Genetic Testing, Nutritionists and Other Ways to Get a Personalized Supplement Plan
You’ve heard about the personalized vitamin craze, led by Millennial-friendly brands that promise supplements customized to every customer’s needs. In a world where you can customize your perfect pair of Nikes and explore the web, not just local stores, for the product you want, it only makes sense that consumers expect the same personalization when it comes to wellness.
It makes sense biologically, too. Although Harvard outlines a few dozen essential vitamins and minerals needed by every human body, factors like family history, diet, lifestyle, exercise and a host of others combine to give each person a unique constitution. That is, some of us simply might need more of one nutrient than the person next to us. This is especially true when we experience health issues, which often require vitamins and nutrients to get us back on track. Likewise, men and women have specific body processes that require different levels of nutrients.
Simply put, that multivitamin probably won’t cut it.
But personalized vitamin packs from brands like Care/of and GOOP aren’t the only route to the ideal supplement mix for your needs. That’s particularly the case for people who take supplements for fitness. If you’re not getting the results you want from your current diet and exercise routine, it’s time to up your supplement game by getting personal.
Here are a few ways to do just that.
Personalized vitamin packs
Fewer supplement users want to trek to GNC to purchase their supplements. And even fewer want to wade through countless products trying to find the best one for their needs. Enter GOOP, Care/of and other Millennial-minded brands that are making customized vitamin products with Instagram-friendly designs.
GOOP’s product line is designed to help consumers find the right supplement for common issues. One supplement is described like this: “My body isn’t responding to diet and exercise the way it used to. Another tells consumers in its tagline, “I’m working really hard, at an intense pace, and don’t have time to slow down or get sick.” The brand’s subscription service makes taking your daily supplements even easier.
Care/of, on the other hand, prompts consumers to answer a number of questions about their diet, exercise and health. It then recommends what it considers the ideal supplements based on the data you’ve provided. Can an online form replace the advice of a nutritionist? Most likely not. But consumers are flocking there in droves nonetheless, for an experience that one Buzzfeed writer describes as “easy, customizable, worry-free, and—dare I say it—kinda fun.”
Testing, testing and more testing
Along with personalized vitamin startups comes a slew of companies that conduct testing for fitness-minded folks. The promise? To help you better understand your unique makeup, and turn those recommendations into personalized supplement plans. These tests range from fitness testing and genetic testing to even testing for particular things like gut health.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know about genetic testing. Thanks to 23andMe and Ancestry.com, you can now test a variety of genetic factors, some of which could affect which supplements your body needs—especially when you pair the test itself with the advice of a nutritionist. Genetic testing aside, here’s a quick overview of two other common tests that are being used to help consumers understand their body’s unique needs and, thus, which supplements can help them bridge health and wellness gaps.
- Fitness testing: Taking genetic testing one step further are the emerging group of fitness testing startups, which use your DNA to design customized nutrition and training plans. One of the major fitness testing startups, aptly named Fitness Genes, analyzes nearly 40 different genes—from ACE, a gene for endurance, to SLC30A8, which impacts how your body regulates insulin. DNAFit’s saliva swab is used to create a similar personalized health report. But be warned that this company tries to get you to purchase its own supplements and fitness products as a next step.
Keep in mind that at least one biomedical expert says that the relationship between fitness and specific genes is a lot more complicated than these tests would make you believe. “When it comes to these current genetic tests for fitness and performance, they have almost zero predictive power,” according to Claude Bouchard, Ph.D., director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
- Gut testing: With the boom in probiotics sales—which hit $2.14 billion last year in the U.S. alone—comes a boom in companies that claim to test your gut flora and fauna. While many scientists ward against consumer brands that promise to reveal the inner workings of your digestive tract, the National Institute of Health’s Biohm Gut Report is a trusted tool for helping to understand your gut’s bacteria, and gaining actionable insights on how you can boost your wellness.
Supplementing with a nutritionist
Whether you get a DNA test or try one of the many at-home delivered personalized vitamin packs popping up on the market, your smartest move is to supplement with a trip to the nutritionist. Nutritionists have been shown to add clear value for patients by ensuring a comprehensive approach to health. For the fitness-minded, nutritionists are the key to personalized dietary strategies.
Nutritionists can help you transform basic genetic tests and gut checks into real supplement plans that you can put into action. They can also help you determine if the customized vitamin packs you’re considering will really be worth the money, or if there’s a better mix of supplements for your body’s needs.