Oct
15
2013

To carbo load or not to carbo load: that is the question

Carbo loading: The conventional wisdom in sports nutrition has been to "carbo load" on foods high in carbohydrates before a contest. But now some are saying avoiding gluten carbs can actually enhance athletic performance.
Carbo loading: The conventional wisdom in sports nutrition has been to "carbo load" on foods high in carbohydrates before a contest. But now some are saying avoiding gluten carbs can actually enhance athletic performance.Courtesy cyclonebill
The arrival of fall each year brings leaves changing colors, apples ready for the picking and a host of long-distance races contested in more temperate conditions. And with those marathons and other distance tests come the pre-race rituals of "carbo loading," the practice of eating a high carbohydrate meal of pasta to fill a body up with extra energy.

But several elite athletes are now shaking up that conventional wisdom. They're saying that they're feeling better and performing more efficiently by focusing their pre-performance meals on the right kind of carbohydrates: gluten-free carbs.

Tennis champion Novak Djokovic, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the entire Garmin cycling team are now crediting gluten-free diets as helping them feel and perform better. Djokovic went gluten free in 2010 and has now climbed to become the No. 1-ranked player in men's pro tennis and he credits his new diet with giving him better focus, more endurance and avoiding injury.

However, all these benefits so far are anecdotal. There have been no research studies done on the impact of a gluten-free diet on athletic performance. But some nutritionists point out that gluten, evolutionary speaking, is a pretty new entry into the human diet, having only been around 10,000 years. Our digestive systems don't know how to deal with it, so we get no nutritional benefit from it. For most of us, our immune system handles the gluten in our digestive track, just like stray microbes, and works it into our waste. About six percent of the population is gluten sensitive and has to avoid these types of foods entirely.

Does this new information change your thoughts about "carbo loading?" Do you avoid gluten foods even if you're not sensitive to them? Share your thoughts with other Science Buzz readers.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

steph's picture
steph says:

I think it is just the focus on what you eat... not that it is gluten free.

posted on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 1:13pm
Lightning Flash's picture
Lightning Flash says:

Well, you know what they say, "you are what you eat". If Gluten is new to our diet, I can see there being a problem with it, but then why is there such a high number of people who are Lactose intolerant, and has not Lactose been a part of our diet for a long time? I think more research is needed.

posted on Fri, 10/18/2013 - 12:25pm
XC runner   's picture
XC runner says:

I think that there will be no difference between having gluten or not having gluten. I have tried gluten free pizza and it tastes exactly the same, if even better. I dont think it will affect the performance of atheletes, though.

posted on Sat, 11/16/2013 - 9:50am

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