. It was created for those who suffer from celiac disease, a condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged in a reaction caused by eating gluten. A person diagnosed with celiac disease must eliminate gluten from his or her diet, because damage to the lining of the small intestine reduces the absorption of nutrients, which leads to overall poor nutrition and lack of energy. Athletes who struggle with gluten sensitivity may experience bloating, abdominal distress and severe fatigue during exercise. Since many common fiber and carbohydrate sources contain gluten, athletes who want to remain gluten-free need to take extra care to plan their meals to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of needed nutrients.

Gluten is a protein composite typically found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Even nominally gluten-free grains may contain traces of gluten due to where they were packaged. So, to make sure you are actually eating gluten-free, it's important to read labels and use trusted brands.

Gluten-free athletes can also experience difficulty when eating out, due to cross contamination.

The gluten-free diet includes:

• Whole grains and carbohydrates such as rice, corn, flax, quinoa, millet, potatoes, buckwheat, and fruits
• Protein sources such as meat, poultry, seafood (all without breading), eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds
• Healthy fats such as vegetable oil, flaxseed, tuna, salmon, nuts and seeds

Since going gluten-free eliminates many refined, high-glycemic carbohydrates from a diet (leaving room for more whole foods), some athletes are transitioning to the diet without an actual medical diagnosis. There is no medical reason to go gluten-free unless you are sensitive to it; nevertheless, gluten-free athletes are usually pleased with its results, because certain substitutions they make are boosting their energy levels.

If you suffer from this condition, check out Gluten Free RD for gluten-free brands, recipes, and more information.

Topics: DIET
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
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