Why Are Carbo-Loading Olympians Giving Up Gluten?

Jul 24, 2012 3:01 pm

Some of the world's top athletes shun bread, pasta

gluten athletes
Photo: punctuated on Flickr
Bread and pasta: no longer part of the Olympian diet?
 

Yes it's true, some Olympic athletes are giving up the carb-dense staples of bread and pasta that can make up several thousand calories of their intensive training diets. Why the circumstantial gluten freedom? 

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has famously led the way for other athletes to question whether they too are vulnerable to the mild-to-severe wheat intolerance that grows higher across the population each year. Olympic runners Amy Yoder Begley and Andrew Steele believe that their gluten-free diets help them reach their peak performances — and if runners, who go through some of the most rigorous calorie-torching this side of the Thames, are shunning some of the best-known sources of quick-burning energy, there must be something to it. Scientific evidence is not one of those things, however.

Nutrition guru and author Dr. Andrew Weil says on his website, “I know of no evidence confirming this kind of diet leads to all the health benefits being claimed for it these days – everything from relief of other autoimmune disorders to osteoporosis, arthritis, depression and indigestion.” 

But world champion swimmer and gluten-free advocate Dana Vollmer became a spokesperson for Crunchmaster, a brand of certified wheatless crackers, just a few weeks ago. Requiring many thousands of calories beyond the 2 grand or less mere mortals are limited to, Vollmer (who, again, is a world champion swimmer) would definitely know whether a gluten-free lifestyle is worth the extra effort and increased cost. She missed out on the last Olympics back when several plates of spaghetti fueled her butterfly stroke.

In a nutshell, the hard-hitters giving up gluten aren't the badminton players. Weigh in — would you give up the easiest, cheapest sources of energy for good in order to potentially outperform your personal best? 

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