The Most Important Biomarkers to Athletes

There have been many talks lately about “biomarkers” for athletes in recent years. If you haven’t heard, a biomarker is a naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic that can be used to identify a specific biological process, disease, or condition. In other words, biomarkers can give us clues about what’s happening inside our bodies.

The best part is that athletes are always looking for an edge and want to know what they can do to improve their performance and stay at the top of their game; biomarkers may get them ahead. You know that what you put into your body affects your performance. You train hard to ensure you’re physically and mentally ready to compete. Now, it’s time to keep an eye out for your biomarkers to keep at prime performance:

Biomarkers of Importance to Athletes

Biomarkers can provide important insight into many aspects of an athlete’s performance, such as their nutritional status, inflammation, recovery, muscle status, and how they are responding to the training program. Below we discuss biomarkers that are important for overall athlete health and performance.

Muscle Status

Muscle status is vital for determining athlete performance, as it takes into account skeletal muscle tissue quality. An athlete’s power, strength, recovery, fatigue, and endurance are all linked to their muscle status. Monitoring biomarkers that affect muscle status can help athletes or coaches tailor training planning or recovery regimes to optimize athlete performance.

Biomarkers for Overall Muscle Status:

  • Amino acids:
    • Tryptophan
    • Glutamine
    • Glutamine: glutamate
  • Muscle damage:
    • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
    • Creatinine kinase (CK)
    • Myoglobin (a protein found in striated muscles)
  • Hormone Response:
    • Testosterone
    • DHEA (produced in the adrenal glands)
    • IGF-1 (Inflammatory marker)
    • LH
    • Cortisol

We will go a little more into detail and explain the key biomarkers that are important for overall athlete performance.

Biomarkers for Strength (Muscle power)
  • Glutamine (Gln) is an amino acid that is a significant energy source for intestinal cells and functions in protein synthesis.
  • Lysine (Lys) is an essential amino acid that is required for the formation of protein (i.e., muscle tissue) and the production of collagen, elastin, enzymes, and hormones.
  • Ornithine (Orn) is a non-essential and non-protein amino acid that plays a role in detoxifying cells through its role in the urea cycle. It is important for strength as it promotes the secretion of a hormone that enhances protein synthesis.
Athletic biomarkers for Endurance
  • Magnesium (Mg) plays a role in several functions and over 300 metabolic processes in the body.
  • Active Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is required for the formation of red blood cells (they carry oxygen throughout the body) and DNA.
  • Vitamin A (retinol) plays an essential role in vision, immune function, cell growth, and other functions.
  • Copper (Cu), appropriate amounts of this trace mineral, have been shown to potentially enhance endurance, delay exhaustion time, and speed up recovery from sports injuries.
  • Ferritin (Fe) is a vital mineral that is required by the body to make hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen through the body.
  • Carnitine (Car) is an amino acid that plays an important role in the production of energy in the transport of fatty acids into the body cells.
  • Asparagine (Asn) is an amino acid that plays a role in maintaining homeostasis (balance) of the central nervous system.
  • Valine (Val) is an essential amino acid that helps supply the muscles with glucose for energy production during exercise.
Optimal Athletic Biomarkers for Recovery
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays an essential role in metabolizing fats, protein, and carbohydrates and the generation of energy.
  • Tryptophan (essential amino acid) is required by the body for normal growth and the formation of proteins and neurotransmitters. In the body, tryptophan is partially converted into serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep, and appetite.
  • T/COR (Testosterone Cortisol Ratio) is a marker for exercise-induced stress. This ratio of hormones is associated with physiological stress experienced during training, performance, and recovery.
  • Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands and plays an essential role in the metabolism of macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates).
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is- fatty acid. Healthy levels support the anti-inflammatory process to reduce inflammation.
  • Selenium (mineral), in intra-cellular form this mineral, forms part of glutathione which provides protective effects against oxidative-induced stress and cell damage.
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is- fatty acid. Healthy levels support the anti-inflammatory process to reduce inflammation.
  • Omega-3 Index is an indicator of improved overall health. An increased omega-3 index has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Track health and fitness performance

Tracking your fitness performance helps you know when to upgrade your game. But how can you tell if you’re working out effectively? If you’re pushing yourself hard enough? If you’re making the right kind of progress?

One of the great things about biomarkers is that they can give you insight into your fitness. Biomarkers can provide information that you wouldn’t have access to based purely on physical examination. Of course, how you feel is important too. But sometimes, we can be our own worst critics, and it’s easy to feel like we’re not making progress when we are.

That’s why tracking how you feel and what your biomarkers tell you is important. That way, you can get a complete picture of your fitness progress. Biomarkers can be used to track fitness and health performance by:

  • Monitoring biomarkers to inform training load
  • Oxidative stress biomarkers to inform the risk of injury and illness
  • Nutrition and metabolic health (affects athlete performance and recovery). Deficiencies that are common in athletes include Vitamin D and iron.
  • Food Allergies (One additional aspect of nutritional and metabolic health that may have value in tracking athletes is that of an athlete’s individual responses to certain foods.)
  • Inflammation
  • Hydration Status (electrolyte balance)
  • Biomarkers of Cardiovascular endurance performance
Biomarkers have changed the game for athletes

Biomarkers help assess your individual fitness level, nutrition, and hydration status, as well as inflammation levels, to help provide additional information that can be used to adapt and tailor your workouts accordingly.

Information from biomarkers is a game-changer for all fitness levels, from casual gym-goers to professional athletes. No longer will you have to guess how hard you should be pushing yourself. Biomarkers will provide informed insight into what your body is capable of and how to make the most of your workouts.

This is all thanks to technological advances and our understanding of the human body. And as our knowledge grows, so will the potential uses for biomarkers. We are only just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

The future is now. Reach out to find out if biomarkers are for you!

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