A survey of 910 best athletes published last year discovered that more than 40% of them reported following a gluten-free diet at least half the time, though few of them had any formal diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. But has gluten actually any influence on athletic performance?
The same research team, from the University of Tasmania and the Canadian Sports Institute – Pacific, compared cycling performance in a double-blind study of thirteen cyclists following a strict diet with or without gluten for one week. The findings, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, showed no difference in cycling performance, inflammation, gastrointestinal symptoms, or gut leakage between the two conditions.
Given that none of the cyclists had been diagnosed with any form of gluten sensitivity, the findings aren’t particularly surprising. But they do represent an important first step in understanding what role gluten may, or may not, play in health and endurance performance.