Competing in both the Vancouver and Sochi Games, cross country skier Dasha Gaiazova had the unique advantage of twice having a home court advantage. Born in Russia, Gaiazova moved to Montreal with her family in 1999. Dasha is also living proof that athletes limiting gluten in their have no limits in achieving high performance.
Beyond watching what they eat, are there lifestyle or activity considerations for the Gluten Free person?
As an athlete and as a person with celiac disease, I always listen to my body. If something doesn’t feel right, I stop and assess the issue. That being said, as a high performance athlete, I’ve competed in some of the most physically challenging events in the world. Living with celiac disease hasn’t slowed me down. Ever since being diagnosed, living gluten free has enabled me to get back into my most competitive physical state. I live a full and active life!
Is there a nutritional loss to eating GF and what do you do to replenish to keep yourself at elite athletic level?
As an athlete, I need a lot of carbs to help fuel my energy and help my body recover. A lot of people think carbohydrates are only obtained through gluten-full foods, but that’s not the case. Gluten free products contain carbohydrates such as gluten free bread and pasta.
Also, I’m a big juicer-I love juicing my fruits and vegetables for a delicious and healthy drink to keep me fueled in my training. Beets, for example, are a natural dilator and help with circulation. I love beet juice, mixed with carrots, lemon, lime, apple and ginger. I also make sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
During the Olympics or at training camps, is there an awareness to those with GF sensitivities?
My team is fortunate enough to have had a designated chef at the Olympics, who made sure to prepare delicious, healthy gluten free meals and snacks for me. This year, there were many athletes competing in the winter games that followed a gluten free diet. Overall, awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is on the rise as more and more people are living gluten free for a variety of health reasons.
For someone with celiac disease, eating the wrong food can lead to the loss of a medal, subsequent sponsorships and funding, and the tremendous amount of time spent in preparation. What do you do to be careful in what you eat?
I always make sure to read the packaging before purchasing or eating any unfamiliar snack. Of course I have my favorite brands that I know and trust to be gluten free, like Glutino. In the last ten years gluten free foods have come a long way in terms of variety and taste. With so many delicious gluten free foods now available from reliable brands, I never feel like I’m living without.
What’s your favorite source of energy and sustenance? What do you bring along with you?
Like I mentioned before, I absolutely love homemade juice drinks, made from a mix of several fruits and vegetables. For my active lifestyle, I eat a lot of carbs, and always bring bread with me! My favorite post-workout snack is Glutino chocolate covered pretzels, because they’re tasty and replenish the salt I expend while training, while bringing my blood sugar back up. I also take in large amounts of protein, from eggs, cheese, nuts and fish, as well as greens, simply dressed with olive oil or gluten free dressings.
You competed in Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi. Did you feel that you had a homeland advantage in both Olympics?
Both Games were different and special in their own way. Vancouver was simply amazing because so many of my friends and family came and cheered from the ski trail sidelines. Sochi was my second games, and a bit of a “comeback” to the country where I was born and spent my childhood. I think it was a homeland advantage for me in both Vancouver and Sochi, which is such a rare and special Olympic experience!
What emotions did you feel returning and competing in your native Russia?
It was sentimental to be immersed in the culture I grew up in. I remember feeling a bit emotional watching the Opening ceremonies and understanding all the references to the Russia’s history and cultural past. However I know that deep down I’m a Canadian through and through -otherwise how can I explain my love of adding maple syrup to so many of the dishes that I cook?
Can you tell us about your 2014 Olympic experience?
The Sochi Games embodied an incredible range of emotions, from the agony of falling short of my performance goals, the exhilaration of knowing that I put in my absolute best effort regardless of the results, the pride I felt for fellow Canadian athletes who reached their lifelong dreams of winning Olympic medals, to the overwhelming emotions of happiness and appreciation of just being able to compete in the Olympics in a country that still means so much to me.