All of this concern over gluten (in my opinion) really started as just another fat loss trend…think about all of your friends who have gone ‘gluten free’ for any measurable amount of time, surely they lost weight, but thats what happens when you pretty much eliminate an entire food group, most aren’t educated enough to rationally REPLACE the gluten rich foods with gluten free starches like rice, potatoes, quinoa etc. and by default lose weight because they are drastically reducing calories, after all a bed of lettuce is much less calorie dense than say a burger bun. This weight loss ends up being attributed to a reduction in overall carbs (instead of calories) which in turn causes people to demonize starch in general. Enter the low carb movement. (Oh yes lets replace whole grains with fatty, puss and blood laden dairy products…seriously gross.)
Let me preface by saying I used to be the conductor of the ‘gluten is the root of all your worldly problems’ train, I painstakingly excluded it from my diet for about 3 years once I read of its ‘dangers’ and proudly promoted that all my clients do the same. At the time I ate a very unprocessed diet of nuts/seeds/meats/veggies and fat. Your stereotypical carb-phobic paleo diet, on which I never dared cheat. This worked for me for some time, being that my previous diet included basically anything I could get away with inside a caloric allotment of 1500cal per day…which meant tons of artificial sweeteners, protein powders, fake foods, fat free dressings etc. So switching to whole foods immediately made me feel better for obvious reasons, yet somehow I managed to convince myself that it was indeed the elimination of gluten that turned things around, and not the INCORPORATION of more whole foods…
Fast forward about 3 years to the start of my experiment with veganism, I still avoided gluten like the plague, ate a lot of whole unprocessed plant foods, a lot of raw food and green juice, feeling the best I truly ever had in my life…but at this point my activity level was pretty low, I got work outs in when I could but most days were spent tending to much more important personal things I had going on at the time. When that phase was over, I went back to my normal routine and was training hard everyday for at least 90min or more, maybe an active rest day here and there…but I felt slow, tired, and mostly bloated from the volume of raw foods I was having to consume everyday to manage my hunger levels after increasing my activity. This didn’t make for a successful training environment or a very happy me…being a new vegan in any case isn’t really that easy, learning to navigate restaurant menus, the right macronutrient ratios and basically how to cook all over again…needless to say I was struggling.
I am a firm believer in the fact that if you don’t wake up everyday with the mentality about your diet that you could do it everyday for the rest of your life, you’re basically setting yourself up to fail. I was at a breaking point myself with how restricted I felt in my diet, incapable of being flexible in eating out with friends or family and having only a small amount of options as to where to go to adhere to my personal dietary guidelines, it was starting to remind me of my old ways of disordered orthorexic eating and that was no where I wanted to go back to. The easiest transition to make was to more of a cooked starch based diet, that way I could remain high carb which made me feel my best, & increase calories with out having to increase volume. To make this even easier I decided to add gluten back into my diet as well, and you know what? I never felt better.
The changes I saw when I begun to incorporating gluten & grains were; being satiated longer after my meals were over, energy levels were much more steady, I never felt cause for concern about where I could/couldn’t eat, and at this point in my process I am steadily losing inches around my waist in prep for an upcoming bikini competition. (Eating upwards of 300g carbs and at least one gluten containing meal daily) The biggest thing for me is definitely the stress factor though, realizing I can eat wholesome nutrient dense whole grains while still feeling and looking good is an immeasurable relief. That being said, why place concern surrounding avoidance of an entirely common ingredient if you aren’t medically intolerant?
I’m not here to say that gluten intolerance doesn’t exist, I know people with Celiacs disease and its a real issue that effects them heavily if they do come in contact with gluten. But outside of that, I really just think its a dying trend. If you’ve never read the nutrition label of gluten free bread in comparison to sprouted whole grain bread, I highly suggest you take a look. The amount of chemical reactions necessary to create a bread that mimics the texture and structure of wheat bread with out gluten is pretty astonishing, realistically can you really say ingesting xanthem gum and weird soy fillers is LESS detrimental than stone ground whole grains? Just a little perspective to mull over. Carbohydrates in my opinion are the most important macronutrient you can consume, foods that are primarily fat or protein don’t contain any source of carbohydrate, yet carbs are capable of containing all three, whole grains happen to be very rich in bio available proteins. I hope this blog has opened your eyes a little bit to this gluten facade, and encourages you to experiment on your own. Judge by results, not theory. No one is capable of making decisions about your body but you, not the books you read, your hairstylist or Robb Wolf, so stay in tune with yourself and figure out what is and what isn’t doable. Maybe gluten really makes you feel shitty, if so, don’t eat it. But don’t just cut it out for no good reason, you’re depriving yourself of a very nutrient dense food item when its consumed in the form of whole or sprouted grains. If it was good enough to fuel the ancient Roman army, it’s good enough for you.