Written by Contributing Editor Cathy Gehr (Health Researcher and Nutrition Adviser)
The Novak Djokovic tennis gluten free diet made headlines in the summer of 2011 when he became the No. 1 seed in the ATP tennis rankings after winning Wimbledon. Was it the gluten-free diet, or was it destiny? Let’s look into the dietary habits of the Serbian star, to garner some clues into the significance of his dietary choices and the effect it has had on this tennis success story.
In 2010, a nutritional expert noted signs of Djokovic’s gluten intolerance. His allergic reaction to gluten prompted this change to a gluten-free diet. Switching to a gluten-free regimen basically means refraining from foods containing processed carbohydrates, such as bread, cereals, pretzels, pizza, pasta, and avoiding other such foods made of rye, wheat, barley, and oats.
Djokovic Tennis Gluten Free Diet in Full Swing
Faced with a gluten allergy, Djokovic had no choice but to make the transition to gluten-free last year. The Serb now feasts on wholefoods such as quinoa, yams, and buckwheat. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits are also on the menu, and it’s likely that organic meat, eggs, beans, nuts, legumes and gluten-free dairy products are part of his meal plan, but his dietician keeps the details a secret, as it’s all part of the game plan.
Gluten simply consists of glutenin and gliadin. When these two proteins combine, gluten is formed. Gluten provides flexibility to dough, so that it takes shape as it rises. Gluten is not only found in the four above-mentioned grains, but in the form of food additives it also makes its way into sauce thickeners, gravies, packet soups, low-grade meats, cheap chocolate, canned baked beans, some pharmaceutical products, and other consumables.
Gluten gone wrong in the body is when it acts as a trigger for coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder which occurs in the small intestine. Someone predisposed to coeliac disorder will lack energy, have skin problems, and experience bouts of bloating and diarrhea. While gluten sensitivity is a condition that’s somewhat less serious, if undetected, it can spur an immune reaction from gluten consumption.
But what if someone is not gluten sensitive? Will a gluten-free diet make them healthier? An American Journal of Gastroenterology research project gathered together and randomly divided into two groups 34 healthy individuals, completely void of coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity disorders. Bread containing 16 grams of gluten were fed to Group A, while Group B ate the same amount of bread, but free of gluten. After close physical examination, gluten consumption ended up being the only difference between the two groups.
The Serbian tennis superstar has lost weight since going gluten-free, but Djokovic underlines that this has heightened his maneuverability on the court, and sharpened his physical prowess. Debate will continue as to whether or not the Novak Djokovic tennis gluten free diet has played a major role in breeding a better athlete. He’s gone from good to better, and now he’s the best. You be the judge.