Gluten free diets and fitness

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The gluten free diet is one of the most popular diets out there right now. It's main purpose is to help treat people with celiacs disease (such as myself) and anyone else who may have an issue with gluten and it has become much bigger in the last 20 years. 20 years ago and even before, it was difficult to find gluten free products that were safe to eat, these days it's a 2.5 billion dollar industry and the options are far better. Many people ranging from the average citizen to world class athlete have claimed going gluten free has made them feel better and I have no doubt that they think they do, but I want to look at if going gluten free is really a great way to go to meet your goals in regards to diet and exercise. So the first thing to ask would be, what is gluten?


Gluten is a mix of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grass related grains. It is mainly appreciated for it's elasticity and is what makes grain products expand, keep the proper shape, and gives a final product it's chewy texture. Aside from obvious grain products gluten can be found in beers, imitation or vegan meats, cosmetics, some medications, and some unexpected products such as ice cream and other treats. Now one thing to note is that gluten has a low nutritional profile and as such it's not essential to the human diet and as an example, in gluten free breads with the protein being removed or not there the bread will lose it's elasticity and chewy texture.


One thing many people may not initially notice is that many prepackaged gluten free products (i.e.. breads, treats, flours and other delights) have a lower nutritional profile and can lack in B vitamins and iron (Just to name some). The products often contain higher than normal amounts of fats, sodium and sugars to try to make up for a lack of taste as many don't exactly taste great. Without a properly balanced diet when being on the gluten free diet it can become easy to become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals which can lead to other problems. People who have autoimmune disorders like celiacs disease when undiagnosed will lack energy, strength, and have a hard time gaining or losing weight due to the malabsorption which is one of the primary symptoms when their immune system attacks the organs. Hence when people who have medical problems where gluten affects them go on a gluten free diet, they usually feel far better.


Now how does this all relate to your health and fitness goals? Well if you have a medical issue where gluten affects you adversely and you go gluten free. You would quickly notice a rise in energy to do your workout, your muscular strength will increase, and your aerobic fitness would increase dramatically (at least that's what I noticed when I went gluten free). If you don`t have a medical issue where gluten affects you and you go gluten free it can be easy to weight gain due to to increased intake of fats, salts or sugars, increase in heart disease risk due to the lack of fiber and higher sugar, salt and fat intake. Also when going gluten free the products are often more expensive than regular gluten containing products which when trying to lose weight (a common goal for many) can inhibit their goals due to the purchase of products the individual may not need and with the generally lower nutritional profile can cause your body to not recieve the nutrients it needs.


So if you don`t have a condition where gluten does affect you and your trying to meet your health and fitness goals I fully encourage you to go pick up some gluten containing products and enjoy yourself. Likewise if you think you have an issue with gluten I fully encourage you to go see your doctor right away. Never do a diet because it`s the popular thing to do, do it because it`s right for you and make sure you are enjoying yourself. I hope that helps clear the air for some people regarding the gluten free diet. If you have any questions feel free to ask!


Have a great day!

Kelson Wohlers 

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