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For endurance athletes, carbo-loading on pasta and bread is as much a part of their sports as spandex and heart-rate monitors. The best part may be that Garmin's wheat-free diet is moderate, a tool for periods of intense exertion rather than a permanent exercise in deprivation. A number of professional triathletes, including Simon Whitfield, Tim O’Donnell, Tyler Stewart, Heather Wurtele and Luke McKenzie, have experienced health and performance benefits from a gluten-free diet. With celiac disease (a more extreme case of gluten intolerance), the intestines not only have a decreased ability to absorb nutrients, but the gut becomes permeable, allowing food particles into the bloodstream and triggering an inflammatory response.
If you decide to go gluten-free, don’t worry—contrary to some thinking, you won’t be missing out on the carbs you need for training. If you’re dealing with gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, cramps, constipation, bloating, gas, etc.), you may have a gluten intolerance. The most practical way to discover gluten sensitivity is to eliminate it from your dietВ  for several weeks and see how you feel and perform. Pip Taylor is a professional triathlete, a sports nutritionist and is currently completing her master’s degree in dietetics. Whether or not adopting a gluten-free diet affects athletic performance hasn’t been adequately studied to draw any concrete conclusions. If an athlete experiences GI symptoms during an endurance session, it is important to investigate other potential culprits in addition to (or instead of) gluten. Ultimately, a conscientious and nutrition-savvy athlete could successfully adopt a gluten-free eating plan to meet nutritional needs.

While gluten can be poison for a person with celiac disease, for most everyone else gluten itself is not inherently unhealthy. Natalie Digate MuthContributorNatalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAP is the Senior Advisor for Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, and ACE Certified Health Coach. But going wheat-free is not like going on the Atkins diet, which famously instructs people to cut most carbs out of their diets in order to lose weight.
Many athletes who stop eating wheat, despite having no real problem digesting gluten, still experience weight loss and performance and digestion benefits from inadvertently dodging other dietary pitfalls. There are some commercially available gluten-free and even grain-free nutrition bars (check out Larabars, Clif C Bars, Bonk Breaker Bars and Picky Bars, among an ever-expanding list), plus most sports drinks and gels are gluten-free.
Gluten cannot take all the blame though, as many of these symptoms may also be signs of other food intolerances or conditions. Each athlete must weigh what is known about eating for optimal athletic performance with their individual experiences and discomforts during strenuous training.
Perhaps the best way for many people who do not have celiac disease to feel better, adopt an overall healthier way of life and achieve athletic gains is to continue to focus on minimally-processed foods (gluten free or not), eat a diet rich in wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables, and adequately prepare the gut for competition. Allen Lim, former exercise physiologist for the Garmin-Transitions pro cycling team, and Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin's founder and CEO, suggested the squad switch to a wheat-free diet, the riders thought they were crazy.
That's because, unlike cows, we lack the enzymes in our saliva and stomach to fully break down and absorb gluten for nutritional use, so parts of the protein just get smashed up before exiting to the small bowel in large pieces.
Athletes need carbohydrates, says Leslie Bonci, a sports dietitian for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Even without a positive diagnosis or intestinal damage, gluten sensitivity is becoming more widely recognized, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe throughout the entire body (see below for symptoms).
If this is coupled with an underlying intolerance to gluten or other components of grains, then the symptoms may be compounded. In addition, starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and squash are great gluten-free, nutrient-dense options. Some people find they feel better when they eliminate gluten even if they don’t have a diagnosed intolerance.
With scientific evidence lacking, the success (or not) of a gluten-free diet in improving athletic performance is theoretical and anecdotal. A registered dietitian with a focus on sports nutrition can help you adopt a well-designed and individualized gluten-free eating plan to fuel optimal health and athletic performance. Because gluten sensitivity is linked to many health conditions, you might be surprised to find you feel and perform much better. Nonetheless, if you are contemplating going gluten-free because you’ve heard it will improve your performance, first make sure that you understand the implications. The only definitive treatment for celiac disease is strict avoidance of gluten-containing foods.

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