Gluten Free Gold Medals

by jthorburn on March 9, 2010 · 1 comment

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What does the Garmin-Transitions pro cycling team use as a staple of their diet when they are stacking up wins? The traditional answer may be wheat, or more specifically gluten, but according to Men’s Journal, gluten could actually be counter-productive. In the hands of Dr. Lim the team has decided to go a more outlandish route and has completely rejected the idea of gluten laden diets. If this sounds crazy to anyone, be relieved to know it sounded even crazier to the team. “Their first reaction was, ‘What? No! We can’t race the Tour de France without pasta,’ ” Recalls Garmin’s CEO Jonathan Vaughters. But in the end, any team member will tell you – it works.

Other than the many people who have allergies or Celiacs disease, which you can learn more about at Web MD, the rationale is that humans don’t have the proper enzymes in their saliva and stomach to fully break down and absorb gluten, and it serves no nutritional purpose for us. As a result, during the last phases of digestion, gluten goes into the small bowel in large pieces – this can be unhealthy. Some side effects of gluten can be bloating, stiffness, and gastrointestinal distress. On top of these digestive problems, new studies are even showing that gluten may even be causing infertility!

Traditional thinking is that since wheat is a great source of carbohydrates, the primary source of fuel for exercise, then it must be the perfect food to consume for physical trials like the Tour de France. Dr. Lim however, feels that the relief of the negatives wrought by gluten far outweigh the positives. The teams leader Christian Vande Velde agreed by saying “I just had all-around better digestion, and digestion is the biggest thing in utilizing the energy I consume.”

Lim Didn’t cut carbohydrates, just wheat. Glutenous foods like spaghetti are a more traditional meal for atheletes due to its cheap price at high volumes. This was replaced by carbohydrate filled foods like rice, oats, and corn. The team ate eggs and poultry for protein, and vegetables for vitamins.

By avoiding the unhealthy side effects of gluten the racers on this diet actually raced better, and felt healthier as Tom Danielson, a racer for the team, noted, “My performance really improved a lot – there was definitely a correlation”.

If you are trying to become more informed on your own personal nutrition and nutritional needs, find a doctor near you to help.

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