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Is Tennis Ace Novak Djokovic’s Recent Success Due to His Gluten-Free Diet?

Posted Jun 04 2011 11:03pm

Despite his upset in the French Open semi-finals this weekend,  24-year-old tennis star Novak Djokovic’s recent hot streak has captivated the sports world. Perhaps even more newsworthy is Djokovic’s claim that his gluten-free diet is responsible for the recent (some would say radical) improvement in his game.

According to the Wall Street Journal , Djokovic was diagnosed with  ”an allergy” to gluten and consequently eliminated all sources of it in his diet, including the beer, pizza, cookies and other fast foods and simple carbs he ate regularly. Since eliminating gluten from his meals, Djokovic claims he feels better on the tennis court. Djokovic is not alone. Last year, Men’s Journal wrote about the Garmin professional cycling team’s adoption of a gluten-free training diet . Some of the Garmin cyclists reported improvements in both digestion and performance.

Without having full-blown celiac disease, certainly athletes who are gluten-sensitive may find that gluten-free eating improves their physical and cognitive performance by improving their health. That may be the case with Djokovic, but it also may be that when he cleaned up his diet (reducing his simple carbohydrates and junk food consumption in general) he lost weight and gained performance. So is it the gluten-free diet or the junk-food-free diet that’s making the difference in Djokovic’s game? Or is it simply the power of belief in his new sports nutrition program? If indeed Djokovic is gluten-intolerant, his gluten-free diet may be in part responsible for his recent improvement, but as I’ve said before in this blog the best way to go gluten-free is to adopt a whole foods, non-processed food diet . That change alone may be giving Djokovic an edge on the court.

Whatever the reason, you can bet there’s a run on gluten-free foods at stores this week. You can also bet that many of Djokovic’s tennis competitors are passing on the French bread at the tennis banquet.

Be Well,


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