Should Swimmers Go Gluten-Free?

Michael Butler
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The Research Behind Going Gluten-Free

Whether or not swimmers should go gluten-free was the subject of a recent study by Australian researchers. According to the researchers, the case for gluten-free for swimmers and individuals who exercise at high intensities is relatively new and based on anecdotal evidence.

Going gluten-free on the advice of a dietitian or a nutritionist may improve performance, but the study ruled out the need for an individual to go gluten-free if they are doing low or moderate intensity workouts. It concluded that there was no discernible difference in performance between a gluten-free diet and a regular diet.

The study focused on six women with a gluten intolerance who completed a series of three tests meant to measure their performance levels, including a two-kilometer swim test. All of them were also given 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight an hour before beginning the tests.

The results of the study showed that the glucose levels of the participants did shoot up during the trial but not to an extent that would suggest that a regular diet would have hurt performance.

Also, when the diet was gluten-free, the participants did not experience a feeling of increased fatigue, lethargy, or exhaustion.

The Takeaway

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to the question of whether or not you should go gluten-free when you’re training for and competing in swimming. The evidence of a performance benefit is still lacking, and you may be taking yourself out of your eating comfort zone when you’re training for an important event.

However, the benefits of not going gluten-free may be short term whereas the health benefits to long term. Plus, if you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, going gluten-free may protect your health outside of the pool, too.

Therefore, it’s up to you to decide if taking yourself out of your eating comfort zone is worth the potential health benefits.