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Genomic Insight: Precision Sports Nutrition

by Dr. Oscar Coetzee, MS, DCN on Jul 10, 2019

Maryland University of Integrative Health is one of the leading academic institutions for integrative health in the nation. Since 1974, MUIH has educated and informed practitioners and leaders in health and wellness through transformative and relationship-centered programs that draw from traditional wisdom and contemporary science. Progressive graduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines are offered both on campus and online. In the on-campus Natural Care Center and community outreach settings, MUIH provides compassionate and affordable healthcare from student interns and professional practitioners and delivers more than 20,000 clinical treatments and consultations each year. For staff and faculty, MUIH offers a collaborative and vibrant work environment that is mission and values-driven. For more information, please visit www.muih.edu.

Dr. Oscar Coatzee explains how nutritional genomics is sculpting the future of athletic performance.

Currently, the extreme competitiveness in sport and the constant record-breaking achievements have reached levels never before seen in sports history. Sports equipment and technology have reached the point where restrictions are being implemented to keep the game fairer for all. Pharmacological sports enhancement drugs have been banned in all sports by international sports federations and the psychological input have all but exhausted their methods. What is left for the athlete to optimize performance and still raise the bar of performance?

It is not genetics but rather genomics that leaves us the final avenue of investigation to assist and evolve ultimate sports performance enhancement. The field of nutrition is an untapped market of ultimate investigation waiting to evolve. Whole food nutrition and high-quality individualized supplementation is only the beginning. The “specialty” of sports nutrition currently is hardly individualized; it is rather a combination of questionable science and generalized theories on calories, archaic macronutrient tabulations, and irresponsible myths on levels of hydration.

Nutritional genomics investigates the genes, their functions, and interactions with each other and the environment, e.g. epigenetics, epistatic relationships and nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics will sculpt the future of unrestricted individualized optimization of sports performance. Biochemical individuality and assessment are the future pillars in the practice of precision sports nutrition. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) largely influence our biochemical individuality, thus will be the key to the investigation.

Artificial intelligence and genomic insights have given us the opportunity to sculpt a nutrition plan exclusively for each athlete. Precision sports nutrition can now determine if a ketogenic diet will be helpful or detrimental to an athlete. Literature supports that some diets like keto could have negative effects on metabolism, while others enhance their performance by implementing it. Genomic insights have unlocked this crucial key to total individualization in nutrition and determining which diet works for what athlete.

The technology and assessment tools to evaluate this individuality is currently available for functional medicine, but not yet utilized in sports performance. The journey of nutritional support and personalized implementation is just about to take off and those joining this approach will reach new levels of optimal sports performance enhancement with their athletes. In the nutrigenomic science, grasping the concept of agonist versus antagonist is invaluable. An agonist (a substance that fully activates the receptor that it binds to) while under other conditions, behaves as an antagonist (a substance that binds to a receptor but does not activate and can block the activity of other agonists). This holds the key in the world of nutrition and supplementation, what nutrient will be an agonist and which one will be an antagonist and for everyone they could be opposite.

What can this level of genomic insight tell us about the athlete’s individual precision nutrition?

  1. Exactly what diet should be followed: ketogenic, paleolithic, or vegan; and specifically if it will have a level of potential harm and/or benefit
  2. Exactly which supplements should be recommended, and which ones should be avoided

  3. Exactly what kind of exercise will be best for the athlete, endurance versus high interval training

  4. Exactly what the risk factors are for certain cancers and chronic diseases, and what preventative measures can be implemented

  5. Circadian rhythms and how we can better implement nutritional and supplemental recommendations for the athlete to enhance recovery through proper restorative sleep

  6. Understanding the level of neurotransmitter conversion from amino acids, this is crucial for psychological performance and a lack of understanding this is often misinterpreted as a psychological issue

  7. Understanding the athlete’s genomic associations to fat metabolism, which fatty acids can be helpful and detrimental to health and performance

  8. Immune modulation, which supplements and nutrients will optimize the athlete’s immune system. This is not a one size fits all approach anymore

  9. Athletic overtraining dangers and the level of susceptibility of stress can be individualized

One man’s food can truly be another man’s poison!

IDEA Food and Nutrition Tips, Volume 8, Issue 4

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About the Author

Dr. Oscar Coetzee, MS, DCN

Dr. Oscar Coetzee, MS, DCN IDEA Author/Presenter

Oscar Coetzee, MS, DCN, was born and raised in South Africa, where he completed his military schooling and earned bachelor's degrees in criminology and psychology. He has also earned a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) from Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) with a specialization in nutrigenomics. He is presently an Associate Professor in the Nutrition and Integrative Health department at MUIH and is an instructor in their Sports Performance and Integrative Nutrition Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program.