If you’re an athlete, then you may dedicate countless hours per week to working out, perfecting your craft, getting good sleep and getting the proper nutrition. However, despite all of your hard work, you’re still not where you want to be. Your body’s reactions to certain foods may be causing you to feel miserable and have poor sports performance. Even if you are not a professional athlete, there may be reasons why you aren’t making the gains you want at the gym.

In this article, we will explore the possible signs of a food intolerance and how it can affect your athletic performance. Ask yourself if you experience any food intolerance symptoms to see if there are things you can do to relieve them and make gains in athletic performance.

Signs of a Food Intolerance

Food intolerances are adverse reactions to certain foods. Unlike a food allergy, which can be life threatening, food intolerances can go unnoticed for years (or decades) before they are recognized. Signs of a food intolerance include:

  • Chronic bloating
  • Chronic constipation
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes and/or skin irritation
  • Frequent headaches and/or migraines
  • Runny, stuffy nose and/or sinusitis

Food Intolerances and Your Athletic Performance

Still not sure if food intolerances may be your issue? Maybe fatigue makes you skip workouts or headaches prevent you from sleeping well at night. Or, chronic bloating makes you look larger than you actually are and can make or break your career if you do body image sports like dancing. Chronic constipation make may you feel heavy during long runs. If you can relate to these situations, then your symptoms may be interfering with your sports performance.

In order to be the best athlete you can be, it is important to advocate for yourself and ask your doctor to help you determine the cause of your symptoms. One of the first questions you should ask is if you are experiencing food intolerances. There are several things your healthcare team can do to test your reactions to food.

How do I find out if I have a food intolerance?

In your search to finding out if you have a food intolerance, there are several steps you should take. Keep reading for a registered dietitian’s guide to finding out if you have a food intolerance:

  1. Find a Registered Dietitian: Registered Dietitians are the nutrition experts, and they are often in your healthcare network. There are even dietitians who specialize in food allergies and food intolerances. Above all, make sure that they have “RD” or “RDN” after their name. Also, many dietitian services are covered by insurance.
  2. Rule out dangerous food allergies: Some people may have dangerous food allergies, so make sure your healthcare team tests for those. Shortness of breath and airway constriction after consumption of certain foods may indicate a dangerous reaction to food. There are several food allergy tests that can be done in your doctor’s office.
  3. Ask about food intolerance testing: If you do a quick Internet search, then you may find tons of food intolerance home testing kits online. With any food intolerance testing kit, the results are not definitive and should always be coupled with further testing by your healthcare team.
  4. Trial food elimination diets with a subsequent challenge diet: Under the supervision of a registered dietitian, a low-cost method to determining food intolerances is by doing an elimination diet. Elimination diets require you to temporarily eliminate potentially problematic foods. After elimination, you then try to reintroduce foods into the diet and monitor for symptoms. For more information about elimination diets, click here.