Finally it seems that athletes have become savvy to the benefits of a gluten free diet. As the general population has started to become more aware of the prevalence of gluten sensitivities and Celiac Disease, there has been a noted increase in the number of athletes turning to the gluten free lifestyle in an attempt to maximize their training and find greater success in their respective sports.
Among the most notable athletes making the gluten free switch are Raul Ibanez of the Philadelphia Phillies, Cedric Benson of the Cincinnati Bengals, and tennis player Novak Djokovic, the 2011 winner of Wimbledon who went on an unprecedented 43-match win streak. Most significant about their decision to go gluten free is the marked improvement in all three athletes after the switch.
For Raul Ibanez, the decision to eat gluten free was preceded by a difficult period of declining health and inconsistent play. Luckily for him, his gluten allergy was diagnosed before his symptoms grew more serious; since his switch to a gluten free diet he says he feels happier and healthier, which has translated to improved performance on the field. Just this Sunday versus the Pirates he hit two homeruns, had four RBI’s, and hit a walk-off double for the win. With his health woes behind him, Ibanez is starting to look like the player he was when he reached the World Series with the Phillies in the 2009 season.
Cedric Benson, who started his career on the Chicago Bears, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease shortly before getting released from the team after a series of lackluster seasons. After getting picked up by the Bengals in 2008 and switching to a gluten free diet, he significantly increased both his rushing and receiving yards, becoming a staple of the Bengal’s high-powered offense.
A year ago, Novak Djokovic was teetering on the brink of tennis stardom. That all changed this year, when he made the decision to go gluten free and burst into the top tier of tennis elites, beating Roger Federer and Andy Murray on his way to winning Wimbledon. Currently, Djokovic is ranked number one in the world according to the Association of Tennis Professionals. Djokovic’s success as of late has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the tennis world, leading to increased attention to the benefits of eliminating gluten from an athlete’s diet.
But what exactly, does a gluten free diet do to improve athletic performance? It seems that this improvement stems from the wider range of benefits acquired from going gluten free. By eliminating gluten from the diet, those with gluten sensitivities or Celiac Disease are free to live without the associated symptoms which range from everything from asthma to anemia. Even those without a gluten allergy have seen marked improvement in their lives after giving up gluten, possibly due to the trouble our digestion systems have when tasked with breaking down the difficult protein. Whatever the reasons might be, it’s clear through the success of athletes like Ibanez, Benson, and Djokovic that the gluten free lifestyle isn’t just a fad, but a way to significantly improve one’s life and athletic ability.
------------------- Author Information: Josh Ecker, Junior Editor, Glutenfreeworks.com Josh is a student of English and American Studies at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. Find him on Gluten Free Networks if you would like to talk to him about any of his articles.