Can Gluten Affect Sports Performance?
It sometimes feels you can’t go more than a day or two without seeing “gluten-free this… gluten-free that”. Where has the popularity come from? And will being gluten-free help improve your sports performance?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein which is found in wheat, rye and barley. It is commonly found in bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes and sauces (among other things!).
Whilst for most of the population there is very little evidence to indicate that gluten causes problems, for some individuals it must be completely avoided. These people are those with coeliac disease, which is a medical condition where the body has an immune response to gluten. Consumption causes significant damage to the gut, increases risk of iron deficiency and osteoporosis and usually results in high levels of fatigue.
Some people are gluten-intolerant, which means that they can have some gluten, but can only tolerate a small amount.
What does gluten have to do with sports performance?
Very little, unless you’re coeliac or gluten-intolerant! A recently study from Australia looked at if there were any benefits to sports performance being on a gluten-free diet. Outcomes showed a negative, unless of course the individual should’ve had a reduced dose, or shouldn’t have been eating it in the first place.
What happens if I don’t eat gluten?
For people who don’t need to avoid it, being gluten-free doesn’t really matter all that much, as long as carbohydrate choices remain healthy; wholegrain, minimally processed choices that don’t contain tons of added sugar, salt or fat.
A recent study showed that people on gluten-free diets may actually have increased risk of diabetes, which can directly be attributed to the fact that many supposedly healthy, gluten-free products are actually incredibly unhealthy due to processing methods and what is added in to them.