This month, I thought I would give one of my respected colleagues, Kyle Arsenault from Top Fitness, an opportunity to be a guest blogger on my site. I have been working with the Top Fitness team for four years and could not be happier with the fitness results! Kyle has written some insights on gluten and the gluten free dilemma. Let’s take a look…
The Gluten-Free Dilemma
By Kyle Arsenault
There were a few athletes this week asking about gluten, so I wanted to provide a little information about gluten (along with a recipe)…so, let’s do this!
First, what is gluten?
According to Wikipedia, gluten is “a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (such as spelt, kamut, and triticale).”
Second, if you eat gluten you will die!
Or, at the very least, you will become extremely ill, morbidly obese and roam this earth in zombie mode looking for fresh human flesh…which at least is gluten free!
You may have heard something like this before. Well, maybe not that extreme, but close. Gluten has become a pretty hot topic over the past few years.
Okay, I may have been a little facetious about gluten. But for some of us, consuming gluten is a one way ticket to a cranky digestive system, systemic inflammation, and possibly a trip to the emergency room.
So for those who are allergic to gluten, it is encouraged to steer clear from it in order to keep from the possible severe side effects. Some people will notice a little gastric discomfort and possibly bloating or cramping when consuming foods that contain gluten. This is known as a gluten sensitivity.
The Gluten Free Diet
For the majority of us, we can handle gluten and not experience any of the side effects of a gluten sensitivity. The question is though, even if you are not sensitive to gluten, should you focus on a gluten free diet to help enhance health and performance?
Well, it sure seems that way since many individuals who switch to a gluten free diet end up having more energy, getting better sleep, and obtaining a healthier and stronger physique.
But, is it the lack of gluten in the diet that is making all of the difference?
I’d argue that most of us ( who are not actually allergic to gluten) experience better health and performance on a gluten free diet because many of the foods that are avoided on this diet are highly processed, calorically dense, and nutrient deficient.
For example, we stay away from boxed cereals, granola bars, processed breads, baked goods and most packaged snacks.
Instead, when we go on a gluten free diet, we end up focusing on whole unprocessed foods such as meats, veggies, and high quality carbs like fruit, quinoa, and millet.
So it seems that going gluten free is a pretty good choice for most of us, right? Well, I will say yes, but with a couple of key considerations.
You need to be very aware of the “gluten free” options that you will find in almost every aisle of the grocery store, because “gluten free” does not necessarily mean healthy.
Just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean that it is free of added sugar, chemicals and other substances that will rob you of your health and performance.
In fact, if you look at many of the gluten free options, you will notice that the sugar content is still extremely high and there may be a few (or many!) ingredients that you still can not pronounce.
Not only this, but if you are an active individual who is not actually allergic to gluten, you could be passing on some high quality carbohydrates that could help you with your health and performance such as oatmeal, whole wheat pasta and sprouted grain products such as Ezekiel Bread.
So, here’s my suggestion: if you are allergic or sensitive to gluten, try to avoid it, but make sure you are still checking nutrition labels! The “gluten free” label does not mean “totally healthy.”
If you are not allergic to gluten, it is not necessary to avoid it. With that said, take a “gluten free” mindset when it comes to processed foods that contain gluten (sugary cereals, highly processed granola bars, breads with a shelf life of twenty years, etc.). Adopting the mindset that these foods will make you physically ill is a good practice to help you avoid them.
The big takeaway is that focusing on whole, non or low processed foods such as meat, veggies, fruits, etc. is key to long term health and performance, whether you are allergic to gluten or not.
And just in case you are allergic or sensitive to gluten, I wanted to provide you with a few recipes that use gluten free grains. Enjoy (even if you aren’t gluten free)!
I hope you enjoyed that blog. I certainly did, which is why I wanted to share it with you. Are there specific topics or information you would like to learn from my blog posts? Feel free to contact me with your questions or ideas!