Elliott Rader:

5 Things Athletes Need To Know About Gluten

By Ian Douglass

When Elliott Rader’s brother Marshall was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2009, the brothers turned an unfortunate setback into an opportunity. Making a career transition, the brothers founded The Gluten Free Bar shortly thereafter, and their products are now distributed in more than 3500 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Although he is undiagnosed for Celiac disease, Elliott suffers from severe gluten sensitivity in his own right, and he has known the pain of dealing with gluten-derived setbacks in his personal sporting experiences. With that in mind, Elliott helped us put together a list of five things you need to know about gluten sensitivity, and if you suspect you might be suffering from an allergy to gluten, you should do yourself a favor and get tested.
1. It Affects Physical Performance
Photo Courtesy of Flickr user Tomasz Dunn
Every athlete knows the feeling of physically hitting the wall and not being able to push their body beyond a certain point. When you suffer from an allergy to gluten, the wall comes at you faster and harder than it otherwise would. Unfortunately, these gluten-derived symptoms aren’t always easy to separate from typical fatigue symptoms, so Elliott says athletes should compare themselves to their peers to see if the same workload is affecting them more than it should.
Generally speaking, symptoms can be anything from headaches to muscle fatigue,” Elliott said. “It could just be that your joints are sore. You may feel bloated, you feel sluggish, and you break out in rashes. It may not be anything life threatening, but these are things that kind of degrade your quality of life. Those types of symptoms are what you see with gluten sensitivity.”
2. It Affects Mental Performance
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Rennett Stowe
Not only can a gluten allergy have obvious affects on an athlete’s physical performance, but failing to process nutrients can have considerable affects on mental performance as well, which can be even worse.  Unfortunately, mental deterioration can be even more difficult to connect to food intake than physical deterioration, so Elliott advises any athletes suffering any form of mental malady to get examined for potential gluten sensitivity.
“You should get yourself checked for a gluten allergy if you’re feeling lethargic to the point where you’re getting all the right sleep but still feel low energy,” Elliott advised. “Or it could be that you’re not feeling like yourself mentally, or you just can’t focus that well, or you’re not in the best of spirits. These are commons symptoms of depression that might be caused by gluten allergies.”
3. It Can Affect Your Weight
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Gary Paulson
Many athletes suffer from issues related to weight, from body perception issues to simply being heavier than other teammates doing the same workouts.  Usually, the culprit is the athlete’s diet, but oftentimes it isn’t a matter of simply overeating. Not processing nutrients can result in the body storing more food as body fat than it otherwise should. Elliott suffered from this personally, and says that an undiagnosed gluten allergy can result in a lot of frustration over extra pounds.
“I was heavier back when I was unaware of gluten allergies, and taking gluten out of my diet definitely helped my weight,” Elliott explained.” Gluten can cause issues with overall weight where you’re constantly active, but you still can’t lose the last few pounds you need to. That might be something where you have to ask if you have sensitivity to gluten.”
4. It's Socially Awkward
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Russell James Smith
As if athletes with gluten sensitivity didn’t have enough to deal with, things can get even worse when you step off the field or court and into a restaurant or grocery store. One of the most obvious drawbacks to having a gluten allergy is dealing with waiters at restaurants, or people that just haven’t taken into account that the food at their party can’t be consumed by everyone in attendance.
“It can definitely be socially awkward to have a gluten allergy because you don’t want to be that guy that asks servers questions about things on the menu,” Elliott described. “When you’re attending parties and everybody else is having that wonderful snack and you can’t have any part of that, those aren’t the most wonderful moments. You do have to ask questions about the food and learn to live with that.”
5. You Can Deal With It
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Visit Lakeland
The list of problems associated with a gluten allergy may seem insurmountable, but this is far from the case. Fortunately, food companies like The Gluten Free Bar have educated the public about gluten sensitivity, so awareness of the prevalence of gluten sensitivity is spreading at a rapid rate. So, you should feel free to get tested for a gluten allergy if you think it may be holding you back, because if you test positive for gluten sensitivity, it’s not the end of the world.
“People who work in restaurants have become more receptive to being asked those questions about gluten,” Elliott said. “They’re accommodating gluten sensitive people with menus, and they’re training wait staff to deal with those issues. There is a learning process involved for both gluten people and non-gluten people, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
The Gluten Free Bar is a proud sponsor of the Meijer State Games of Michigan. To learn more about their products, please visit their website: www.theglutenfreebar.com
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.
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