Carb loading is the athletic tradition we all love. Big plate of pasta right before the race? Don't mind if I do! Remember Michael Phelps' training diet: Pancakes, French toast, grits, a pound of pasta as a side dish, an entire pizza for dinner. I think my blood sugar just spiked writing that! Even if we're just vicariously living through another athlete's feat, it's still a thrill to see all those carbs fly.
But some Olympic competitors as saying athletes have been carb loading the wrong way all along. Forget the pasta, forget the pizza, and definitely ditch the pancakes. The most cutting-edge Olympic athletes are cutting one key ingredient out of their carb foods.
Yep, gluten. Going gluten-free: It's not just for all of your friends and relatives anymore!
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic credits his incredible winning streak to his gluten-free diet. He says he's allergic to gluten. American runner Amy Yoder Begley and British runner Andrew Steele claim their gluten-free diet has improved their race times, given them more energy and fewer injuries, and even helped them recover faster. World champion swimmer Dana Vollmer is now spokesperson for Crunchmaster wheatless crackers.
Can a gluten-free diet really ramp up your athletic performance like that?
No, says celeb nutritionist Andrew Weil. "I know of no evidence confirming that this kind of diet leads to all the health benefits being claimed for it these days," he says on his website.
No, says sports dietitian Marie Spano. "It will only help those who are truly sensitive to gluten, but it won’t benefit those who aren’t.”
So the nutritionists say it's all bunk. How do you explain the athletes' performance, then? Maybe it's just the idea of eating differently that gives them an edge. I mean, part of the competition is a head game. Just like how a lot of us end up losing weight when we give up gluten, I guess athletes feel more powerful after they go gluten-free. I say, real or not, they might as well use every advantage they can.
Do you think carb-loading the gluten-free way is better than through the usual wheat pasta and bread?
Image via nebulux76/Flickr