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Celiac Disease

Diet Secrets of Gluten-Free Athletes

Melissa JoryNutritionist Melissa McLean Jory

Because she had also suffered a torn ACL, a broken elbow, a disc bulge in her back and a frightening heart issue that required constant access to a defibrillator, Vollmer viewed the stomach pain as minor. But by 2010, with the other conditions on the mend, she addressed the issue.

“I finally didn’t have these other injuries, but I was just exhausted.” Working with former Olympic swimming champion turned nutritionist Anita Nall Richesson, Vollmer began eating egg- and gluten-free, and “in a month and a half, I felt like a different person. All of a sudden I had way more energy.”

On a typical training day, Vollmer starts with a nutrient-rich breakfast mash-up of rice, nuts, seeds, fruit and milk. Lunch is usually leftover steak or chicken with vegetables or a turkey-cheese melt on a corn tortilla. Her snacks include cheese and Crunchmaster crackers, NoGii protein bars, Royal Hawaiian macadamia nut trail mix and roasted almonds.

A favorite dinner for Vollmer and her husband, swimmer Andy Grant, is steak, sweet potatoes and sautéed spinach. One of her culinary experiments is a “fantastic” vegan lasagna made from raw zucchini “noodles” layered with crushed macadamia nuts, tomato-basil sauce and pesto.

Where once she would sleep between morning and afternoon practice, Vollmer now has midday vigor to do things she loves (like projects in her wood shop). According to Jory, this is likely because Vollmer has achieved an appropriate balance between the basics of sports nutrition: macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants).

Whether it’s competitive sports, hiking, playing tennis or dog walking, Jory says you can maximize your diet for all-day energy by understanding the role of various nutrients, and which foods supply them. Vollmer’s signature breakfast, for example, combines fast-acting (fruit) and slow-burning (whole grains, seeds and nuts) fuel to keep her energized through practice or competition.

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Energy and endurance were also major issues for ultra-marathon trail runner Peter Bronski, co-author with Jory of The Gluten-Free Edge. Once a healthy athlete, Bronski found himself sick and struggling in 2005. “It was challenging to run down the street to a stop sign and back, which was just three-quarters of a mile round trip,” he says.

Two difficult years later, an assessment of gluten intolerance led Bronski to embrace a strict gluten-free diet. “Once I did, it was one of the most dramatic turnarounds I’d ever experienced.” Since his recovery, Bronski has competed in adventure racing, off-road triathlons and currently, ultramarathons.

Next: Cutting out gluten: a dramatic turnaround

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