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2014 Winter Olympics: Athletes following a gluten-free diet in Sochi

Olympic rings at Sochi
Olympic rings at Sochi
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The winter Olympics started yesterday in Sochi, Russia, and our whole family is enjoying watching the athletes complete. I am looking forward to watching the biathlon, bobsled, cross country skiing, ice hockey, and speed skating competitions to cheer on some of the many Olympic athletes who follow a gluten-free diet.

While I was doing my research, it was fascinating to discover a number of these athletes have been diagnosed with celiac disease. The connection between the gluten-free diet and celiac disease isn't always clear and it is important to note that the gluten-free diet is the only 'cure' for those diagnosed with this autoimmune disease. I would also like to point out that these athletes are striving in their respective sports while following a gluten-free diet.

I am sure there are more athletes at Sochi following a gluten-free diet, but here is a list of those I discovered:

United States

  • Chris Creveling, Speed Skater - follows a gluten-free diet to reduce inflammation
  • Jazmine Fenlator, Bobsled - follows a gluten-free diet
  • Todd Lodwick, Nordic Combined Skier - follows a gluten-free diet to help with inflammation of the lungs
  • Elana Meyers, Bobsled - follows a gluten-free diet
  • Sara Studebaker, Biathlon - follows a gluten-free diet. Sara's fiance, Zachary Hall, a fellow US Biathlon National Team member 2007-2011, is gluten intolerant, so it's easier if both of them eat gluten free. Sara says she "..feels better training and competing!"

Canada

  • Dasha Gaiazova, Cross Country Skiing - was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008

Dasha Gaiazova, a cross-country skier and two-time world cup medalist who is currently competing at Sochi, is serving as a Fitness Guru for Glutino Foods. Dasha draws from her personal experience as an athlete to offer tips on maintaining a fit, active gluten-free lifestyle. Dasha has shared "10 Ways to Live a Healthy and Active Gluten Free Lifestyle" tips below:

1) Listen to your body

If you’re not feeling well, whether it’s a sore muscle or a stomach ache, your body is trying to tell you something so don’t tune it out. “A persistent sluggish feeling and decreased athletic performance led to my celiac disease diagnosis in 2008,” noted Gaiazova. “Your body knows best.”

2) Keep a food journal either on your phone or on paper.

You’ll be surprised to see how much you can learn about your eating habits and the way the body responds to certain foods. It’s a good tool to share with your doctors so they can better understand your overall health.

3) Give your friends a personal training session.

Your friends might not understand what it means to have celiac disease or how to live a gluten free lifestyle but that doesn't mean they don’t want to learn. Teaching them about what you can and cannot eat will help keep them invested in your health and fitness plan.

4) Remember to refuel your body.

Carbohydrates are important for an active lifestyle because they provide energy before a workout and help with recovery. Just because there are carbs in something doesn't mean that it has gluten. If you’re craving bread with peanut butter, find the gluten free options, like Glutino bread, that will keep you satisfied - and happy of course.

5) Drink up.

Living a healthy, gluten free lifestyle isn't just about eating and exercising, it’s also about staying hydrated. Increasing your fitness level means you need to increase your fluid intake.

6) Don’t waste your workouts.

Just because you exercised doesn't mean that you can eat whatever you want. Be smart about your post-workout snacks. Glutino pretzels and hummus is a great go-to-snack because it delivers protein and carbs, which help you to refuel and recover more quickly post workout.

7) Set reminders.

If you’re getting up for a morning workout, set your gym clothes and sneakers right next to your bed or right in front of the door. You won’t be able to leave the house without being reminded that you should be getting out the door for a workout.

8) Don’t abandon the plan.

If your physician has recommended a gluten free diet, it’s with good reason - it’s for your health. Going off course can lead to decreased energy and an overall decline in exercise performance.

9) Reward yourself for good behavior.

Living a healthy, active lifestyle has its benefits, but committing to a plan 100 percent of the time can sometimes feel like work. So when you’re doing well – reward yourself.

10) Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

If you have a setback, like getting sick or going off your plan, that doesn't mean your journey has to end. That setback is in the past and you have to keep looking forward. Like Willie Jolley said, “A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

I hope these athletes are getting the gluten-free fuel they need to medal in their sports!