Back in October, I began “transitioning” into a gluten free lifestyle. If you’re not aware, gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and triticale. It is also used as a food additive in the form of “dextrin”. In a nutshell, gluten [can] cause inflammation in the small intestine which reduces / affects digestion. Gluten free should not be confused with paleo or no /low carb – they are not even close.
Going gluten free /was not something I decided on overnight, but rather started phasing towards over time and it has stuck. I had no intentions of becoming gluten free; I don’t have celiac (wheat allergy) or any heath reasons that would cause me to do so. It started when I decided to try to eliminate “processed” bars and foods (Luna bars, etc) as much as possible, and replace with better quality protein and less processed foods. I have a lot of friends (most of my close training buddies) and my coach are gluten free and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about if it was the right lifestyle for me.
As I continued to “eliminate” gluten from my diet, I started feeling really really good. I parenthesize “eliminate” because I have no need to be 100% strict with my gluten intake, or lack thereof. If I’m attending a dinner party, for example, I won’t require or request a special meal or if there is a small amount of wheat in, say, a salad dressing, I’m not going to throw it out. There may become a time when even a small amount of gluten (after restricting for a long period of time) will make me feel bad, but I’m not there yet.
What has been the most interesting part of the change is how my performance has been affected. I feel really good during my training and the amount of fuel / calories my body is requiring for extended workouts is continuously decreasing. My body is learning to burn fat as I shift to an even cleaner, less processed diet. When it comes to race day, that is ideal. The less “crap” you need to pump into your system to maintain your endurance effort (Ironman effort), the less chance you have for GI distress. So much of Ironman performance is nutrition! We put SO much time, energy, hours and focus into swimming, biking and running for months and months, day in and day out. But, if your stomach isn’t trained to perform, it doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve logged, you’re facing an uphill battle on race day.
I don’t really believe in the concept of “dieting” – I did not decide to go gluten free to lose weight. I am a firm believer in eating well and exercise, plain and simple. I believe in deserts, drinking alcohol and cheat meals – all in moderation. The only difference now is that I believe in gluten free deserts, red wine and gluten free cheat meals. 🙂
** Thank you to my friend Tim for being my gluten free reference.