Australian researchers put a group of elite cyclists on a gluten-free diet for one week and found that their performance was no better than it was during a week of eating foods containing wheat. Dana Lis, a health sciences researcher at the University of Tasmania said that there is indeed no evidence to suggest that gluten removal itself is linked to improved health or performance outcomes.
Gluten-free diet has substantial benefits for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, however since the athletes didn’t have this disorder, eliminating gluten had no added benefit to them. If athletes are gluten intolerant, which is rare, they would benefit from a gluten-free diet, said a sports nutritionist. She went on to add that today a lot of these athletes are eating this diet for no reason, limiting their intake of foods, and a lot of gluten-free packaged foods are really trashy so it’s actually a step in the wrong direction.
It’s possible some athletes perceive a benefit because when they go gluten-free, they also become more conscious of what they eat, consuming more fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods. It’s the generally healthier diet, though, not the absence of gluten that makes them feel better.