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Question: I believe I have a tough question and wanted some advice to help me with gaining weight. I am a Division 1 defensive Football player and I am struggling with trying to gain muscle with multiple workouts each day. I was reading online that I may have allergies and some genetic complications but I can’t do blood analysis because the school doesn’t think it’s necessary unless I have a virus or a disease.
I feel very sick when I have too much milk but feel ok when I have small servings of ice cream. I need about 10 pounds to ensure that I am an impact player this year. My father is from Nigeria and said that I shouldn’t have lactose, making it hard to get protein between classes. Please tell me what I can do to gain muscle without upsetting my stomach.
Answer: This is a complicated question and blood analysis isn’t going to give you all the information you need. Food allergies is a hot topic, but statically some allergies are going to be more common with specific populations. Those of African decent are going to have some unique differences between many Caucasians, but some general rules of thumb can alleviate many of your symptoms.
Without extensive testing, food allergies are not something that can be diagnosed by symptoms, and that not an area that we can help with. Sometimes those that are struggling with gluten for example, will show up having poor ferritin and hemoglobin status. Most true allergies are rare, meaning less than 5% of the population are truly allergic to the common eight (milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, shellfish). Research found that this statistic may be higher because without extensive testing this could be a diagnosis from reporting, not testing. It is possible to have a completely healthy diet without any of the eight aforementioned foods, but I have yet to experience an athlete that was allergic to all eight. A true allergy is often very dangerous, and it’s likely that you would be aware of one already seeing that you are in college. One may have an intolerance to a food, but that doesn’t need to be a concern and a rotation (elimination diet) of foods in and out with a food diary can really show if symptoms are matching specific foods and servings. Your example of eating ice cream and not having problems is a clear example that serving size and form may be an option you can work with. Drinking milk in large doses for someone who may be lactose intolerant could spell an upset stomach as intolerances, but again nutrition should compliment training. Training hard everyday encourages athletes to drink post workout drinks that are usually composed of milk proteins, and not all of them are lactose free. You will have to find a way to do everything in moderation, not just the nutrition and lifestyle.
When looking at intolerances versus allergies, think allergy is immune system and intolerance is more digestive system. Blood testing is a great way to get allergy information, but a good food dairy and performance panel will show a lot of information that remove unnecessary testing if the problems are just dietary habits from poor planning. A good meal plan will address the need for variety to prevent reactions from too frequent and or serving size mistakes of overloading with one food type. While specific meal suggestions can’t be made for you, try removing a food option one at a time and log your symptoms while looking at your training to ensure symptoms are not from overtraining or overreaching. Also try reducing liquid dairy and seeing if moderation works first. Removing anything totally is not a good idea, especially when many adults find that small portions tend not to upset the stomach. Having a post workout drink that is lactose free is very important because palatability during summers doesn’t favor chocolate milk, and most college cafeterias don’t serve Lactaid. In addition to the suggestions made above, try talking to both your coach and medical professionals (including nutritionist) for support. Blood analysis is done with many schools but it has to be triggered with the right people and reasons before one can get tested.
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