by Katie Mark
What if you could restock your fridge based on your blood nutrient and hormone levels?
A generalized handout detailing the optimum pre-game food is now obsolete. The new approach to sports nutrition is personalized nutrition through blood analytics.
Serious athletes are taking the personalized nutrition route to construct their own diet of a champion. Blood analytics provide you with science-based nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to improve your health. It quantifies your biomarker levels, including: total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, cortisol, testosterone, glucose, triglycerides, C-reactive protein, vitamin D, calcium and iron.
How does it work? Various companies offer blood testing. You then get your blood drawn at a certified lab offered by the blood testing company that you purchase a blood test from. After you get your blood drawn, your biomarker results are uploaded to the company’s online platform. The platform tells you your optimal level of each biomarker, specifically based on your age, sex, weight, height and activity level. There is a visual spectrum of the range for each biomarker with your optimized zone indicated.
You are then provided with nutrition information for the biomarkers that are not “optimized.” These science-based recommendations suggest what you should eat based on your dietary preferences.
Initially, I had no interest in blood testing. I thought blanket statements, such as “Eat carbs the night before a competition” or “Eat a banana for potassium,” were good enough. For those who want to be at the next level, these generalized statements might not be good enough.
As an athlete, I decided to approach a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (ketogenic) diet to evaluate whether or not this could increase my endurance in road cycling. I know how this diet makes me feel while exercising, but how do I determine its impact on my health?
The answer was blood analytics.
I was able to determine if a low-carb diet affected my metabolic profile to the same extent as to what I was reading in studies. Interestingly, it was. Studies suggest that those who follow low-carb diets have high HDL levels, variable LDL levels, low triglyceride levels and low glucose levels. These theorized results aligned with my actual results.
Blood analytics also told me where I needed to improve. My vitamin D level was extremely low, and my cortisol level was too high. I would not have been able to identify vitamin D as a nutrient I needed to monitor if I didn’t have this test done. My results told me I should increase mushroom and fatty fish intake, such as salmon, tuna or mackerel. According to the blood analytics company I tested with, I was now aware that increasing my blood levels of vitamin D to greater than 40 ng/mL would help me strengthen my bones and avoid stress fractures. Additionally, muscle strengthening requires higher levels of vitamin D. I can find out if I am able to increase my vitamin D levels by re-testing.
We all know general nutrition recommendations: eat your fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains, get regular exercise, etc. And when it comes to sports nutrition: replenish your glycogen stores with carbohydrates, eat a mixture of carbs and protein following exercise, etc. But serious athletes are hungry for more.
Specific recommendations as to what nutrition choices will have the greatest impact on our own health is crucial. For example, if you want to evaluate whether or not you are overtraining.
The testosterone to cortisol ratio is an appropriate overtraining and stress indicator. A low score will suggest you have high stress levels or poor sleep quality. A high score will suggest your recovery time is sufficient and you have good sleep quality. This indicates your body is able to increase strength and muscle mass.
Blood analytics is an individualized audit that provides you with concrete data to assess where you are as an athlete and how you can safely optimize your health through sound, individualized nutrition recommendations. It allows you to identify specific biomarkers that you may need to monitor and gives you approaches to help modify them.
If you decide to pursue this route, be sure to find a reputable blood analytics company. The cost ranges from $50 to up to $1,000 depending on the plan you purchase. All plans differ by the types of biomarkers you can get tested for.
Blood analytics provide a snapshot of your current health; while, providing, a massive amount of information to evaluate how your diet and lifestyle is impacting your body and performance. An approach to sports nutrition for a 40 year-old male is not the same as for a 21 year-old female. Measuring your internal chemistry may help you achieve better athletic performance by identifying what you personally need to modify.
What will be the next advancement in sports nutrition? Possibly technology to quickly improve recovery. But, until then, if you want to be miles ahead of the most competitive exercisers, consider personalized nutrition through blood analytics.
Katie Mark is a first-year Nutrition Communication/Public Health student. She will attempt her first century bike ride from Boston to Hyannis Port on May 30.