The findings of the new study have implications for "optimized training programs as well as the development of nutritional supplements to enhance performance," Gerszten says. By comparing metabolite profiles of unfit people with fit ones, he notes, researchers could find the metabolite lags that fitness drinks or nutritional supplements might replenish.
He and his colleagues are already at work trying to locate which metabolites are most important for regulating pathways relevant to boosting overall performance. "We're going to look over time to see which metabolites change over various interventions," Gerszten says. "This gives us a more granular look into the pathways that are changing."
But the performance enhancement research is not just about helping athletes or gym junkies up their game, Gerszten says. Rather it is "most importantly for people with metabolic and cardiovascular disorders" to help them be able to exercise better and perhaps improve their condition.
Whether or not a metabolite-enhanced drink or supplement could vastly increase performance is still up in the air, Gerszten says. "It's too early to tell."
But it will not be as simple as plugging in metabolites that seem to be lower in those needing extra help exercising. "It's very hard to find supplements that improve performance other than water, glucose, carbohydrates," Hickner says. "It might be a stretch from this study to get into that realm of taking the metabolic profile and determining what supplement you should give."
The real challenge, Hickner says, is not finding the ideal formula for boosting performance, but wading through the data itself. "The ability to study many metabolites at once is becoming valuable," he says. But "to sort through the data is our challenge in the coming 10 years."