Run Faster: World Champion Explains What Individual Nutrition Achieves

Mrs. Kobs, that effective training also includes the right diet is an old thing. Now you are talking about “individual nutrition”. What do you mean by that?

Anja Kobs: In general, foods are always divided into “healthy” and “unhealthy”. But just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it’s good for the individual. For example, there are numerous intolerances that are often not obvious at first glance.

So is it just intolerances or do foods also have different effects on different people?

kobs: Definitely, and you have to find out if you want to optimize yourself. As an example: the intestinal flora is different for each person and this plays an important role in the question of how different foods are absorbed and thus supplied with nutrients.

As a competitive athlete, you make a living by constantly optimizing your own performance. When did you discover this topic for yourself?

kobs: Anyway, I eat healthy, at least that’s what I thought. But I’m not that young either, so last year I had the idea to check if I’m allergic to something or if I don’t tolerate certain foods. Then I had a blood test at Biobalance. It turned out that I have some intolerances that I hadn’t noticed before. I have since avoided these foods and it gave me a real boost in performance. I have also noticed that I am less tired.

What exactly are you giving up now?

kobs: Dairy products are the problem for me. I am not lactose intolerant, but I do have high antibodies against the milk protein casein. Since I stopped taking dairy products, I have felt much better. It wasn’t a big change for me, because I used to eat a mostly alkaline diet and just eat some dairy anyway.

How do amateur athletes find the right diet?

kobs: Try out. It is best to stress test. Let’s stay with the example of dairy products. If you suspect that they inhibit performance, eat a lot for a week and then not for a week and compare your sports performance and general well-being. A food diary is also very good, even if it is time consuming and annoying for many. But just write down exactly what you eat and how your training sessions went for two or three weeks and then rate it.

That’s how I found out, for example, that beets are bad for me. It’s considered really good and healthy, but if I eat it and do a competition the next day, it sucks. I still eat beets because I like it, but not before competitions.

But how can a layman distinguish between random correlations and causalities?

kobs: That is always difficult. You can never accurately reproduce a condition for testing. When I first felt sick after eating beets the day before, I couldn’t tell if it was because of the beets. So I did a stress test where I ate beets one day and did an intense workout the next day. I have repeated it several times and always noticed that it just doesn’t work.

Figuring out something like this is just as difficult in competitive sports as it is for laymen. It’s always hard to tell if poor performance was due to diet, training, sleep, or mental health.

At what fitness level should one start thinking about the topic of “individual nutrition”?

kobs: There is a general recommendation that you should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to maintain your current level of fitness. So if you go running for half an hour every two or three days, you can do it with your normal diet. But anyone who goes beyond this WHO recommendation could have concerns. I always like to compare it to a car: if you put gasoline in a diesel car, you can drive a few kilometers in it, but if you want to drive it longer, it’s over quickly.

What are the advantages of individual nutrition outside of competitive sports?

kobs: Do you feel better. Fatigue also plays a very important role. Anyone who is constantly tired in everyday life is doing something wrong. And if that can be fixed with better nutrition, then you’ll feel better overall.

You yourself verified the intolerances with a blood test. Would you give that general advice, even if you don’t think about competitive sports?

kobs: It’s never bad. Of course, if you feel 100 percent healthy, you don’t have to. But that doesn’t apply to anyone. So if you always have some discomfort, then such a test can help. After that, you are smarter, you can adjust your diet accordingly and benefit from a more pleasant well-being.

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