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Celiac Disease

Diet Secrets of Gluten-Free Athletes

Heather WurteleHeather Wurtele, Ironman Champion

The realization that he enjoyed spreading awareness led to speaking engagements and a celiac disease fundraiser in 2010, where Pinto set a Guinness world record for most field goals kicked in 12 straight hours.

The experience propelled Pinto to his apparent vocation and avocation: the Kicking 4 Celiac Foundation, whose centerpiece is a scholarship for college students with celiac disease. Pinto literally kicked off the foundation in 2011 by setting another Guinness World record, for the most 40-yard field goals kicked in 24 hours (1,000 of them!).

Passionate about motivating young people who might feel excluded from athletics due to gluten restrictions, Pinto offers this advice: “If one day you’re sick or have a certain reaction, try to avoid letting it snowball into, ‘I have this condition, I can never eat again.’ One day at a time, figure out what works best for you, without getting distracted by feelings of frustration and anxiety.

“Nothing is too soul-crushing that you can’t work through it.”

Pinto maintains his own gluten-free regimen through simplicity and diligence. He starts the day with a pre-workout banana, followed by a Greek yogurt, protein bar or shake post-workout. Almonds and bananas supply more energy until a typical lunch of grilled chicken, veggies and rice.

Dinner is usually quinoa pasta or turkey burgers, though Pinto feels fortunate to have found a few indulgences at restaurants that truly understand cross-contamination issues.

For gluten-free athletes on the road, he recommends bringing food from home, and reheating it in your own containers to avoid cross-contamination from microwaves. Salads, pastas, yogurts and safe snacks are his travel mainstays.

Pinto’s balanced and prepared approach is at the heart of upping one’s gluten-free game, says nutritionist Jory. “It really is about eating well all the time, so that you feel good when the situation demands more energy. With planning, you can do pretty much anything you want.”

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Heather Wurtele certainly proves Jory’s point. Gluten-free since 2010, the Canadian triathlete has since won three Ironman titles, setting new course records in the process. Formerly sidelined by gluten-related stomach aches and bloating, she now has more vitality and resilience.

“Your body is struggling with inflammation all the time,” says Wurtele, “because of the hard training and trying to repair muscles. If you can get rid of digestive inflammation, that’s one less thing your body has to cope with.”

Wurtele travels the world in an RV, training and competing along with her husband, who is also a triathlete. As Wurtele notes, she couldn’t endure her grueling schedule or win as often if she didn’t eat healthy.

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