The Biology Behind Star Athletes
For centuries, folk tales and fledgling science have sought to provide athletes with extra-human strength. However, only the recent advent of medical science has helped top competitors understand what their bodies need on a biological level to thrive—and the stakes have never been higher for pro athletes.
With teams looking for that razor-thin edge over the competition, every top-tier franchise pours resources into keeping their stars fit and healthy. In terms of the major leagues, few athletes look to tap into their biology quite like baseball players. Unlike other sports, baseball demands quick and concentrated surges of power to score a home run or steal a base, versus the aerobic endurance required by other sports.
Additionally, each individual athlete can come under fire for a critical error that can cost a game. The average player comes under scrutiny often, whether from staff, fans, or pundits. For example, analysts who create baseball odds spend ample time studying how fast pitchers throw, how many home runs a batter averages, and how prone to injury a player is.
These stats help experts make reliable predictions in the MLB, but the in-depth scrutiny can be a game-changer for athletes new to the major leagues. For seasoned stars like Juan Soto and Mookie Betts, one way to curb the stress and keep themselves in prime condition is to carefully monitor their physical health—but how do they do it?
Let's take a closer look at the habits of top athletes when it comes to fueling, conditioning, and restoring their bodies.
The Basics: Vitamins & Minerals
Though most pros spearhead their own health initiatives, many also rely on nutritionists and trainers to help them tackle two main concerns: fueling the body for a workout, then restoring it afterward.
From a nutrition standpoint, carbs, fat, and protein are the staples for an athletic diet. Depending on whether a sport requires aerobic or anaerobic energy bursts, athletes will consume varying amounts of each. However, vitamins and minerals are often just as important, though they receive less recognition from the public.
For example, Vitamin B12 is crucial for maintain metabolic rates, while Vitamin A helps fortify bones. Meanwhile, minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride are essential for keeping athletes hydrated, helping regulate nerve transmissions and muscular function.
Each sport also has its own ‘miracle supplement'—though they tend to make their rounds to each league. In the case of the MLB, it's likely stars like Betts and Soto are taking creatine. For the NFL, it's nitric oxide boosters. For the NBA, it's L-glutamine and, for the NHL, it's a new power-packed supplement, Dioxyme (which combines multiple minerals).
Growing Trend: Biohacking
Athletes, trainers, and nutritionists today are keenly aware of the role microbiology plays in performance. Big names will pay exorbitant prices for the cleanest ingredients with the most success stories—but today's athletes are also pushing into new territory, looking for the edge to impress pundits and head coaches.
Body hacking, or biohacking, is the intersectional science of the individual mind and body, following the idea that each person's system will respond to a specifically-created regime to achieve its performative apex.
As a young trend that carries a slew of buzzwords (from ‘dopamine fasting' to ‘gene-editing'), the future of biohacking is unknown. On certain levels, biohacking is purely individualistic, in which people track their own biological processes, from sleeping to eating to aging. On other levels, the new industry is being spearheaded by intrigued scientists from companies like NASA in order to improve cognitive performance and physical health.
One key player in biohacking is the owner of Bulletproof, a supplement company, who believes he can live to the age of 180 via experiments like infrared baths. But for professional athletes, there seems to be an emphasis on finding the precise cocktail of supplements that keeps the body fueled—infrared baths withstanding.
Companies such as Nadovim and NAD+ are gaining steam in the US with athletes like Austin Martz of the MLS. Unlike standard vitamin and mineral supplements, biohacking pills and powders instead deliver on enzymes, which can aid ATP (involved in energy production) and repair DNA. Instead of fortifying the body, these supplements work to keep the brain functioning on all cylinders, while invigorating biological systems on a cellular level.