Measuring nutritional status in athletes is imperative for optimal performance. It can be quite a simple process of measuring anthropometrics and performing a 24 hours diet recall or it can be quite an extensive process depending on your budget.
Here is my method of measuring nutritional status in athletes:
This is conducted to establish the athletes nutrient intake. I perform a 24-hour diet recall to establish what the athlete eats. But remember EVERYONE LIES! I want to find out what habits they have for breakfast, lunch or dinner, what snacks they eat, what drinks they have and what supplements they use. I also want to find out about their sleep patterns. This helps me evaluate what is good and what is bad and where I need to start with making changes to the athletes diet.
This means measuring height, weight, body fat and waist to hip ratio. These measurements help to establish fat mass and muscle mass and help to chart changes in these markers over the course of a season and to if your training plans are working.
Full blood count
This will need to be carried out by a doctor but the information is useful for a team nutritionist. You will get information on red cells, iron and haemoglobin levels; electrolytes such as Na and K; calcium, and corrected calcium levels; white cells.; cholesterol, thyroid hormones and viruses such as Epstein Barr. This will help you establish numerous things tat need to worked on with food or supplements.
Vitamin D tests
Vitamin D deficiency is rife amongst the population and athletes are no different. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium in the gut. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, bone health and muscle strength. Vitamin D deficiency could increase the risk of stress fractures and has been shown to result in decreased performance. I perform a blood test on my athletes and supplement accordingly – starting with a 5000IU daily dose.
Food intolerance test
At Nutritionist Wandsworth I perform an IgG mediated food intolerance test from York Lab. This helps to establish what athletes are over consuming and what may create additional inflammation in their body. The main culprits from the tests I have done are eggs, milk, wheat and soy. This means the athletes may need to avoid eating these foods for a period of 8-12 weeks to see if the reaction decreases. Some foods may need to be avoided or minimally consumed indefinitely.
These are my foundation tests beyond these I also want to get information on the following tests in part 2 of this article.