Building muscle is a complex process that requires you to have persistence and diligence on multiple fronts, including both diet and exercise. Some people wonder if it's even possible to get stronger while following a gluten-free regimen. 

Fortunately, avoiding gluten and building muscle are not mutually exclusive activities.

What Is Gluten?

Essentially, gluten is a protein found in certain grains that helps foods hold their shape and gives a texture that is soft and chewy. 

If you use a strict definition, the term only applies to wheat — but most people use the word to refer to a family of proteins that can also be found in barley and rye. So, what has gluten in it? 

Here are some of the most common foods:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Beer

Keep in mind that anything with wheat flour contains gluten, so prepared baked goods are common culprits. 

Hidden sources include sauces and soups (where flour may be used as a thickener), products that contain food coloring, and salad dressings. People with celiac disease can't tolerate gluten at all. 

But even if you don't seem to have any side effects from consuming gluten, there may be benefits to cutting it out of your diet.

Replacing Gluten With Other Proteins

Deciding to replace wheat-containing foods with alternative options can complement your strength-training efforts. Protein, for example, is key to muscle recovery after a workout. 

While gluten itself is a protein, almonds are also an excellent source of this nutrient. Using almond flour in place of wheat flour, therefore, can ensure that you don't lose the protein when you quit eating conventional bread products. 

Choosing Foods That’ll Fill You Up

Because wheat flour is so filling, people who need or want to eliminate it tend to look for equally satisfying foods. These tend to also be high in protein and other helpful nutrients. 

Think about eggs, lean meats (without breading, of course), beans, and nuts. They fill you up and provide your body with healthy fats in addition to protein. 

Passing On Sweets

Don't forget that going gluten-free is generally going to mean passing on sweet pastries, cookies, and desserts as well. These products are known to hinder attempts to bulk up on muscle because they typically contain high amounts of sugar and saturated fat. 

Skipping the chocolate cake after dinner and instead opting for raspberries and a handful of chopped pecans over unsweetened Greek yogurt is only going to help as you seek to lose fat and gain muscle.

Fueling Your Workouts

Of course, food choices alone aren't going to provide the results you want. Exercise is important to building muscle mass, too — and you're going to need the energy to fuel your workout. 

While whole-grain cereals and energy bars are often marketed as good products to eat to give your gym session a boost, they're often loaded with gluten. The good news is that gluten-free alternatives can not only have the same effect, but they are also often healthier for you. 

Before your strength-training session, consider the following meal or snack choices:

  • Bananas
  • A breakfast hash made with potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Peanut butter on toasted gluten-free bread
  • Vegetables over brown rice
  • A high-protein omelet made with egg whites and filled with cheese and vegetables
  • A smoothie with blended almond milk and berries

Adding Complex Carbohydrates

If you're looking for gluten-free complex carbohydrates — which are also essential for muscle building — keep in mind that beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, and standard potatoes are all fantastic sources. 

When leaving out the gluten, adding these into your meals will ensure a balanced diet that includes the nutritional benefits of wheat.

Getting Results

Building muscle takes time and consistency. While you can't expect to see results overnight, you should feel confident that it's very possible to tone and strengthen your body while avoiding gluten. 

Whether you have celiac disease or not, healthy foods that don't contain wheat can help you get to the finish line.


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