Celiac.com 06/26/2015 - The vast majority of people who follow a gluten-free diet do not have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Many people who follow a gluten-free diet do so because of perceived health benefits. This includes a number of athletes who feel that the diet improves their energy levels, performance and recovery time.

Photo: CC--Raghu MohanIn fact, the adoption of gluten-free diets by non-celiac athletes has risen sharply in recent years due to perceived ergogenic and health benefits. New research however, casts doubt on those ideas.

The research was conducted by a team that set out to evaluate the effects of a gluten-free diet (GFD) on exercise performance, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, perceived well-being, intestinal damage, and inflammatory responses in non-celiac athletes. The research team included Dana Lis, Trent Stellingwerff, Cecilia M. Kitic, Kiran D.K., and James Fell.

For their study, they looked at thirteen competitive endurance cyclists, 8 male, 5 female, with no positive clinical screening for celiac disease or history of irritable bowel syndrome.

These cyclists followed a seven day gluten-containing diet (GCD) or GFD separated by a 10-day washout in a controlled randomized double-blind, cross-over study. Cyclists ate a GFD alongside either gluten-containing or gluten-free food bars, while the team controlled habitual training and nutrition behaviors. Total gluten intake was 16g wheat gluten per day.

During each diet, cyclists completed the Daily Analysis of Life Demand for Athletes (DALDA) and GI questionnaires, both before and after exercise and daily.

On day seven cyclists completed a sub-maximal steady-state (SS) 45 minute ride at 70% peak power followed by a 15 minute time-trial (TT).

The researchers took blood samples before exercise, post SS and post TT to determine intestinal fatty acid binding protein (IFABP) and inflammatory markers (cytokine responses: IL-1[beta], IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-15, TNF-[alpha]). They employed mixed effect logistic regression to analyze data.

The results showed that TT performance was basically the same (p=0.37) between the GCD (245.4+/-53.4kJ) and GFD (245.0+/-54.6kJ).

GI symptoms during exercise, daily, and DALDA responses were also similar for each diet (p>0.11). There were no significant differences in IFABP (p=0.69) or cytokine (P>0.13) responses.

These results show that a short-term GFD has no impact on performance, GI symptoms, well-being, or upon a select indicator of intestinal injury or inflammatory markers in non-celiac endurance athletes.

So, basically, if you're an athlete who does not have celiac disease, then a gluten-free diet is not going to provide any performance or recovery benefits to you.


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