On trying gluten free for the hell of it…
A couple of months ago, I hit a plateau that had me dig back through my notes and resources to see if there were any ways I could tweak my routine to get back to the weight I hit before Puerto Rico and bought a house back in March. Because of the difference in exercise routine between now and then (I’m doing less cardio and focusing more on upper body strength), I’m putting on muscle like crazy, so coming up with the right diet isn’t trivial.
Analyzing my meals, I was pretty close to being 100% gluten free. It’s just the nature of the breakdown of my meals. Before March, here’s a breakdown of a typical day of meals while I was training:
6:30am – Mean Green Juice (approx 10 oz)
8:15am – 1 Packet of instant oatmeal w/ 1 TBSP chia seeds
11:15am – 1 Protein shake (25 g of protein from whey)
12:15pm – 4 cups mixed greens, 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, and 3-4 oz grilled chicken or 1/2 cup quinoa/farro
4:15pm – 30 almonds
6:30pm – Bison taco salad (4 cups romaine, 3 oz sauteed ground bison, 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, 2 TBSP sour cream, 1 slice of colby jack cheese, 8 Late July Organic tortilla chips crushed on top) w/ lots of Valentina hot sauce.
8:30pm – Snack [either 2 eggs scrambled with 1 TBSP butter and 1 TBSP sour cream and 1 slice of Heldelberg Multigrain toast or 1 cup of 0% Chobani Greek Yogurt with 1 TBSP honey, 1 TBSP chia seeds, and 1/2 cup granola]
Based on the progress I made since 2011, knowing that I ate bread just about every day and still managed to lose 125 pounds, I was pretty sure that my body didn’t have the gluten intolerance issues that I know many people out there struggle with. I know a big gluten free trend in the restaurant industry has been driven by a mixture of confirmed cases of gluten intolerance, celiac disease, but mainly people who are going gluten free for the hell of it.
So, I focused on being a little more cautious about not eating things like bread and baked goods for about a month. In that month, when it was time to do some cheating on my diet, I stuck to some of the gluten free mixes out there. I found that Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie mix is freaking awesome, but they’re a bitch to remove from the pan, even with copious amounts of greasing. I also found that the Shoprite nearest me sells a bunch of bagged mixes from a brand called Namaste Foods. I tried their gluten free pizza crust and, being the pizza freak that I am, it was an emotionally deflating experience. That’s not to say it didn’t taste good. It was good on its own merits, but it didn’t have any of the characteristics of a typical pizza crust. There’s only so far the molecular gastronomy of xantham gum and air will get you, and reproducing the texture and chew of a great pizza crust is beyond those limits. I also tried their No Sugar Added Muffin Mix, and it was actually really good, especially with some of this stuff.
What I was interested in with my gluten free experiment was whether (1) I would continue to see the gains and losses keeping my exercise plan the same and (2) I would notice any differences in my joints and flexibility. What I found was that my body showed no difference switching to a fully gluten free plan. I was continuing to workout on the same frequency, lose the same amount of weight per week, and I noticed no difference in flexibility.
Phew! I can still have my pizza and subs.
In reading a lot of the propaganda out there, it’s important to know where you fit in. Some literature will have you believe that gluten is toxic to all human beings. I personally know a number of people who have eliminated gluten from their lives. Some have done so by necessity due to celiac disease, and others have done so by choice to maintain weight loss and swear by the results the results. It’s difficult to argue with empirical data, and that month it took for me to gather the data was enough for me to learn that I can achieve the results I want (right now) without going gluten free.
[I do realize that I could have extended the study to measure the longer term effects, but what you don’t realize is that the duration of the study was selected based on the start date and proximity to my birthday. There’s no way I was going to miss birthday cake by choice if I didn’t have to!]