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Dietary Concerns for Gluten-Free Athletes

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, it's important to pay attention to your nutrition as someone living an active gluten-free lifestyle. Here are some specific concerns you should keep in mind to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need to perform at your best.

Wheat based foods such as wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals and pasta are usually major sources of fibre for athletes. The Gluten-free diet contains less fibre than standard diets as these foods can’t be consumed. Fibre lowers cholesterol levels, helps controls blood sugar levels and helps maintain bowel health. We recommend consulting with a dietician if you are concerned you are not getting enough fiber.

Additionally, cheating on the gluten-free diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies in Iron, calcium, vitamin D, B12, Zinc and folate. Damaging the gut by consuming gluten has a negative effect on the body’s ability to absorb these nutrients. As such, being unable to completely absorb nutrients increases fatigue which is the most common issue with managing coeliac disease and exercise. Have a meal plan in place and consider getting supplement advice from a qualified health practitioner to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Another nutritional concern can be meeting optimal carbohydrate targets whilst being gluten intolerant. As a coeliac it’s hard to say goodbye to the traditional pasta carb load before trainings or events. It’s easy, it’s high in carbohydrates and it tastes damn good. Fortunately, there is an increasing amount of gluten free alternatives to hit our carbohydrate targets; we just have to get a bit more creative than the average Joe. We discuss more of these options in our meal planner and lifestyle guide. Depending on the training routine, athletes should consume 3-12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight throughout the day.  

Remember, everyone's needs are different, so it's always a good idea to work with a registered dietitian who specialises in sports nutrition to develop a personalised meal plan that meets your unique needs as a gluten-free athlete. With the right nutrition, you can perform at your best and feel your best, too!

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