If you can't eat wheat because of sensitivity or Celiac disease, you're not alone: 6 percent of the American population is in the same boat as you. Luckily, this puts you in a great place to improve your performance and nutrition at the same time.
"... Gluten in the bloodstream triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. This can interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food, cause a host of symptoms, and lead to other problems like osteoporosis, infertility, nerve damage and seizures," says Holly Strawbridge, former editor of Harvard Health. When nutrients are lost, you're not able to perform at your peak; not to mention many of the symptoms can reduce your ability to train and participate in future competitions.
However, creating a wheat-free diet requires more than passing on the occasional slice of pizza or bowl of pasta. Gluten-free sports nutrition is designed to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs to stay active and energized.
If you're not sure what to put in your grocery cart and what to leave out, jump-start your wheat-free diet with these swaps.
The Fiber Swap-Out
The recommended daily allowance of fiber for women is 20 to 25 grams a day, and for men 28 to 30 grams a day. As an athlete, hitting these targets is even more important for performance.
As a wheat-free athlete, re-consider high fiber foods you've ignored in the past. For example, whole grain foods made from corn are packed with carbohydrates and fiber. Make tacos with corn tortillas for a high-nutrient meal with plenty of flavor—no wheat.
Here are five wheat-free swaps that don't lack in flavor or nutrients:
The Gluten Option: Pasta
The Wheat-Free Option: Quinoa
As an athlete, you're all too familiar with the pre-race carb-loading pasta dinner. As a wheat-free athlete, however, quinoa is your new go-to. One cooked cup has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Eat regular quinoa with pasta sauce, veggies and Parmesan or try quinoa pasta.
Another great substitution for pasta is spaghetti squash. With the same consistency and style, this gluten-free option is perfect on nights when you're craving a big plate of Bolognese.