The gluten free diet has become increasingly prevalent in the past 10 years. As more and more people have started excluding the protein from their diet, lots of research has been conducted on the effects of gluten, providing helpful insight to what excluding gluten actually does. Gluten is a protein found in wheat grain that also is present in barley, rye, and malt. People who are allergic to gluten can have a number of illnesses, one of which is Celiac Disease. This intolerance will result in autoimmune deficiency effects on their stomach where it sees the gluten as a foreign object and attacks itself, and despite initial stomach pains, it can run down the digestive system over time.
I have had the idea about fighters taking on this lifestyle for many reasons, all benefiting them in many ways, but when i saw Light Heavyweight Rich Franklin tweet on behalf of this topic, I knew i had to apply my knowledge.
In many combat sports such as; mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling and jiu jitsu, weight cutting is a monumental issue that every athlete must face at one point in their career. Depending on the how strict and disciplined an athlete is with their diet, weight cutting can either be simple and painless, or as many fighters have experienced: torturous. Almost any fighter will tell you that the key to having a successful and manageable weight cut is staying on your diet during the weeks leading up to the fight. In addition, when fighters are drained from cutting excess weight their performance can be seriously diminished, and suddenly all of the work they have done to prepare for a fight is rendered insignificant. When diet expert and ex-fighter Mike Dolce talks about cutting weight and proper diet, he says "fighters forget that after they finally make weight, they have to fight and be at their peak performance the very next day".
Tightening up the diet is the key to successfully cutting weight and recovering from it quickly. Perhaps eliminating bread, pasta, battered and breaded foods, and sugary pastries could be accomplished all at once when going gluten free. All fast food, dessert, and unnecessary calories are out of the question already for those who are gluten intolerant, but imagine what an athlete could achieve with their body through this diet. Not only does it exclude foods that have no nutritional value to humans (or high level physical athletes for that matter), but it leaves the human body feeling revitalized.
Although cutting gluten out of the diet is highly beneficial, is vital to consume the necessary levels of fiber, potassium, and iron, all of which are commonly deficient among gluten free eaters (but are as easy to add with foods such as spinach and bananas).
Writing as someone that has been gluten free for 4 years (i was diagnosed with celiac at age 15), i can truly speak for this diet. I am a competitive athlete, and weight management has never been an issue for me. I always eat gluten free, and feel just as healthy as any athletic human being. While being overtly careful in maintaining healthy levels of fiber and iron, the gluten free diet can lead to optimal health, both on a nutritional level, and a physical level. What better sport to introduce this phenomenon to than combat sports, where fighters are constantly manipulating their bodies for competition. For these athletes, any edge that allows them to reach the higher standards is highly coveted, and the gluten free diet just may be a gem hiding under the radar.