Sports and Performance - its not just about what you look like on the outside!

Fitness

You may have impressive muscles or be able to run 5k without breaking a sweat, but what's going on on the inside?

10/03/2019


Helen Marsden

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Most people who embark on a fitness regime measure their progress with a stopwatch, a tape measure, or a mirror and although yes, your physical appearance can be a good indicator of your general health, at Medichecks we’re far more interested in finding out and helping you to understand what is happening on the inside, as usually improvements in personal bests are matched by improved biomarkers in the blood. 

How can you improve your performance?

For sports people of all levels, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. You can feel tired, lack motivation and struggle to recover after injury. You may well be over-supplementing and throwing out the delicate balance of hormones and nutrients your body needs to function at its best. You might be overtraining and not giving your body the chance to recover causing chronic stress and inflammation. Without knowing what’s going on in your body, it can be very difficult to understand why you’re not performing at your best.

Our range of sports performance checks have been created with a whole range of needs in mind, not just those of elite athletes. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a regular gym goer, or an endurance athlete it is good to see the improvements that can quickly take place in your blood when exercise takes a regular place in your life.

What can a health check tell you about your performance?

Monitoring baseline markers throughout training cycles enable necessary adaptations to training, recovery and nutrition to be put in place to keep you on track to perform. Below are 5 key areas that important to monitor to make sure you are performing at your best and keeping yourself healthy in the process. 

  • Hormones

Hormones - Hormones, especially testosterone as well as its precursor, DHEA are important for building muscle and burning fat as well as for mood and motivation. Low levels might explain why you’re finding it difficult to lose those extra pounds and gain that six-pack you’ve been after. Exercise is perceived by the body as a form of stress and stimulates the release of cortisol. Long-term high levels of cortisol can lead to the breakdown of muscle and will interfere with muscle development. Endurance athletes are commonly low in testosterone so doing more strength work can raise testosterone levels.

Having a greater understanding of your hormone levels can help to optimise your sporting performance.

  • Thyroid function 

Your thyroid is the gland which governs your metabolism, too low and you’re often lacking the energy to climb the stairs let alone run a 10k, too high and you’re jittery and nervous and finding it difficult to sleep. A low thyroid blood test result can often be the reason why, despite your diet and exercise programme, you struggle to lose those unwanted pounds.

  • Inflammation 

C-Reactive Protein, (CRP), is a protein used as a marker of inflammation in the body. High-intensity sports training increases inflammation and increases CRP levels. If you do not get sufficient recovery, CRP levels will remain elevated. Chronic inflammation can lead to the development of diabetes, certain cancer types and autoimmune diseases such as coeliac disease and arthritis. Exercise with proper recovery can help to decrease CRP levels and as an athlete it’s important to monitor levels of CRP to make sure you are correctly balancing exercise and recovery.

  • Iron status 

Iron is a mineral vital for transporting oxygen from the blood to the tissues – a very important process in exercise! Efficiently using oxygen is very important in athletic training and muscle building. Not surprisingly, low levels of iron can affect sporting performance, not only will you feel tired but your body will struggle to get the vital oxygen it needs, causing you to feel breathless and dizzy. On the other hand, too much iron in the blood can increase inflammation, raise cholesterol and decrease cardiovascular health - so as an athlete it is important to monitor iron levels.

  • Vitamins and minerals 

Nutrition is a cornerstone of athletic performance and is just as important as training plans and broader recovery strategies. There are several vitamins and minerals that are important to monitor when training including magnesium, vitamin D and B12. Magnesium is an important mineral needed for proper muscle, nerve, and enzyme function. Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells, for metabolism and for the normal functioning of the nervous system, while vitamin D is important for athletes as it relates to overall health, bone density, innate immunity and muscle wasting. Many of us in the UK are vitamin D deficient - with symptoms including muscle weakness, mood swings and fatigue. To train and perform optimally, it is important to monitor and track your levels of these vitamins and minerals.

Are you performing at your best?

In our view, blood tests are not just to diagnose problems if you are ill, but to give you a window into how your body functions and how the choices you make every day can affect your health and well-being. Medichecks Endurance Fit is the perfect way to find out how to optimise your race performance,  avoid injury, maximise recovery and get a detailed look at hormones and nutrition that can affect your training and performance. As with all our tests, your results will be reviewed by a qualified doctor who can advise you on what changes you need to make to your training and nutrition. Small adjustments to training, nutrition, rest and recovery can all play a part in optimising your performance - and the evidence is in your blood! 

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