We are currently living in a Digital Age, the 21st Century compared to the previous ones is witnessing the greatest technological developments ever seen. Technology has permeated several aspects of our lives as human beings such as food. Hence, technological advancements have not only led to an increase in individuals’ health and well-being but also is also striving to ensured food security for generation to come. Thanks to technology, today, our food production methods are highly complex and so are our food processing procedures. Similarly, technology has also had tremendous impacts on sports overtime. Technological innovations have undeniably bettered sports owing to better training machinery, and sport genetics research etc.
Next, what happens when you combine the power of technology into both food and sports? Sports nutrition as a separate field is already striving to improve performance through highly supervised diets that promise to optimize physical capabilities. So how then can technology influence the field of sports nutrition? Several ideas such as calorie computing applications have been brought to the table while some like wearable calorie trackers are currently being tested. I however believe that such technologies can only do so much for sports, I hold that the true essence of sport will always remain in an athlete’s dedication, practice and talent.
First, sports are extremely demanding physically, besides, work and energy play vital roles in sports. Food is said to be the fuel for the human body. As discussed in blog post one, carbohydrates are the essential requirements for energy. Because of starch intake, the body can convert the foods into glucose and glycogen utilized during sporting activities.
However, a big problem for athletes and nutritionists alike, is the ability to track energy intake and expenditure. Researchers have recently turned to technology to solve this problem. Thus, wearable fitness trackers have become overnight sensations. These devices are especially popular in the form of watches. A wrist device that can calculate an athletes’ energy expenditure while performing physical activities. This information is useful to both the athlete and their nutritionist in terms of recommending the appropriate amount food and nutrient intake.
Now, these devices act like sensors therefore tracking movement and by use of algorithms they can estimate the number of calories burned by an athlete.
But, there lies a huge problem with this method, Sophie Charara, a sports blogger argues that “to give us an idea of how complex this estimation is, workout programs can make calculations based on age, gender, height and workout length.” She furthers that “our future challenge will be working out how much muscle mass you’re using. This is one of reasons why calories burned differs so much between different sports played for the same amount of time. So, we need to add more data points when tracking these activities.” (Charara) The demands for these products are skyrocketing yet their results solely based on estimations.
Second, athletes’ food regimens are shaped by strict instruction from their nutritionists. Athletes are tasked to carefully watch their body weights thus they must constantly monitor and measured their calorie intake. This may nonetheless prove a difficult task for most athletes. Interestingly, technology aims to solve this problem as well. Recently, a phone application called MealSnap was launched. According to Sara Novak “after taking a picture of a food item, the info is transmitted to a calorie database and within minutes it returns the range of calories in your meal.” (Novak)
MealSnap can certainly proof beneficial to a lot of athletes but there is a big question of the app’s accuracy.
Like MealSnap, there is also a smart scale called The Situ. This device can “look up ingredients, weigh the item and get you an immediate read-out on calorie, salt, sugar, protein and fat.” (Ben Schiller)
In addition, this scale is said to be linked to the athlete’s phone. Indeed, such a device seems to be a must have as it promises to deliver. Nevertheless, even if an athlete was to thoroughly abide to this device, the margin of the performance will be lesser compared to if they were to heed a nutritionist’s advice.
Further, the intake of fat has proved detrimental to athletes. This is because fats take longer to digest therefore slowing the athletes down which ultimately affects their game performance. Technology again offers to provide a solution to this problem.
Recently, a device named SCiO was introduced to the market. This is a tiny pocket molecular sensor’ that fits on the athlete’s keychain. SCiO “tells you the nutritional facts of what you’re about to put in your mouth.” (Jessica Leber) This device is also connected and transmits information to their mobile phone. Likewise, the google glasses are also said to see exactly how much you have eaten and promises to unveil the nutritional information on an athlete’s eating habits. (Dr. Grame. L. Close) In the same way, there are contact lenses capable of measuring blood glucose levels. Moreover, meticulous research is being done on these new technological fronts. Some researchers are even proposing a pill that sits in the human’s digestive organs and externally transmits information on the exact food quantity and type. (Dr. Close)
Finally, is this the future of sports nutrition? These new innovations are quickly gaining both momentum and popularity within the sports community. However, they all seem to have major setbacks that need to be adequately addressed. These devices and apps also prove a threat to the careers of sports nutritionists. Their increased usage eliminates the need for nutritionists because they both serve a similar purpose. Likewise, the cost of these devices is also an obstacle to them becoming widely adopted. Not all athletes are able to comfortably purchase them. I caution that if indeed this is the future for sports nutrition, then, tech developers ought to find more collaborative, less affordable and realistic approaches with actual nutrition researchers who still believe in traditional methods.
- Schiller, Ben. “Find Out What’s In Your Food With This Smart Scale That Measures Calories, Fat, And More.” Fast Company. April 15, 2014. Accessed November 27, 2018. https://www.fastcompany.com/3028718/find-out-whats-in-your-food-with-this-smart-scale-that-measures-calories-fat-and-more.
- Leber, Jessica. “This Tiny Device Fits On Your Keychain And Measures The Calories In Your Dinner.” Fast Company. May 01, 2015. Accessed November 26, 2018. https://www.fastcompany.com/3030342/this-tiny-device-fits-on-your-keychain-and-measures-the-calories-in-your-dinner.
- Novak, Sara. “New Phone App Computes Calories By Taking a Picture of Your Meal.” HowStuffWorks. January 03, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2018. https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/information/new-phone-app-computes-calories-by-taking-a-picture-of-your-meal.htm.
- Charara, Sophie. “How Your Fitness Tracker Estimates Calorie Burn – Explained.” Wareable. June 25, 2018. Accessed November 27, 2018. https://www.wareable.com/fitness-trackers/how-calorie-burn-estimates-8887.
- Grame L. Close, “Technology and Sports Nutrition – Dr. Close,” Liverpool John Moores University, June 10, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGEQTqqLeLc.