A subject that we're getting more and more questions about these days is how food intolerance can impact sports performance. Testing is growing in popularity as more and more of our top professionals have found that removing foods that they are intolerant to can have a big impact not only on their health but also their performance. In the Tennis world, it was Djokovic who famously removed food intolerances in his diet and he credits this for his ability to remain at the top of his profession.
Food intolerance is estimated to effect 45 percent of the population and can show itself in a variety of symptoms, for example, headaches, migraines, IBS, eczema, joint pain, unexplained fatigue among others. More on food intolerance and health can be found here. One of the difficulties for sports people and a common trap that they can fall into unwittingly is that they can follow diets that can become quite repetitive and find themselves eating a lot of the same foods which can itself lead to food intolerance. An example of this would be eating a high number of eggs as it is a protein rich food. But if we become intolerant to this food, we can find ourselves with various symptoms, fluid retention and sub-optimal sports performance. Another common intolerance is to dairy products, so imagine the number of sports people out there who are regularly consuming whey based proteins in shakes and protein bars who may be impairing their performance without realising it. Intolerance to specific foods can also lead to challenges around weight management, so if you are finding that you are struggling to lose weight even although you believe that your diet and exercise program is optimal, it may be that you have underlying food intolerance which could be driving inflammation and leading to some challenges around losing weight. Typically people find that they lose a few of those extra pounds fairly quickly after removing problematic foods as they lose fluid retention and going forward find that they are better able to maintain an optimal weight for them.
A number of studies have indicated that a risk factor for food intolerance in sport can result from very intense training which can impact our immune system negatively and lead to impaired intestinal barrier function which allows food proteins to find their way into our blood system. One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that "sports performances and health in elite athletes depend on food intolerance in many ways. The elimination diet for 3 months significantly improved health, body composition and faster lowering HR after cardiopulmonary testing."
The particular test that we offer is from the Lorisian laboratories and they have a number of case studies after working with a number of high profile sports professionals and sports teams, notably Newcastle United and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Team. Some examples of individuals are marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, Professional rugby players Peter Stringer and Rob Vickerman, triathlete Matt Perry, International Hockey Player Mike Shaw and runner Dani Rowlinson.
Paula Radcliffe found out she was intolerant to egg, chicken, wheat, tomatoes and dairy and said, “After I cut these foods out of my diet, I was able to run without doubling up in pain. I have a lot more energy and I am back to my normal self. It truly made such a difference to my life and I would recommend it to anyone else suffering from symptoms like these.”
England Rugby 7's player Rob Vickerman had always followed a protein rich diet designed to help fuel his training and assumed the foods he was eating were the best possible choices to compliment his exercise. He said, "At no point throughout my professional career did I even think about awareness of my nutritional make up. I, like many of my peers ticked the usual boxes of high protein quantities, low carb and fats without really knowing what was good for me or why."
Rob Vickerman is a classic example of someone eating the very foods he was intolerant to and in very high amounts which led to some health challenges. He says, “To overlook what fuelled me meant I was perhaps missing the most important information contributing to my performance. I used to react somewhat 'typically' after taking protein shakes, seemingly no different to the majority of my teammates. I never questioned this, nor the fact when I had eggs I would have a similar reaction, bearing in mind I was having 20-30 eggs a week.”
Triathlete Matt Perry also benefitted his sports performance after taking the test. He said, ”I have lost over an inch from my waist and lost 17lbs in weight. My energy levels throughout the day are higher; I am more focussed and clear headed. Also in my first triathlon of the season I knocked 17 minutes off my time from last year... A simple test and re-education on your eating habits can turn your life around.”
Are there any other tests relevant to optimising sports performance?
One that I recommend is the Optimal Nutritional Evaluation which is a simple and convenient urine test which analyses key nutritional biomarkers including antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, digestive support and amino acids. The report also gives advice not only on any nutritional deficits you may have but also suggested nutrients and optimal dosing for you to rectify any deficiencies or imbalance.
Our nutritional status is impacted not only by what we eat but what we absorb of what we eat. We may therefore require further support in the form of digestive enzymes and probiotics. As excessive sport is known to impact free radical damage, we also need to be mindful of optimising antioxidants in the diet. Another factor which we can't underestimate in sport is stress, not only because it impacts performance but also because it can have a negative impact on our digestion and absorption of nutrients. Another test which may therefore be appropriate in some cases is cortisol. It is well known in sport that mind set and keeping stress under control can be pivotal in taking us to the next level.
For further information for individuals or for teams contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01224 969637. We are open Tuesday to Saturday.
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