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How Lab Tests Can Benefit Athletic Performance…

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Chris Mohr, PhD, RD

The days of “no pain, no gain” and “rise and grind” seem to be a thing of the past; much like the short, polyester shorts my football coaches wore in the 90’s. More recently the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and recovery is the “it” topic of the last several years, with TED talks on the subject, strength coaches measuring heart rate variability, to program workouts and companies pushing every gadget and product possible to capitalize on this latest trend.

In fact, many strength coaches are now focusing even more on recovery than simply training itself.

“Early in my career I focused all my attention on training; now when I get a new client, I map out recovery strategies first because I realized a workout is only effective if the athlete is able to adequately recover from it” says strength coach Joe DeFranco, host of the Industrial Strength Podcast. “Once I started doing this, my athletes’ results improved (strength increases, vertical jumps and sprint times improved) and more importantly, they felt better with more energy and less complaints about nagging aches and pains.”

That said, there’s another piece to this puzzle in terms of performance. It’s not just what happens on the outside, but also what’s going on inside the body. Athletes not only need to focus on training at the gym, but to maximize performance they have to look at the whole body, including what is inside. The only way to “look” inside is with blood testing to see if all the effort they’re putting in with their nutrition, training and recovery is working.

Which lab tests should you ask for?

Life Extension has made this easy for anyone, allowing the athlete to work in conjunction with their own dietitian or physician to guide them through what to look for.

Monitoring what I call the blood work basics, like a lipid panel and glucose, is important to help guide nutritional recommendations and intake and any changes that may shift these numbers if needed, along with considerations around supplementation. Life Extension blood panel testing can go much deeper.

There’s more to blood work, health and performance than just lipids.

Consider blood panel testing like a blueprint for the athlete’s body to see which areas from within can improve. It can also identify what an athlete needs more or less of. It can identify why an athlete is lacking energy or if they have deficiencies and if they need to tweak any habits around nutrition, sleep, recovery and/or supplementation.

Above and beyond even those blood testing basics, I have used and love the Life Extension Male Elite Panel. These tests take things one, or even ten steps further by examining general health markers in addition to many of the key hormones that can play a role in physical and mental performance.

In addition to what I listed above, the Elite Blood Panel tests also cover a variety of blood markers, including:

  • Steroid hormones
    • Females – Estrogen, DHEA-S, Progesterone
    • Males – Testosterone, Estradiol, Dihydrotestosterone
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Cardiac markers
  • Endocrine hormones
  • Hormone binding proteins

Information is knowledge, so having these markers is valuable to see what, if any, adjustments can be made. Of course, in addition to one’s own personal health care provider, which in the case of many higher-level athletes can include a variety of individuals, Life Extension also offers a follow up with one of their Wellness Specialists to review specifics. So, the question then is does this really all matter? Can’t we just workout, sleep and eat a variety of foods? Well, let’s look at a few of these markers a bit more in depth.

  • Testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day and in response to exercise. Increases in testosterone levels can help with enlarging muscles and building strength.1
  • DHEA levels also fluctuate throughout the day and in response to exercise. Levels also tend to decrease with age.2
  • Thyroid hormone imbalance can lead to fatigue and exercise intolerance.3
  • Electrolyte balance is important, particularly for hard working (and sweating) athletes.
  • Increases in levels of enzymes like creatine kinase may indicate muscle damage from over-exercising.4
  • Hemoglobin is essential for transporting oxygen around the body. Proper levels are needed to maintain exercise capacity.5

None of these individual tests can really be understood without proper blood work that gives a fuller picture, which is where Life Extension and their comprehensive panels come in, including the Male and Female Elite Blood Panel Tests, Rx’d ULTIMATE Performance Panel Blood Test, and others. Again, information is knowledge and having that baseline and being able to do something with it is crucial for long term success and performance. Imagine if simply sleeping more could boost performance? Or adding more fruits and vegetables, or maybe a supplement or two, depending on needs. Of course, recommendations are all dependent on the numbers and no one lab test value is enough to draw conclusions. Any unusual results should be tested again at a later date. When it comes to supplements, check with a physician, pharmacist, or dietitian before adding something new, especially if you are taking prescription medications.

About the Author: Chris Mohr, PhD RD is a nutrition spokesperson and consultant. Dr. Mohr was the consulting Sports Nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals, has consulted with WWE athletes and his expertise has offered him the opportunity to speak at the White House, to the CIA and to audiences in over 10 countries and almost all 50 states. He often appears on TV as a nutritional guest expert, including an appearance with Chef Emeril Lagasse, CBS’s ‘The Talk’ and more. He was the nutrition consultant and expert for the NY Times Bestseller, “LL Cool J’s Platinum Workout.” Dr. Mohr has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Nutrition from The Pennsylvania State University and University of Massachusetts, respectively. He earned his PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Registered Dietitian.

References:

  1. Sports Med. 2017;47(9):1709-1720.
  2. Steroids. 2016;106:19-25.
  3. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2014;85(3):365-89.
  4. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2014;14(1):68-77.
  5. Front Physiol. 2013;4:332.



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