Being Gluten Free is no longer a diet fad and has become a lifestyle change for many runners, Deepthi Velkur writes about what it means for you to go gluten free.
Gluten-free diets are gaining popularity among the fitness community. The effects of gluten-free diets may not necessarily provide the benefits many athletes hope will give them a competitive edge. Sports nutrition experts believe enhancing nutrition does not mean avoiding gluten – a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Here’s what runners need to know about going gluten-free.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a stretchy protein that is found in grains, especially in wheat. A vast majority of our gluten consumption comes from bread, pasta and baked goods. Other grains that contain gluten are barley, rye, and oats. You’ll also find gluten in ice cream, sweets, processed meats, alcoholic beverages and condiments such as soy sauce.
So should you go gluten-free?
Embracing the gluten-free diet is a medically necessary diet for individuals with celiac disease or related disorders. Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease, where the body starts attacking the lining of the gut when you eat gluten. However, there are several non-celiac athletes who have cut out gluten from their diet and claim to have far fewer intestinal issues when they run, and even say that it enhances their performance.
Now, there’s no medical evidence that proves going gluten-free leads to enhanced running performance, but there is evidence of the potentially harmful effects that gluten can have in some people, for example, gluten can cause inflammation and irritation in the intestinal lining. Statistically speaking, nearly 90% of distance runners suffer from some form of digestive discomfort mostly cramps, diarrhea and bloating during or after exercise – cutting out gluten may help this issue in some runners. Other amateur runners also report they feel less brain fog, less muscle and joint aches, better sleep patterns, and more energy levels when they cut out gluten.
Is the diet workable with the Indian food plan? Yes, says a qualified nutritionist Naini Setalvad “We have many substitutes like bajra, jowar ragi, rajgira, singhada atta, white poha, kurmura and sabudana,” she explains. Food grains such as soy, quinoa, corn flour, millet, arrowroot, amaranth and rice flours all go with the gluten-free diet. Nevertheless, she warns, “If you stop dairy, as an Indian, you would feel less full”.
According to Priya Karkera, a dietitian and nutritionist expert “Milk can be replaced with almond and coconut milk and quinoa, a cereal, can be used to prepare khichdi, upma, and kheer.
Grains are an important food source of carbohydrate, which runners require to boost their training and recovery. Runners going grain-free often develop symptoms of overtraining syndrome, including persistent exhaustion and deteriorating performance.
The final word
If you’re thinking of going gluten-free, the big question is can you manage one? There is no evidence to support that this diet boosts performance. When you cut out a large food group, including food with gluten, your compromising on your health and its nutritional balance. Always consult your doctor or a health professional before changing your diet drastically.