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  • Jefferson Adams

    Gluten-free Diet Fueling Tennis Stars

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 06/29/2011 - Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic credits an unbeaten string of victories on the court to his special, gluten-free diet.

    Meanwhile, Sabine Lisicki recently attributed her collapse on the threshold of a major upset over third seed Vera Zvonareva in the second round of the French Open to a need for her body to adjust to her new gluten-free diet; which Lisicki adopted after discovering she is intolerant to gluten, a protein in cereal grains.



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    After physically crumbling within sight of victory, a sobbing Lisicki was carried from the court on a stretcher. The 21-year-old later explained on her website (www.sabinelisicki.com) that her collapse occurred because her body simply let her down. She said that "[d]octors recently discovered that I am intolerant to gluten -- meaning I can't eat e.g. pasta, one of my biggest energy sources."

    "My body needs to adjust to the big change and needs some time. It is good that we found out and it will only make life better in the long run, she added."

    Pasta and bread are still staple foods for many top athletes, as they are important sources of energy. Athletes on gluten-free diets need to find new energy sources.

    Djokovic has enjoyed a 39-match winning streak after changing his diet in late 2010, after tests by his nutritionist showed him to be gluten intolerant.

    Like Lisicki, Djokovic's body cannot process the carbohydrates he traditionally used to fuel his body, and he was forced to find alternative foods to provide the energy and stamina needed to prevail in long matches. For Djokovic, the change has paid off handsomely.

    "I have lost some weight but it's only helped me because my movement is much sharper now and I feel great physically," said an energized Djokovic, who has beaten Rafael Nadal in four finals this year.

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    Many people have trouble processing gluten and it can be a huge problem without them even realizing. I'm sure there are many more athletes that aren't performing as well as they could, because they aren't aware of their gluten allergies.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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