Djokovic may have Gluten-free Diet to Thank for Tennis Wins

Photo from / Reuters
If you follow tennis, you may have heard of a fellow by the name of Novak Djokovic.

If not, let me fill you in: Serbian, just turned 24, kind of a big deal breakout tennis superstar.

Djokovic’s been having a record season: 37-0. No one has enjoyed a winning streak like that since 1984. Djokovic’s beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer multiple times, and the Wall Street Journal casually referred to him as the best athlete of 2011.

Clearly he wasn’t a bad tennis player before, but no one expected wins like this. So what could explain the turnaround?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s the tennis pro’s new gluten-free diet.

A year ago, Djokovic’s doctors recommended a gluten-free diet to him. Whether due to an intolerance, a sensitivity, celiac disease – this is unclear. Regardless, no gluten seems to equate with no losing.

What I really like about this story – Djokovic’s story in general, and the WSJ’s coverage of it specifically – is that it highlights the mental benefits to giving up gluten. Flexibility, stamina, speed – yes, you need to be physically strong to be a good tennis player, but you also need an agile mind

Although Djokovic has apparently lost a few pounds since reformulating his diet, this wouldn’t be enough to explain his rapid rise. If he’s thinking quicker, though – that could explain a lot.

For those of us with a personal understanding of the term “brain fog,” it’s hardly surprising. It’s also a strong example of why it’s worth getting tested for gluten trouble, even for people who seem physically fine. Not to harp on a tired theme, but it bears repeating: sometimes you don’t even know how bad you felt (or how much you can achieve) until you start feeling better. 

7 thoughts on “Djokovic may have Gluten-free Diet to Thank for Tennis Wins”

  1. I love hearing stories like this! I remember too well the brain fog and the morning I woke up, 48 hours of eliminating gluten from my diet, when the fog was gone and I felt like a different person! I now have a reason to follow the French Open!

  2. actually, he was diagnosed with an intolerance to gluten, which is mentioned in the original article. what is not clear is whether it is celiac or NCGS

  3. I’m just glad he’s not another celebrity who is on a gluten-free diet because it’s a “fad” or because it’s a “diet”. Maybe now that there is a celebrity athlete with a real gluten-intolerance condition, it will help people to understand these as real health issues!

  4. Athletes are beginning to go GF to gain an edge. A GF diet in healthy people seems to reduce inflammation due to intesive training. To me this helps support the proposition that gluten is generally not good for most if not all of us.

  5. Hi, first post for me.
    This is good news, maybe companies will see that gluten is not good and develop better GF products. And even if it is a celebrity fad diet that’s fine by me, if there’s money to be made, and more GF products are out there at a more reasonable price, with better flavor, I say bring it on!!

  6. My son just turned 11 and has been living gluten free for a couple of years now due to celiac. I recall the brain fog way to well. He struggled in school. He would get aggrivated just trying. We sent him to tuters and did everything we could. Not stating that didnt help at all but since he’s been off of gluten, he’s had nothing but honer roll! I’m sure it’s also the fact that you just learn better if you feel better. Regardless, i’m glad to see the brain fog gone!

  7. I to changed my diet to gluten free and I can tell a huge difference. When you stop eating processed foods that have nothing, but useless additives the body can tell and reacts to it positively. You never realize how many everyday products contain gluten until you start to look. Once you make the change to healthy fruits, proteins and vegetables your body will respond. If you’re an athlete, like Djokovic, you will notice the results almost immediately. Keep in mind that a gluten free diet is NOT plain and boring…

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