Biomarker Testing for Athletes

The Future of Data-Driven Performance

What Is Biomarker Testing?

Definition:

A biomarker is a substance that is measured in a biological organism as an indicator of environmental exposure, effect, susceptibility or clinical disease[i]. 

In the realm of sports performance, blood biomarker testing is a window inside your body. It allows you to better understand your nutrition and performance levels by providing you information on indicators such as injury risk, hydration status, muscle status and more. These indicators are essential to ensuring optimal performance and health. Additionally, blood tests are easy and fast, whilst also providing a wealth of information.

How to Conduct Biomarker Testing?

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Biomarker testing is a very simple process. After ordering the kit online, all you have to do is prick your finger and collect a small sample of blood. You then send your blood back and receive the results within a couple of weeks along with a full analysis.

Based on the analysis, the recommended changes should be made to your diet, training and lifestyle in order to see improvements. It is suggested to take another test approximately three months later to monitor the progress made as well as to continue adjusting your lifestyle to achieve optimal state.


How to Use Your Biomarker Analysis?

Biomarker testing can be used prevent career-threatening injuries in athletes. Biomarker testing can also be used to make changes in your nutrition and supplementation strategy, and therefore gain an edge over other athletes competing in the same space, whether that be football, soccer or ballet. Understanding and tweaking what is happening inside your body allows for changes to be made directly catered towards your specific needs and this personalized attention allows you to identify weaknesses and thus improve upon them.

Information Provided Through Biomarker Testing

List of blood biomarkers for athletes

Nutrition:

Nutrition is an important factor of athletic performance and recovery. When overall nutrition is inadequate, it can cause a reduction in endurance performance and muscle function. By regularly monitoring macronutrient and micronutrient intake, you can improve deficiencies through supplementation and changes in dietary plans, as it is also known that vitamin supplements only benefit individuals with a biological deficiency[ii].

Hydration Status:

Water is an essential nutrient within the human body. When exercising, your body loses water through sweating. This leads to dehydration and results in a decrease in extracellular fluid volume. Therefore, it is important to use biomarkers as indexes of dehydration[iii] in order to prevent the negative impacts of dehydration.

Muscle Status:

Skeletal muscle tissue quality and recovery state of muscle affect strength, power, fatigue and endurance in athletes. Insufficient recovery caused by training impacts performance due to a higher need for effort, reduced exercise tolerance, reduced strength and reduced power. Therefore, monitoring indicators of muscle status allows you to customize your training in order to improve recovery routines and optimize performance[iv].

Injury Risk:

Biomarkers can also be used to detect several common injuries that athletes tend to face such as concussions[v], stress fractures[vi] and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries[vii]. Based on different chemicals that are released post-injury, these common injuries can all be detected with the use of biomarker testing and potentially also prevented at an early stage[viii].

Biomarker Testing: Case Studies

Biomarker testing has already been implemented in many professional sports, including soccer and football. Currently both FC Dallas and NY Giants have been conducting biomarker testing on their players in order to improve performance. For FC Dallas[x], the testing has allowed them to be named the team with the lowest injury levels. As for the NY Giants[xi], they used this data to improve smart training and cater dietary plans thus resulting in fewer stress fractures and improved overall performance. 

As an athlete, you should be the first to benefit from biomarker testing, as it creates a whole new level of personalized care and performance optimization. You can tailor your training loads, nutrition and supplementation strategies specifically for your own body, rather than cope with injury, suffer from overexertion or deficiencies in nutrient and vitamin intake.

References:

[i] Huss, Ralf. “Biomarkers.” Biomarkers - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/biomarkers.

[ii] Henry C. Lukaski. Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance. Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug; 20:632-644. DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.001.

[iii] Sawka MN, Cheuvront SN, Kenefick RW. Hypohydration and human performance: Impact of environment and physiological mechanisms. Sports Med 45(Suppl 1): S51–S60, 2015.

[iv] Lee, Elaine C et al. “Biomarkers in Sports and Exercise: Tracking Health, Performance, and Recovery in Athletes.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 31,10 (2017): 2920-2937. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002122

[v] Shahim P, Tegner Y, Wilson DH, Randall J, Skillbäck T, Pazooki D, Kallberg B, Blennow K, Zetterberg H. Blood biomarkers for brain injury in concussed professional ice hockey players. JAMA Neurol 71: 684–692, 2014.

[vi] Beck TJ, Ruff CB, Shaffer RA, Betsinger K, Trone DW, Brodine SK. Stress fracture in military recruits: Gender differences in muscle and bone susceptibility factors. Bone 27: 437–444, 2000.

[vii] Svoboda SJ, Harvey TM, Owens BD, Brechue WF, Tarwater PM, Cameron KL. Changes in serum biomarkers of cartilage turnover after anterior cruciate ligament injury. Am J Sports Med41: 2108–2116, 2013.

[viii] Hespanhol Jr., L.C., van Mechelen,W.,Postuma,E., Verhagen, E. (2015) Health and economic burder of running-related injuries in runners training for an event: A prospective cohort study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 26(9):1091-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12541 

[ix] News Now Staff. “Sports and Recreation-Related Injuries Top 8.6 Million Annually.” Sports and Recreation-Related Injuries Top 8.6 Million Annually, American Physical Therapy Association, 2017, www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2017/1/4/SportsInjuries/.

[x] Blueprint for Athletes By Quest Diagnostics, director. FC Dallas: Using Biomarker Data To Assess Injury Risk & Define Recovery Strategies in MLS Players. YouTube, Blueprint for Athletes By Quest Diagnostics, 2 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4f2ni1MsVw&feature=youtu.be.

[xi] Blueprint for Athletes By Quest Diagnostics, director. New York Giants: Case Studies of Applying Data from Biomarkers. YouTube, Blueprint for Athletes By Quest Diagnostics, 23 Feb. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgGgbwLE6xk&feature=youtu.be.