Athletes perform best when their nutrition is optimal. There are many variables you need to track when looking at nutrient status. These are some of nutritional tests I like to perform in my athletes.
Saliva tests help to establish markers of immune health and endocrine health. The immune marker we are measuring in saliva is called secretory IgA. Changes in secretory IgA can be used to measure over or under training. Each athlete will have a genetic baseline level of secretory IgA. If they are rested then their levels will be normal. If they are over trained their levels can either be extremely hard for extremely low. These changes in secretory IgA levels can expose the athletes to upper respiratory tract infection and illness. Similarly saliva can be used to measure the hormones testosterone and cortisol. Testosterone is your anabolic hormone cortisol is your catabolic hormones. At rest testosterone should be relatively high cortisol relatively low. After exercise the reversal be true. Measuring these hormones in the recovery period after training ballgames can give you an indication on the recovery status of an athlete and whether they will be a will to handle another intense exercise session.
Sweat patches can be applied to your body before training and they absorb the sweat that is produced during a session. In the sweat are electrolytes including sodium, chloride and potassium. What we can measure in the sweat patches is the amount of these electrolytes lost during a training session. Some athletes will be heavy sweaters and very salty sweaters thus much more likely to cramp, whereas other athletes will be light sweaters and non-salty sweaters therefore less likely to cramp. With this information in mind you can advise the athlete on which sports drinks to use and whether they should consume salt in their food.
This is a comprehensive blood and urine analysis that provides a complete picture of an athlete’s metabolism. From this test you get information on vitamin D status, red cell minerals and toxic metals, Krebs cycle intermediary metabolites, micronutrient status such as B12 and folic acid along with many other markers. This can help you establish what the athletes needs in terms of amino acids, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to optimize their metabolism.
Stool tests would be carried out infrequently on athletes that have IBS type symptoms. The stool test helps to establish markers for mal-absorption, inflammation, bacterial stauts – both friendly and unfriendly and whether there are any bacterial or parasite infections.
Gluten sensitivity test
Gluten sensitivity test would be carried out in athletes that have markers of mal-absorption on a FBC or NutrEval. The key marker that would prompt me to ask for a stool test would be low iron status. If iron is not being absorbed if may indicate vilus atrophy from gluten consumption.
Cardio genomic tests
A cardio genomics test would be carries out if there abnormalities in cholesterol levels from a full blood count. The cardio general mix test gives information on not only total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol but also provides information on both the particle size and particle number of the LDL-cholesterol. It also gives information on both systemic and arterial information, homocysteine and some genetic markers of cholesterol metabolism. All this information gives you a better picture on what you can recommend to the athletes in terms of foods and supplements.
Steve Hines is a performance specialist working with elite athletes. He is also a Nutritionist in Wandsworth and can be contacted for a private consultation.