Novak Djokovic, the tennis super-star, discovered last year he was allergic to gluten, and thus changed his diet immediately. Novak’s new gluten-free diet not only has improved his health, but most astonishingly his tennis game as well.
Which got us thinking, how much does a diet actually play into improving an athlete’s performance? For Djokovic, eliminating gluten from his diet was necessary for his health due to his diagnosis of Celiac Disease. To break it down, gluten is a protein composite composed of the elastic proteins gliadin and glutenin found in wheat, secalin in rye and hordein in barley. It creates that elastic texture in dough we all so love. As found in “Gluten Intolerance Symptons,” there are over 250 documented symptoms for those who experience gluten sensitivity. The most common are abdominal pain or cramping, anemia, fatigue or nausea. These systems occur because the “proteins in gluten trigger your immune system to overreact with strong and unusual antibodies. Over time the antibodies wear down villi (which are little hairs that line the wall of your intestine). The antibodies then absorb nutrients as food passes through your lower digestive tract. When these villi are destroyed your body reacts in that you are less able to process any nutrients from foods that have the gluten protein in them.” Overall, if you have an allergy to gluten you are unable to eat foods such as bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, muesli and more. If something contains wheat you will want to stay clear from it.
So how has changing to a gluten-free diet helped Novak Djokovic? As noted in Chris Chase’s “Is Novak Djokovic’s new, gluten-free diet behind his win streak?” success is the tune Djokovic is ‘swinging’ to. With winning the Davis Cup and Australian Open, making the finals of the U.S. Open and currently ranked on a 39-match winning streak, which is the third longest of the Open era, this new gluten-free diet isn’t just something that is benefiting his health. The answer isn’t known if the gluten-free diet creates a better athlete but it surely has enabled Djokovic to “move much sharper and feel physically great.” Now being the US Open 2011 winner, he certainly can attribute his new physique and gluten-free lifestyle to winning in the big leagues.
Photo: Mark Howard Photography