May Lie in Her DNA

Ahead of the Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment Ladies Scot­tish Open, we met with sports and travel hy­dra­tion re­cov­ery drink 1Above am­bas­sador Ly­dia Ko.


Ly­dia reg­u­larly trav­els on pri­vate jets to re­duce fa­tigue and meet her busy sched­ules. Sports pro­fes­sional on top of their game have to look af­ter of what they eat and drink to ef­fec­tively re­cover from their unique chal­leng­ing lifestyle and to keep them on the top of their game.

The Avi­a­tion Nu­tri­tion­ist un­der­stands the many fac­tors that need to be con­sid­ered to im­prove an ath­letes com­pet­i­tive edge, work­ing with in flight cater­ers who sup­ply food to the world's top sports pro­fes­sion­als to min­imise travel as­so­ci­ated fa­tigue.

Di­etary in­ter­ven­tion is ef­fec­tive if achieved with a per­son­alised, in­di­vid­u­alised ap­proach, giv­ing ath­letes tai­lored di­etary and other per­for­mance-re­lated in­for­ma­tion based on their ge­netic makeup is part of a grow­ing new field. Ge­net­ics play a crit­i­cal role in de­ter­min­ing how ath­letes re­spond to foods, nu­tri­ents and sup­ple­ments, as demon­strated by re­cent re­search in the emerg­ing field of “nu­trige­nomics” – the sci­ence that seeks to ex­plain how ge­netic vari­a­tion al­ters our re­sponse to diet, which im­pacts on gen­eral health and ath­letic per­for­mance.

Ly­dia has agreed to share her re­sults and we ex­plain how she can op­ti­mise her per­for­mance by per­son­al­is­ing her foods and sup­ple­ments based on her unique DNA.

Ly­dia's ex­ten­sive re­port has 5 key ar­eas ex­plained be­low which if not con­sid­ered may im­pact her per­for­mance, re­cov­ery and keep her as an elite sports pro­fes­sional. NU­TRI­ENT ME­TAB­O­LISM

Vi­ta­min D: Hav­ing enough vi­ta­min D is re­ally im­por­tant es­pe­cially when ex­er­cis­ing. It in­creases bone min­eral den­sity, re­duces the risk of stress frac­tures, and could also play an im­por­tant role in heart health, im­mune func­tion, mus­cle re­cov­ery and mus­cle build­ing dur­ing in­tense train­ing.

Although Ly­dia gets enough vi­ta­min D on the US cir­cuit her DNA re­sults show she is sus­cep­ti­ble to hav­ing low lev­els, as we know in Scot­land the sun doesn't al­ways shine so she needs to be mind­ful of this when re­cov­er­ing. Op­ti­mal lev­els of vi­ta­min D are dif­fi­cult to ob­tain from the diet alone, so Ly­dia should take a sup­ple­ment that in­cor­po­rates an ap­pro­pri­ate fish oil to sup­port her per­for­mance and re­cov­ery.

Iron: Iron is a min­eral which we need to help our bod­ies form red blood cells to trans­port oxy­gen in the body. Low iron stores can lead to anaemia which is as­so­ci­ated with fa­tigue, weak­ness, short­ness of breath, dizzi­ness and re­duced aer­o­bic ca­pac­ity, there­fore lead­ing to poor per­for­mance.

Ly­dia's ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion shows she needs to fo­cus par­tic­u­larly on get­ting enough iron so we'd sug­gest she con­sumes good amounts of dark green leafy veg­eta­bles, beans, red meat or seafood, plus enough vi­ta­min C which helps sup­port the ab­sorp­tion of iron. Tan­nins found in tea can pre­vent ef­fec­tive ab­sorp­tion of iron so should be con­sumed sep­a­rately.


Caf­feine: Glob­ally, caf­feine is the most widely con­sumed stim­u­lant with many ath­letes hav­ing it to en­hance train­ing and per­for­mance. Re­search on the im­pact of caf­feine on car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and ath­letic per­for­mance gives var­ied re­sults. For ex­am­ple, Nanci Guest's re­search showed that fast metabolis­ers of caf­feine saw sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in en­durance af­ter hav­ing caf­feine com­pared to tak­ing a placebo. Slow metabolis­ers how­ever ex­pe­ri­enced no ben­e­fit, of­ten per­form­ing worse com­pared to their placebo en­durance test. They are also at higher risk of heart at­tacks and high blood pres­sure when con­sum­ing more than 200 mg of caf­feine (2 small cups of cof­fee or 3-4 cups of tea) per day.

Ly­dia's re­sults show she is par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to caf­feine, as is 50% of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, so she should limit her in­take and mon­i­tor her per­for­mance af­ter drink­ing it to note if it im­pacts her en­durance or fo­cus on the course.


Lac­tose: Lac­tose is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sugar found in dairy prod­ucts which must be bro­ken down by the en­zyme lac­tase to be prop­erly di­gested. Some peo­ple don't pro­duce enough, or any, lac­tase, so the lac­tose passes through the in­testines undi­gested, lead­ing to un­pleas­ant side ef­fects in­clud­ing bloat­ing, cramps and di­ar­rhoea.

In­di­vid­u­als who con­sume a lac­tose-free diet are at a greater risk of in­ad­e­quate cal­cium and vi­ta­min D, both of which are im­por­tant for build­ing and main­tain­ing strong bones and teeth, and re­duc­ing the risk of low bone den­sity and stress frac­tures which of­ten oc­cur in ath­letes.

Ly­dia's ances­try could ex­plain why she has a lim­ited abil­ity to tol­er­ate lac­tose: 9/10 peo­ple of Asian des­cent are lac­tose in­tol­er­ant com­pared to 3/10 of peo­ple of Euro­pean des­cent.

Op­ti­mal lev­els of cal­cium and vi­ta­min D can still be achieved through for­ti­fied milk al­ter­na­tives such as soy, al­mond, and rice bev­er­ages but she should check the la­bel to con­firm that she's choos­ing prod­ucts that in­clude them.


The re­port also in­cludes tai­lored in­for­ma­tion on fit­ness and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, al­low­ing us to make some in­sights about the risk of in­jury and other in­di­ca­tors of phys­i­cal per­for­mance.

Ly­dia had one ge­netic marker which will give her a huge ad­van­tage on the course: a high pain tol­er­ance. Pain is trig­gered by the ner­vous sys­tem and there are sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences in the de­gree to which peo­ple feel pain. Ly­dia's tol­er­ance to pain gives her an ad­van­tage to train hard and push her­self which could be why she's has been the world num­ber 1.

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