With the global sports nutrition market worth something in the vicinity of €15 billion and personalized nutrition around €2-3bn, according to market analysts – the cross-over of personalized sports nutrition in 2021 is relatively niche.
Philipp Merk, co-founder and managing director at German personalized nutrition firm Loewi, says sports nutrition accounts for the biggest slice of his firm’s business – about 40% (immunity being the next biggest chunk).
Loewi was founded in early 2019 as a spin-off from a Technical University of Munich, Olympic athlete-focused personalized nutrition project. Its model feeds blood sample biomarker data and questionnaire responses through algorithms to make its mostly food supplement (but also food recommendations) that typically cost users about €75 a month.
“We have basically combined this super-laborious method with my background in data science and artificial intelligence to make it scalable,” Merk says. “So we have a blood test you do at home independent of a doctor and a database of over 15,000 medical studies.”
“We have thousands of interactions between nutrients, diseases, medications, allergies – really everything that is known – and this is also how we can make sure we are never harming any of our customers.”
Merk says Loewi’s ever-growing data set was driving evermore refined recommendations.
“We have algorithms calculating the individual dose for each nutrient and with each blood test that we conduct we use machine learning to build a mathematical model of their metabolism. We basically have a curve where we know which dosage we need to achieve which blood value. The cool thing is with each customer that comes through the system our model gets better and better. It’s like self-improving machinery.”
For half a century body monitoring wearable tech in sports has been all about one innovation: the heart rate monitor.
Finnish firm Polar in 1977 introduced a wireless HRM that revolutionised and popularised live-tracking of a key physiological biomarker: heart beats per minute. It had been done before, but only in labs with bulky, wiry machines. Polar’s wireless wearable strapped a really useful data gathering contraption onto the sternum of anyone interested in improving and optimising their performance. Sports science took a giant leap in 1977.
Until the advent of the power meter in the late 1980s, heart rate was the key metric for live-monitoring endurance sports performance.
These metrics remain vital statistics few competitive cyclists, runners or triathletes would go without (hands up who doesn’t own a power meter?) but there are some new kids on the wearable tech bloc and interest in them is ratcheting up fast among pro teams and athletes and into the amateur ranks.
Could blood glucose, core body temperature and blood O2 monitors become indispensable fields on your chosen GPS unit? Just this week the near-standard Garmin-backed ANT+ ultra-low power (ULP) wireless protocol that allows devices like GPSs and sensors to speak to each other, added ‘core temperature’ as a beta profile field for developers to work with, so it may not be long before it officially joins other ANT+ device profiles like ‘power’ and the lesser known ‘muscle oxygen’.
Pic: Eliseo Hernández
Use your noggin: Moving meditation
Physiologists, neurologists and other scientists have explored and documented why exercise forms like bike riding are so beneficial for mental health: from mood-boosting cannabinoid and endorphin release to the proliferation of proteins like the onerously titled brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and wonderfully named compound, noggin – both of which promote brain cell growth and better cognitive fluidity (which can help reduce stress).
Cycling has also been shown to reduce levels of stress-inducing chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline.
More prosaic benefits include cardiovascular regulation, skill and goal attainment (which boosts confidence and can reduce stress) and communing with nature and other riders.
“Just cruising on your bike, feeling the wind, even the rain, hearing the birds and just trying to connect with the feelings of your legs pedalling will be of great help for boosting your mind,” says Luxembourg-based Delphine Dard-Pourrat, a behavioural economist, yoga teacher, cyclist and fellow Haute Route bike race ambassador.
For near on a decade The Haute Route has provided epic high mountain bike racing for amateur cyclists to “feel like a pro” in multi-day events across some of Europe’s glory cols along with Brazil, Mexico and Oman.
As one Haute Route regular, 48-year-old UK-based Kiwi and HR stage winner and GC podium finisher Gretchen Miller tells The Draft: “It is tough and competitive, but there are different levels and because a lot of people go back year after year you feel like it’s a family. It’s all about the people. Having full rider support in spectacular mountains is awesome as well. The massages. Getting cheered riding through mountain villages. It’s the highlight of my cycling year.”
Dr Markus Rienth (orange & black)
Kate Allan, British 50 Mile Time Trial Champion in 2017 and founder of endurance sports communications firm, Compete PR, developed COVID-19 symptoms back in March.
“Three weeks in, with symptoms becoming more intense, I ended up in A&E – breathless, with a horribly mucous-y cough and body aches like no other,” she wrote of her COVID-19 experience.
“…the chest x-ray showed pneumonia in my right lung and the blood tests markers of infection.”
Coming down with COVID-19 prompted her to alter her eating patterns and views of nutrition.
“I’ve started taking magnesium, vitamin D and a more general multi-vitamin, and being more mindful about taking onboard healthier foods…My skin is brighter, and although I’ve felt pretty dreadful with lurgy – I can feel that my body is functioning far more effectively than it has been.”
Full story here.