17
May
11

Djokovic said off-season testing determined he was allergic to gluten, he changed his diet and look what happened!

Curious about what’s fuelling Novak Djokovic’s rocket ride to the verge of the top ranking in men’s tennis? Well, it’s not pasta. At least not the standard kind. Before the current season, Djokovic switched to a gluten-free diet and suddenly most forms of processed carbohydrates became off-limits to him. Just as suddenly, he grew into an unstoppable force on the tennis court. In January, he defeated Andy Murray to win the Australian Open. This past Sunday, he dropped Rafael Nadal to win the Italian Open. The 23-year-old attributes much of his success to his eating habits.

John McEnroe had also heard about the gluten-free diet that Djokovic has been on, and suggested he might follow suit in preparation for the ATP Champions Tour event in London, 30th November to 4th December. “I heard that from my brother the other day, so I’m considering going on that for my return to the Royal Albert Hall,” said McEnroe.

Common in starchy foods, gluten helps make bread rise and bagels chewy. But some people don’t digest it well, and in others it can exacerbate autoimmune disorders from eczema to multiple sclerosis. For those with celiac disease, gluten is especially harmful. Djokovic said off-season testing determined he was allergic to gluten, prompting the drastic shift in his eating habits. “I have lost some weight but it’s only helped me because my movement is much sharper now and I feel great physically,” he told the Mirror in April.

But “gluten-free” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy,” says Noa Deutsch, a trainer and nutritionist in Victoria, B.C. Instead of buying expensive gluten-free processed foods, she recommends simply replacing foods with oats, barley or rye with gluten-free whole foods such as buckwheat, yams or quinoa. Going gluten-free won’t turn a fringe professional into Djokovic, but Deutsch recommends that athletes try it if they’re curious. “If they feel better and they’re not finding it too restrictive, they might as well stay on it,” she says. “If they don’t feel better or they find it too restrictive then there’s no point … but if it works, it works.”

 

mcampbell@thestar.ca

 

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