In the Media

Forget Everything You Know About a Healthy Diet

As athletes, 28-year-old Renée Tomlin and 25-year-old Kirsten Kasper are remarkably similar. While track and cross-country teammates at Georgetown University, they endured the same brutal workouts. Two and a half years ago, both began competing in Olympic- and sprint-distance triathlons. They moved to San Diego to train together, and last year they were both named to the U.S. triathlon team. Since then they’ve had comparable results—Tomlin scored a World Cup victory in Hungary this season, and Kasper earned a few medals throughout the year. But there’s one big difference between the two: diet.

Kasper fuels with the foods you’d expect a professional athlete to be eating: oatmeal, yogurt, turkey, veggies, and quinoa. “For snacks, I’ll eat rice cakes,” she says. By contrast, Tomlin indulges. Many of the foods on her training table might be found in a college freshman’s mini fridge: hot dogs, doughnuts, beer, and milkshakes. “Chips are an excellent recovery food,” she says.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Tomlin could improve performance dramat­ically by simply changing how she eats. But new research is showing that foods affect each of us differently, depending on myriad factors, including our genes. This has led to a number of startups populating the personalized-diet landscape, including DNAFit, Nutrigenomix, and Vitagene. One of the most intriguing is DayTwo, a company that launched last year in collaboration with immunologist Eran Elinav and computer scien­tist Eran Segal. The researchers, both with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, are the first to base nutrition on an individual’s gut bacteria.

Between 2013 and 2015, Elinav and Segal monitored 1,000 people over the course of a week and watched how their blood-glucose levels—the amount of sugar taken from food and transported through the bloodstream to supply energy to cells—were affected by what they ate. If a person’s blood-sugar levels are too low or too high, they can’t perform optimally, whether they’re working behind a computer or running a 10K.

Read the full article on Outside Online here.

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