Gluten Free Nutrition: Fact or Fad?

Of all the weird and wonderful nutrition crazes of the 21st century, gluten-free eating might be one of the more legitimate ways to boost energy, improve mental and physical performance, and generally improve your health. Though many know of gluten-free nutrition’s role in countering gluten intolerance (as noted in one percent of Americans for whom gluten damages the small intestine and impairs its ability to absorb nutrients – a condition known as Celiac Disease), most of us, if asked, would struggle to distinguish the health implications of gluten from the muscle building benefits of glutamine. For your health’s sake, it might be time to learn more about gluten and its nutritional legacy.

Check out the following gluten-free recipes:

Gluten Free Apple Tarte Tatin

Gluten Free Healthy “Fried” Chicken

Gluten, What’s the Deal?

wheat

A protein composite, found in foods processed from wheat and grains, including barley and rye – comprising 80% of the protein found in wheat seed – gluten serves as a valuable source of protein for many populations – gluten (from the Latin ‘gluten’, meaning glue) adds texture to foods and gives elasticity to dough to help it rise. Until recent years, gluten was, for those in the know, considered just another protein substitute, and means to improve the texture and structural stability of bread. Given its protein profile, and its usefulness in baking, it was often considered more good than bad. Recently, however, its reputation has been tarnished. It’s now blamed for everything from gas, intestinal bloating and lethargy, to indigestion, aching joints and depression.

A Wave of Change

Heeding the advice doctors routinely give to those with Celiac Disease, health-conscious people began to wonder whether removing gluten from their own diets might also be beneficial and began to eat accordingly, experiencing, as they began including ‘gluten-free’ products into their daily food intake, new found energy and positive health benefits.

Newly introduced gluten-free products rose from around 135 in 2003 to 832 in 2008.

It is now believed by some that most of us are sensitive to gluten on some level and, therefore, probably all of us would benefit in some way from a gluten-free diet. Certain key statistics, such as the belief that half of the approximately 60 million people in the U.S. who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are probably sensitive to gluten, serve to support this conclusion.

An Interview: Alejandro Ferrari

One person who has made the switch to gluten-free eating, and who is himself responsible for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of satisfied customers, of both his personal training service and culinary exploits, is Alejandro Ferrari., CEO of Workoutloft Inc. and Superstar Gym, and host of his own popular cooking blog, COOKING4LIVING.TV.

According to Alejandro, “Many people are surprised to learn that a gluten-free diet is actually very good for almost everybody – not just people who have a gluten allergy. Bodybuilders and athletes can especially benefit from a gluten-free diet as well.” He says that a gluten-free diet holds several key advantages for people who wish to keep their body toned while maintaining a lean six-pack.

Considering the fact that gluten causes the human body to retain water and can lead to bloating, a gluten-free diet can really help an athlete or bodybuilder to maintain a cut and lean physique all year around.

In fact, numerous scientific studies have shown that a gluten-free diet can help promote weight loss, increase energy levels, improve one’s cholesterol profile, promote good digestive health, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and reduce the risk of diabetes. It’s incredible how wide the spectrum of health benefits a gluten-free diet provides.

Burn Fat and Increase Digestion

With close to 50 personal training clients, all on gluten-free diets, Alejandro says the health benefits of gluten-free eating are nothing short of amazing. With many of his client’s being competitive bodybuilders, he notes that the benefits for them are more readily noticeable, as reflected in their physical development. Whereas the average person will often base the effectiveness of their diet on how they feel, a bodybuilder’s physique and performance in the gym often speaks much louder.

It’s amazing how many food products have gluten in them, including sauces and processed and packaged foods, so it’s important to educate yourself and be able to look on the label and spot if something contains gluten or not.

Eating a gluten-free diet helps the body digest food easier, making the absorption of vitamins and minerals easier and quicker on the digestive tract – this helps speed up the body’s metabolism as well which naturally helps the body burn more fat.

The Power to Perform

Andre Rzazewski

According to Alejandro, eating a gluten-free diet can have a remarkably positive effect on one’s energy and strength levels. “Consider, for example, the fact that many bodybuilders and athletes eat oatmeal for breakfast to obtain the energy and fibre needed for their workouts,” he says.

Not all oatmeal is gluten free, so it’s important to check as most oatmeal varieties contain gluten. Eating a gluten-free breakfast can help bodybuilders feel more energetic because their bodies are able to digest their meal quicker and avoid that slow and sluggish feeling.

A recent Mayo Clinic report showing that 1.6 million people in the United States are on a gluten-free diet, even though most of them have not been diagnosed with a gluten allergy, is suggestive of a growing awareness among health-conscious people of the potential merits of gluten-free eating. With gluten allergies ranging from gas, bloating, tiredness and feelings of lethargy after eating, gluten intolerance (thought to affect us all on some level) may be more widespread than the commonly reported one percent of the American population. Says Alejandro: “I explain to my clients that a gluten-free diet is essentially an energy diet: gluten-free food equals increased energy. It’s really as simple as that.”

Should You Make the Change?

As gluten-free cooking and eating becomes increasingly popular, even among those who are not gluten intolerant, the market for gluten-free foods is ever-expanding. As people become more empowered, they become more aware of the foods they would be wise to consume.

But the real key to a successful transition to gluten-free eating, says Alejandro, “is that people genuinely seem to feel better, and it seems to aid them in their fitness and weight loss goals. Research suggests that people who do get severely sick from their gluten allergies are usually allergic to the gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. I personally made a change to gluten-free eating due to my lifestyle as a business owner, entrepreneur, and professional bodybuilder and athlete. When I won the Muscle-Mania World Championships in Miami, in 2008, I first started hearing from other athletes and bodybuilders about the gluten-free diet. I did some further research while working on my upcoming healthy cooking book and started testing gluten-free recipes. I noticed an incredible difference in my digestion and energy levels, and I was able to cut and get leaner much faster than ever before. So being gluten-free is a positive life change that I adhere to religiously.”

Check out the following gluten-free recipes:

Gluten Free Apple Tarte Tatin

Gluten Free Healthy “Fried” Chicken

Quinoa and Butternut Squash Risotto

Sources

  1. American Dietetic Association: Hot topics: gluten-free diets www.eatright.org/search.aspx? Dec. 2009
  2. Hischenhuber C, Crevel R, Jarry B, Makai M, Moneret-Vautrin DA, Romano A, Troncone R, Ward R (2006) Review article: safe amounts of gluten for patients with wheat allergy or coeliac disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 23(5):5590575
  3. Mayo Clinic Online: Most With Celiac Disease unaware of it, Study Reveals. [Online] retrieved: 14.8.12:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2012-rst/7008.html
  4. Voiland, A. Gluten-free diet: a cure for some, a fad for most. US News Health. [online] retrieved: 14.8.12:  http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/digestive-disorders/articles/2008/10/31/gluten-free-diet-a-cure-for-some-a-fad-for-most

 

David Robson

A respected health and fitness writer, David has been published in industry publications such as Status Fitness Magazine, Muscle & Fitness and Bodybuilding.com. With 20 years in the personal training trenches, the insights he has gained through practical experience, alongside degrees in psychology and sports science, have enabled him to go beyond the surface to provide educational articles that have informed thousands of health and fitness devotees the world over. Contact David at: davidrobson19@hotmail.co.nz and at davidrobsonelite.com

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