Natural product manufacturers launching new sports nutrition lines are focusing on not only providing products with “clean” ingredients, but ones that are gluten-free. For one athlete, it meant the difference between being great and being the greatest.
Since banishing gluten in 2010, after tests indicated that he suffered from gluten-intolerance, 26-year-old Novak Djokovic moved from No. 3 status to World No. 1 ranked tennis star and has been virtually unstoppable on the court.
Following a high-protein, gluten-free diet, Djokovic now avoids most starches, including his past favorites, pizza and pasta. The Serbian tennis player credits the gluten-free diet with sharp improvements to his tennis and his health.
“Mentally, you’ll be fresh, you’ll be happier, you’ll be calmer,” said Djokovic in a recent interview featured in an article on celiac.com. “Physically, you’ll be stronger, faster, more dynamic, and your muscles will work better. That’s what I feel."
At first, the already slim 6-foot-2 Djokovic lost 10 pounds after cutting gluten out of his diet, but insists it has only helped his game.
“I have lost some weight but it’s only helped me, because my movement is much sharper now and I feel great physically,” said Novak, whose weight now hovers at 176 pounds. “I am very skinny. [But] I am fast and very powerful on the court, so this is what matters.”
When he’s not in training, Djokovic has been known to backslide and eat some of his old favorites, including pizza and pasta, a pattern familiar to many people seeking to follow a gluten-free diet, especially those who don’t suffer immediate symptoms.
However, he said that following a gluten-free diet brings out his best.
“If you can mentally overcome this greed and eat only the food that is good for your metabolism, then you will have the best results, not just in tennis but in life as well,” he said.