Does cutting gluten turn an athlete into a gold medal Olympian? Maybe.
The “gluten-free diet” has found another stage to make its presence known, the Olympic podium. Several athletes are being reported to have dropped gluten as they trained for this year’s summer games. One athlete who has seen results is U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer.
Vollmer competed in the 2004 Olympics and missed making the team in 2008. She attributed many health issues to her failure to make the team. One of those issues was her stomach aches. After much research, it was determined that she had a gluten intolerance and she’s since gone gluten-free. Vollmer has given many interviews explaining how her new diet has helped her feel better and leaner in the pool.
Obviously she’s feeling real good — she won gold in the 100-meter butterfly this week. Not only did her time of 55.98 get her the gold, it broke the previous record time of 56.06.
Vollmer followed up her record-breaking gold medal performance with another amazing performance – her relay team took the gold in the 4×200 freestyle. Again, not only did they win, they set a new Olympic record.
It’s been a fantastic Olympic experience for Vollmer, no doubt. So, it begs the question, did dropping gluten play a role in her success? Certified Nutrition Specialist and Health Fitness Instructor JJ Virgin believes that athletes are given a huge advantage when they go on a gluten-free diet.
Virgin has worked with many pro athletes including the 1992 Olympic swim team. She has just written a book regarding food sensitivities, scheduled to come out this fall.
When asked what benefits athletes gain from getting rid of gluten, she had a lot to say.
“Going gluten-free reduces inflammation, boosts immunity, reduces gut permeability, increases nutrient absorption, increases nutrient availability (since you’re likely to choose nutrient-rich foods rather than nutrient-empty gluten foods), keeps you lean (less processed carbs), and gives you balanced blood sugar levels (no spikes and crashes of carb loading). Many athletes eliminate fatigue, mental fog, joint pain, and other issues that stall performance when they ditch gluten.”
These elements clearly describe why any athlete may want to go gluten-free. In Dana Vollmer’s case, she’s got two gold medals to remind her of the power of a gluten free diet.
image via USA Today