Water bottles without plastic.
The future is here and it’s rapidly changing the course of history.
I think within the next few years we will see a drastic shift in multiple facets of the fitness industry. At this point in my career I have been given an incredible opportunity to study and work underneath some of the greatest minds in exercise and sport science.
As such, I’ve been privy to many developing ideas within fitness, nutrition, technology, and sport science. Here are just a few sectors in which I think we’ll see noteworthy improvements.
1. Pre-Prepped Macros
This already exists across most of the country but presently (as far as I know at least), most companies deliver meals all at once, either fresh or frozen. In the future, I foresee this transforming into more of an individual meal service.
For example, most fast food restaurants (e.g. Chipotle, Chick-fil-a, Panera Bread) provide their own app which allows users to order before they even step through the door. This not only removes the middle man (i.e. the cashier), but it allows the user to order with more precision and speed.
I foresee meal delivery services utilizing the same technology on an individual meal basis. Someone would be able to custom order a meal with a specific macronutrient profile relative to their goals or lifestyle and have it delivered within 20-30 minutes, similar to pizza or takeout.
This not only removes the stress of preparing meals, but for those who are macro conscious, it allows them to remain consistent with their food intake.
2. Genetic Mapping
If you’re not familiar with the concept, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has been quite focused on the idea as technology has made massive strides in this area. The human genome project was completed in 2003 but since then there have been several startling revelations which could revolutionize the world of sport and fitness as we know it.
“Recently, efforts have also been expanded to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial diseases. The UK approved a resolution aiming to legalize the clinical use of mitochondrial replacement therapy, which could soon enable women with mutated mtDNA to have children with normal mitochondria.
Two related procedures are currently being pursued – maternal spindle transfer, and pronuclear transfer. Both techniques combine the nuclear genetic material of the two parents with the mitochondrial genome of a donor woman with healthy mitochondria, representing a breakthrough in the prevention of genetic diseases.” Picard et al. 2016 – The Rise of Mitochondria in Medicine
Ignore the anatomical jargon, understand this – we currently possess the technology to splice genomes and combine them.
Not only that, there is a bevy of research examining specific genotypes relative to athletic performance (ACTN3 and ACE are two of the more prominent players).1,2,3 By utilizing both technologies, you now have the potential to isolate specific genes, remove those that are less than ideal, and combine those which may prove to be physiologically superior.
If this becomes common place, steroids will merely become icing on the cake. Nothing is more powerful than genetics, at least not yet…
Make no mistake, this is coming down the pipe whether we like it or not. Testing is already being developed for this technology to ensure it doesn’t make its way onto the world stage at the Olympics. However, given the recent doping debacle at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, testing may not be adequate to catch everything.
Don’t be naïve, this is coming much faster than you think.
3. Hormonal Profiling
What if we had the technology to allow athletes to track individual hormones on a DAILY basis? No need to visit your friendly neighborhood Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics. An individual would merely utilize a device connected to their iPhone which could detect a variety of markers with just a single drop of blood.
Think of the potential – you could monitor the exact growth hormone or cortisol response from a bout of training and adjust accordingly. No need to guess based upon symptoms, you could simply reference real time lab ranges without having to visit your doctor. Pretty crazy, right?
Well, in late 2015 a Silicon Valley startup in the consumer healthcare market claimed to have the solution. Theranos was founded in 2003 but they really hit the map when their CEO at the time (Elizabeth Holmes) brought to light that the company possessed “ground breaking” technology.
In retrospect, the entire debacle turned out to be her undoing as the company was investigated for fraud based upon the legitimacy of their claims which were discovered to be unfounded.
However, my point is that this technology is within reach and will likely be hitting the market sooner than later given the increase in endocrine savvy consumers within the fitness and sports marketplace.
4. Monitoring and Autoregulation
I hate to say it but sport science is the future of fitness and athletic performance as we know it. Gone are the days of simple pen and paper progressions revolving around linear strategies. Technology has overtaken the marketplace as many lifters are adopting a more intelligent approach to their training.
Fitness goes far beyond macros, bodyweight, and sets/reps. These days we have folks tracking volume loads, RPEs (rates of perceived exertion), and sleep quality. Most professional teams are using GPS monitoring systems to track each athlete’s work load and distance covered.
In fact, there is new technology which has emerged over the last decade claiming to monitor CNS (central nervous system) “readiness”.
If you’re not familiar with that metric, it’s essentially the idea that one can monitor the state of their central nervous system (i.e. sympathetic versus parasympathetic) based upon direct currents (DC) in the brain and R-R intervals within the heart (aka HRV – heart rate variability).
While the data is still somewhat inconclusive as to the reliability and validity of the equipment, it’s clear to see that it will become a major contender in the world of fitness and performance.
Why is it even important? Forget about relying upon your preworkout for a “pick me up”, imagine a world where each training session was based upon the current physiological state of your body rather than merely how you felt. Objective markers would drive the duration and intensity of training as opposed to subjective feelings.
Hypothetically, this provides the body with the optimal stimulus for each training session. If your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive 24/7, then adding additional training on top of that catabolic state is likely going to be counterproductive in the long run.
Stress is cumulative, if we can measure and account for all lifestyle considerations by monitoring an individual’s central nervous system then perhaps we can adjust training in real time to offset the negative implications from factors outside our control.
5. Blood Glucose Individualization
What if you could individualize nutrition based upon each athlete’s physiological makeup? Well, turns out, that technology may be available much sooner than you realize. Genetic testing will likely play a role but the introduction of continuous glucose monitors will change the game completely.
Having personally experimented with blood glucose management relative to carb intake, I can tell you that the process is anything but easy and definitely not pain free. Pricking your finger every 30-45 minutes following a meal gets old real quick. Not to mention, it’s easy to forget once you get involved with something else.
With continuous glucose monitors, the user can simply apply the device which contains a flexible needle to the back of the arm. The device will pair with their smartphone and provide real time updates for up to two weeks before it needs to be changed.
“But I’m not a diabetic.” Correct, but if you were able to see how your body reacted to carbohydrates (i.e. your current blood glucose following a meal), it would give you some insight into whether you respond well to low carb or high carb or perhaps even individual food sources.
For example, a recent study fed individuals the exact same type and amount of bread but found that many participants had drastically different responses.4 Some individuals had virtually zero glucose response where as others had incredibly large responses. Individualization is the name of the game and continuous glucose monitors are just another piece of the puzzle.
Technology and Fitness: The Best of Both Worlds
Make no mistake, technology is here to stay. But, as coaches and lifters alike, we must understand the validity (i.e. does it measure what it’s supposed to?) and reliability (i.e. repeatability of findings) behind each piece of technology before we affirm it. Don’t jump on the bandwagon until you truly understand the science and application of the device.
Technology offers a wealth of information and potential but remember, data is meaningless unless you do something with it.
Collect carefully and interpret wisely.
- The Association of Sport Performance with ACE and ACTN3 Genetic Polymorphisms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- ACTN3 Genotype Is Associated with Human Elite Athletic Performance
- Genes for elite power and sprint performance: ACTN3 leads the way.
- Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses