The ALCAT test, a blood test that athletes look forward to
To improve athletic performance, it helps to know how foods affect your own unique biochemical makeup and how to avoid the foods you do not tolerate. antigen leukocyte antibody test (ALCAT) is a simple, highly accurate blood test that can identify your personal trigger foods.
Two of the most notable athletes to have taken the ALCAT test are Minnesota Twins’ first baseman Justin Morneau and Boston Red Sox’s designated hitter David Ortiz. Morneau is a former American League MVP and four-time MLB All-Star. Morneau’s experience was chronicled in the Star Tribune, wherein he states that he was planning to “do everything I can humanly do to make myself feel better.” The Star Tribune also states, “While making the medical rounds last fall, Morneau also took the ALCAT test to see if he had food allergies. He learned that his body was sensitive to, if not allergic to, sugars, gluten, and dairy.” Morneau then lost 14 pounds in just a few weeks by following his new diet.
Athletes are always seeking new ways to enhance performance, and diet plays an essential role in their ability to do so. Morneau states, “It’s not like I’ll choke or die from eating those things, but my body reacts poorly to them. It treats them as something I’m allergic to and fights the inflammation instead of the inflammation from an injury.”
The Red Sox’s David Ortiz was recently featured in a separate article titled, “The Skinny on Big Papi’s Diet,” featured on ESPN.com. Even though Ortiz took the ALCAT test for different reasons than Morneau, he had a similar experience, dropping 20 pounds in two months. Ortiz took the test because his “cholesterol had risen to dangerously high levels.” Since taking the test and following its dietary guidelines, Ortiz said, “The results have been almost immediately noticeable.” He goes on to say, “I feel great” and “I can feel the difference when I swing a bat and when I work out—I don’t get as tired.”
Foods that are compatible with your makeup will increase your strength and energy. Consumption of foods or added chemicals that the body perceives as harmful will result in intolerance reactions. Food intolerance induces the excessive generation of toxic free radicals and inflammatory chemicals. The damage can result in a wide range of health problems. The following are some of the effects of food intolerance and inflammation that are of strong interest to athletes:
- Direct damage to the mitochondria in our cells. Mitochondria are the sites where energy is produced. The wrong foods activate the immune system, and the free radicals produced can cause damage to the DNA and to other structures within the mitochondria, resulting in lower energy production. This is of special significance to athletes because intense exercise alone will generate damaging free radicals from the normal metabolic process, which is increased by the intensity of the exercise.
- Inflammation also causes shortening of the ends of the strands of nuclear DNA. These end caps are called telomeres. Telomeres are like the plastic pieces at the end of a shoelace, holding the DNA strands together. Whenever the cell divides, and immune cells divide frequently, the telomeres are shortened. When they become too short, the cell can no longer reproduce, senesces, and dies. This may explain increased incidence of cancer and generalized weakened immunity in old age.
- Auto-immunity can also arise from too much inflammation. Some immune cells die in the process of trying to neutralize a food. The DNA from these dead cells release their own genetic material, which, if too great, may be seen as “foreign” bodies the immune system must attack. However, this time you are attacking the blueprint for your own bodily proteins (structures), and auto-immune reactions may occur. Again, it’s better to avoid this if you can.
- Certain immune chemicals (like Interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha) will block insulin receptors on your muscle (and brain and liver) cells. This is a recently discovered finding made by medical scientists that explains why food intolerance makes people fat. The muscle cells are starved of important energy material, which is instead stored as fat in fat cells.
- Food intolerance can cause inflammation in the gut. An extreme form is celiac disease. This reduces the absorption of nutrients that are needed for proper energy production, as well as all other biologically processes. It also consumes serotonin in the gut. Serotonin deficits are related to sugar craving.
- Toxic immune chemicals—such as elastase— damage muscle tissue.
- Food intolerance can cause inflammation in the upper and lower airways. Decreased air intake limits aerobic metabolic function.
- Chronic inflammation also makes you fatigued. Ever wonder why you feel so tired when you get the flu? It’s because the same immune chemicals that are intended to fight viruses cause fatigue so that you are forced to rest when you are sick. Your body wants you to rest, not exercise, so that your energy can be used to fight the invader. The immune system that’s inappropriately activated by the wrong food will thus cause you to be chronically fatigued to a lesser or greater extent. The immune system is now mistaking a food particle for a virus or bacterium.
Many professional athletes are now turning to a new coach. It’s not a conventional coach, it’s not even a human coach; rather, it’s a coach that instructs them in personalized dieting, a coach to help increase strength and normalize weight. It’s a simple blood test for food and chemical sensitivity called the ALCAT test.
Studies have shown dietary modification and food sensitivity testing to be a viable treatment modality for a number of chronic health problems. Major League Baseball isn’t the only professional sport that has utilized the ALCAT test. Joe Rogowski, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the NBA’s Orlando Magic, has been quoted as saying, “I’ve seen very good results with the ALCAT test and often recommend it to the athletes I work with.” In addition, the elite European soccer club, Juventus, was recently featured in a study titled Rational Management of Food Intolerance in an elite soccer club. This study was presented at the International Society of Sports Nutrition: 8th Annual ISSN Conference and Expo in 2011.
So what does all of this mean? This means that your fork may actually be the best tool available for maximum performance. For the elite athlete, with all the available supplements and training methods, perhaps it is indeed as simple as Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine.” For the elite athlete, the best medicine may actually be finding out what foods are right for you.