Sometimes certain foods can make you feel unwell, regardless if they’re healthy or not.
Everybody’s body is different, as is every individual’s reaction to food. Every athlete has felt bloated at some point during a workout. Everybody has had days where they feel more awake than others, days where they feel sluggish and heavy and workouts filled by cramps and unpleasant twinges.
According to the NHS, food intolerances are one reason for the aforementioned conditions that hinder an athlete’s training. Eating well and, above all, eating right can help prevent those training setbacks and maximise your performance on a day-to-day basis.
A food intolerance is difficulty digesting certain foods and having an unpleasant physical reaction to them, which usually comes a few hours after consuming the food. It’s important to note that a food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy, in which the immune system handles harmless proteins in certain foods as a threat, releasing chemicals which trigger an allergic reaction.
According to the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International more than 20% of the population in industrialized countries suffer from food intolerance or food allergy. Symptoms for these include digestive problems, sleep disorders, fatigue and discomfort, which negatively affect a person’s health and sporting performance if the right steps aren’t taken to prevent them.
“The number of people who believe they have a food intolerance has risen dramatically over recent years, but it’s hard to know how many people are truly affected,” the NHS reported on an article about food intolerances. They point out that it’s sometimes hard to know whether symptoms are due to a food intolerance or something else.
The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) also found that the percentage of people that self-diagnose as allergic is higher than the percentage of people who are actually diagnosed; highlighting the need for a diagnosis to avoid unnecessary dietary restrictions and provide reliable data.
The most common triggers for allergies and intolerances in Europe are caused by celery, gluten, crustaceans, egg, fish, nuts and soybeans, amongst others, according to the EUFIC.
Optimising nutrition to progress on an international stage
There is a lot of work behind an athlete that competes on the world stage. Family members and friends might know some of it, but only the athlete knows the intensity, volume and lifestyle changes necessary to reach that peak.
It becomes about more than the training and involves the ability to recover and be physically and mentally ready to tackle the next session. The right nutrition, every CrossFit® athlete should know, plays a huge part in this.
Aiming to improve her performance, German National Champion and CrossFit Games athlete Lisa Eble took a Food Reaction Test which, with a simple blood sample, showed markers of foods that her body doesn’t react well to.
The results revealed she had a dairy intolerance which Lisa hadn’t been able to pinpoint before. Eliminating this element from her diet – where before she used to have “all the dairy” – she has found her legs don’t feel heavy anymore, which used to be quite a bad problem for her before to the point of not being able to go up a set of stairs.
“I think it’s so important to just feel good and have a good body feeling,” Lisa said. With her new nutritional strategy, she has found her day-to-day performance has improved significantly.
Lisa debuted at the CrossFit Games® this year after beating all 2,123 German women who participated in the Open and being crowned Fittest in Germany. She ranked 168th worldwide. “I’d never represented my country so it’s really an honour,” she said about being there.
She loved having legless rope climbs in the first workout as they don’t come up in the Open and liked being tested on them. Training last season had been hard as Lisa injured her shoulder and had to take time off and train around it, trying to get it fixed.
It was a mental struggle, knowing she had a big competition coming up, but Lisa’s happy about the end result and excited to see what happens when she’s ready to train properly again. “It gives me so much motivation just to work harder every day,” she said about having been to the CrossFit Games®.
Suggestions on how to deal with food intolerances or allergies are useless if the triggers for such are not known. Unnecessarily restricting ones’ diet can result in a slower metabolism, a weaker immune system, fatigue and nutrient deficiencies, according to the National Centre for Eating Disorders.
Athletes specifically should try to eat a healthy and balanced diet every day to stay healthy, be active and support their training and recovery. This is achieved through the right balance of proteins, fat, carbohydrates, fibres, vitamins and minerals.
Finding out which foods you can tolerate through scientific testing of food reactions and making decisions based on quality information about a balanced diet is the first step to improve your health, increase your well-being and aid your performance and recovery.
How can I find out if I’ve got a food allergy or intolerance?
Blood tests are the easiest method for diagnosing allergies. They measure levels of specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to suspected or known allergens. The likelihood of a clinical reaction increases with higher IgE levels.
Cerascreen offer Food Reaction Tests which provide scientific evidence if you think you suffer from a food intolerance or allergy. The test can be carried out anywhere without special assistance and just require an athlete to send over a few drops of blood on a special test card, which is then analysed in certified laboratories who have specialised in holistic human diagnostics for over 10 years.
Results from the food reaction test show whether an athlete’s health is affected by foods they might be allergic or intolerant to and come with an individualised report clarifying results, an explanation on how to interpret these, extensive background information and personalised guidance and dietary advice.
The test can be used to determine many causes of intolerances and allergies and are done through an IgE and IgG4 screening of an athlete’s blood. 95% of the potential causes for allergies and intolerances are covered and every individual receives personal advice and individual nutritional and dietary supplement recommendations following the analysis of the results.
Other methods involve food challenge tests, where a patient eats the suspected allergic foods in gradually increasing amounts to see if allergic symptoms occur, always under controlled conditions.
An elimination test is another option, where the suspected foods are removed from a patient’s diet. If allergic symptoms disappear, suspected foods are gradually reintroduced into the diet in very small quantities.
When removing food groups, you must ensure you replace the nutritional values you’d gain from them with other food in order to avoid long-term deficiency symptoms. Be sure to see a dietitian or have the right guidance and dietary advice tailored to you before eliminating food groups from your diet entirely.
Eliminating harmful foods will have huge positive effects on your health and performance
A diet personalised to your needs will positively impact your health and well-being.
By eliminating harmful foods that your body can’t absorb, symptoms like headaches, nausea, bloating, stomach cramps, fatigue and a constant feeling of weariness and tiredness can be prevented.
Ultimately, everybody’s body reacts differently to different foods. Intolerances and allergies – and the specific food cuts necessary to manage them – are completely personal. By finding out which foods you should avoid or cut down from and receiving personalised guidance and dietary advice, you can improve your health and sporting performance.