The gluten free triathlete

There is a lot of talk today about different types of diets that claim many desirable health benefits.  The two most popular I hear about are the Paleo Diet and Gluten Free Diets today were talking only about Gluten free diets. Before you go head over kilt into something, I feel it is best to understand what you are going into and for what reasons. You need to understand if you need to be Gluten Free?  What being Gluten Free means? Why you would want to be Gluten Free? Also what are you going to be losing by going Gluten Free?

Gluten is everywhere?

Gluten is the major protein that is found in wheat products such as breads and pasta. The Gluten Protein is found in the wheat seed and is approximately 80% of the protein found in whole wheat products. The Gluten protein has elastic properties that give the desired doughy texture to the products it is found in.  The Gluten protein can also be refined in a wheat mill and used as an additive in many manufactured food products because of its elasticity characteristics, availability, and low cost to refine.


Gluten Free or Not?

There are truly only 2 reasons why a person should be gluten free and hundreds of reasons why people actually choose to be gluten free. The first reason is Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease effects about 1% of the population comprised predominantly of white American women in their mid to late 30’s. Celiac Disease is an autoimmunity disease that causes the intestines to inflame and inhibit all absorption of nutrients. Celiac disease if un-treated is a very serious disease that causes dramatic weight loss and needs to be diagnosed by a doctor.  The Second Reason is Gluten Sensitivity. Gluten Sensitivity affects about 10% of the population and is becoming more and more prevalent. The cause of Gluten Sensitivity is unknown but it is likely a cross of gluten allergies and some other unknown stress related problems.  The Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity can range from extreme to mild discomfort, just to be safe this is something that needs to be discussed with your doctor.


Health Benefits of Gluten Free

If you lie outside of the 11% of the population that has been diagnosed with a Gluten problem and you choose to be Gluten free there are a number of health benefits. These health benefits include weight loss, and a leaner body composition. I personally do not believe that it is the removal of Gluten from the diet that gives you these health benefits. The benefits of you are seeing come from decreasing the amount of processed foods you eat daily and from preparing food from home.  If you are going to go gluten free you are making a life change that is going to cause you to be more conscious of what you are putting into your body. From an athletes perspective this is key to performance gains and life long health regardless if you remove Gluten or not.


Health Benefits of Gluten

If you took the time to read the last paragraph then you understand now that the health benefits from being Gluten Free are not actually from being Gluten free. The health benefits are from taking the time to see what you are eating, preparing foods from home and by limiting the amount of processed foods from the diet. Gluten is not bad for you, it does not make you fat or sick, heavily processed foods and inappropriate portion sizes are most likely the culprit.

Take Home Message

If you have a serious Gluten problem that a doctor has diagnosed then always follow what they say. If you are the other 89% and are looking for performance and health gains you need to make the decision to go gluten free all together which is a difficult task and takes time to become efficient at. Or the other option is you can slow down daily, Don’t eat out so much, Take the time to prepare foods at home and Limit the amount of processed foods in your diet. Option 2 is what I’ve chosen, and I think if you give it a good old college try you will find that it’s not all that hard to do. Slow down eat well!

Steve Acuna