Gluten has become the modern day villain with report after report of why it’s terrible and poisonous to your body. Well, there’s a little bit of truth to it, but news reports tend to leave out that it’s really bad for those with gluten sensitivities or allergies; autoimmune disorders, and other specific diseases. For the general population gluten is just another delicious addition to your favorite floured treats.
What the Heck Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite that is found in wheat, spelt, rye, and barley, and consists of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin (most people’s issues are with the gliadin). When any of these grain’s flours are mixed with water, gluten creates a sticky network of proteins; this reaction is what makes bread rise. When gluten reaches the digestive tract, that’s when the real party starts. Gluten is exposed to the cells of the immune system, it then mistakenly believes its coming from a foreign invader, like bacteria, and the bar fight begins; glass bottles over heads, broken chairs, the whole bit.
The Gluten Wars
For the reasons explained above, many people that haven’t been diagnosed with a gluten issue have chosen to rid their bodies of what they believe to be a terrible addition to their diet. Not so fast. As someone working towards a healthier lifestyle, if you’ve been seen by a doctor who has confirmed you’ve no issues with gluten, you need this puzzle piece to complete your overall nutritional intake. Eliminating gluten is not a panacea; if you’ve taken out gluten and eat crackers, muffins, and the like, are you really doing your body a service?
So, some athletes will attest that they feel better without gluten, and that may be true for those who have a gluten sensitivity whom haven’t been tested to confirm it. It may also make sense if you’re not sure whether you have gluten sensitivity. However if you lay off the stuff for two weeks and don’t notice major improvements in digestive problems, fatigue, foggy head, etc., you may want to add it back in.
A small, recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise had a group of 13 competitive endurance athletes without gluten sensitivities follow a gluten-free diet for a week. The following week, some of them were given gluten-free bars while others had bars with 18 grams of wheat added in—none of them new which bars they were eating and they looked and tasted identical.
Afterwards, researchers noted that there was no significant difference in performance—or in gastrointestinal issues during exercise (adapted from mensfitness.com).
The Bottom Line
Everyone reacts to all foods differently. Eliminating gluten may not be in your best interest; or it may. The important step to take if you suspect food sensitivity is to see your doctor. If you already know what foods you can and cannot have, let us know when you set up your workout regimen. We will tailor your exercise based on your goals and sensitivities as well.