Athletes and fitness community increasingly embracing personalization

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / chombosan
© Getty Images / chombosan

Related tags Nutrition

The link between personalization and athletes of all levels will become stronger as scientific advances “cut through the noise and show results that are objective”, says the CEO of InsideTracker.

Personalized nutrition – making recommendations based on personal goals, preferences or data from blood tests, genetic analyses, or microbiome tests – is an increasingly hot area, with tens of millions of dollars of investment pouring into the sector.

Athletes have gravitated towards the sector, with companies like Cambridge, MA-based Segterra’s InsideTracker​ building stand-out client lists, including Olympians, players and coaches from the big pro sports in the US, Spartan racers, and serious amateur athletes.

“We are serving the athletic active population, from the weekend warrior, corporate executive who wants to keep his mind and body at peak performance all the way to the elite athlete, across professional football, baseball, the Fittest Woman on Earth (CrossFit two-time world champion Katrin Davidsdottir),”​ Rony Sellam, CEO of Segterra, told us.

“Athletic active individuals understand their body because they genuinely listen to it. They also have established explicit goals and internalized that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. But perhaps most importantly, they have already learned firsthand that personalization is an absolute requirement for success,” ​he added. 

“Because they listen closely to their body, and they have tried (and often failed) at making improvements, they realize that you need science to be able to cut through the noise and that the key is the actionability of the data.”

Dietary recommendations

Segterra recently announced a collaboration with BASF​ for its health ingredients brand, Newtrition, to provide personalized nutrition and dietary supplementation recommendations and scientific support for Segterra’s InsideTracker

Segterra launched its InsideTracker testing and analytics kits service in 2013 leading to personalized dietary recommendations based on the blood tests of 41 select biomarkers. While healthcare professionals use blood tests to assess if you have normal or abnormal values, InsideTracker is interested in optimal levels.

The company has a bank of 8,000 unique food items, a demographic database of over 180,000 healthy people, and a knowledge base of over 2,500 research publications.

“We believe the power of our algorithm and personalization engine is that we have been continuously refining it since 2009, with a strong cross-disciplinary approach to science,” ​said Sellam.

The power of the data

InsideTracker 2
Image courtesy of InsideTracker

Testing thousands of consumers, and then following them as they optimize their health markers has provided InsideTracker with a vast data set, and the company is now looking to package this up for peer-review publication.

“We are very excited about our data and the results, and believe we will be in a position to share some of this excitement with the world in 2018. The data will speak for itself,” ​said Sellam.

“The link between personalization and the fitness crowd will become stronger as science will increasingly cut through the noise and show results that are objective,” ​he added. “The sports nutrition sector should certainly take note, as consumers will increasingly want to see evidence in their body (measuring blood is the most powerful since it is dynamic and will change over time as a product becomes effective) since ‘taking a selfie from the inside’ will become more and more routine.

“The same way the athletic crowd (weekend warriors or more serious) constantly use data to measure their performance, the ability to measure their baseline, make a change in their routine, and re-measure will be the new way to show efficacy for the consumer.”

Beyond blood

The company was founded by Gil Blander, PhD, who spent five years at MIT after 10 years at the Weizmann Institute and has done extensive research into biological markers in the blood. The company's scientific advisory board​ reads like a who’s who of the best researchers of nutrition and aging in the US, including Prof David Sinclair from Harvard Medical School, Prof Jeff Blumberg from Tufts University, Prof Lenny Guarente from MIT, Dr David Katz from Yale, and Prof Roger Fielding from Tufts University.

Segterra also recently launched GoalGetter​ to integrate DNA-powered insights, which it describes as a natural continuation of the company’s science-based blood analytics platform.

Consumers interested in personalized nutrition have an increasing number of options to choose from, with players such as Arivale​, InsideTracker​, DayTwo​, Nutrigenomix​, Orig3n​, and DNAFit​ offer recommendations based on a different tests.

Dietary supplement companies are also exploring the space: Herbalife recently chose South Korea to launch its first personalized nutrition product, Gene Start​, while BioCeuticals, part of Blackmores, is about to debut its practitioner-only personalized nutrition products​.

A jolt was sent through the sector when Campbell’s Soup​ ploughed $32 million into Habit​. Nestlé has also been extensively exploring personalized nutrition for years, and recently bought Atrium Innovations for $2.3 billion, which has the Pure Encapsulations brand with its PureGenomics​ program.

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