A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I had some blood work done for InsideTracker (ICYMI: I got my blood drawn the Friday before Labor Day).
What is InsideTracker?
InsideTracker is a blood biomarker analysis service. I have read several reviews about InsideTracker and I have been wanting to try it for quite a while. There are several different plans to choose from, based on how in-depth you want to get with it.
They measure biomarkers for overall health and well-being and for athletic performance. You fill out a general profile and a specific lifestyle, nutrition and fitness profile. After your blood work is analyzed, you receive personalized recommendations based on your lifestyle and your needs. An athlete’s blood work results can be very different from the general population and InsideTracker helps athletes establish personal metrics for optimal health.
Just as an example: I had blood work done by my primary care physician a few years ago and my iron level was 15.8. A “normal” range for females can be anywhere from 15 to 150 ng/mL. My doctor told me that everything was perfectly fine, when in actuality the normal range for a female endurance athlete is between 60 and 150 ng/mL and I was pretty far under that. No bueno.
Your results that are labeled as at-risk, needs work or optimal based on the following categories. The biomarkers used to measure each category are in parenthesis.
- Bone & Muscle Health (Vitamin D)
- Cognition (Vitamin B12)
- Inflammation (White Blood Cells & High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein)
- Strength & Endurance (Creatine Kinase, Cortisol & Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin)
- Oxygen Transfer & Blood Function (Ferritin & Hemoglobin)
- Liver Function & Toxicity (Alanine Aminotransferase)
Side note: For accuracy sake, I just wrote out the complete names of the biomarkers that were tested straight from my results. I don’t want you to think I was some sort of medical genius or something. If you need confirmation about my lack of medical knowledge, please consult with my husband. He will fill you in (and the good news is that it will only take 2 seconds, because there isn’t much knowledge there to talk about). In fact, if you are reading this, it means that I already had him proofread the post to make sure I didn’t say something silly.
This knowledge (or lack thereof) is actually one of the reasons that I was really excited about trying InsideTracker. The presentation that they put together with your results explains why each biomarker is important for athletic performance (in an easily understandable fashion) and they give you clearly defined action steps for how to make improvements based on the goals that you want to focus on.
The results come back within 5 to 7 business days and I got them in 6. Right on time! I was pretty excited to see what they said. As per usual … #nerdalert.
What did my results show?
Let’s start with the good news! None of my biomarkers were categorized as at-risk. Yay (insert happy dance)!
I was so relieved to hear this. I consider myself to be a healthy person in general, but I still sometimes worry about the potential negative effects that endurance training can have on your body. The results were a welcome form of reassurance and confirmation that physically I am doing just fine.
Disclaimer: InsideTracker did not, however, test the amount of crazy in my head. It is possible that I am walking around with a full-blown case of crazy-head (it runs in my family). We’ll save that test and those results for another day though!
So even though I didn’t have any at-risk biomarkers, I did have 3 that were classified as needing work: Vitamin D, Iron & Liver Enzymes. After seeing the categories that need work, I was able to select two goals to work on. I chose 1) prevent injury/speed recovery and 2) boost energy (sayonara nap-time).
I’m going to go through each category that needs work below.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium to maintain bone strength and health. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D increase the risk of low bone mineral density and stress fractures (um hello, biggest fear and thing we want to avoid at all costs).
My vitamin D level was 39 ng/mL and the optimal level is 40 to 48 ng/mL, so I am not very far away from the optimal range on this one. The recommendation is to begin supplementing with 2000IU of vitamin D3 daily and to eat fatty fish at least twice per week to increase levels.
Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, and therefore it is a good marker for the amount of iron in the body. Iron is required for the formation of the oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin, and for enzymes involved in energy production. Low iron is a common nutritional issue for anyone who regularly participates in intense exercise, such as running, and cycling. Regular, high-volume, strenuous training may impair iron absorption and transport and cause iron deficiency.
I already knew that low iron was fairly common among endurance athletes (and my iron has been low in the past), so I was already taking an iron supplement. I have been taking 130 mg of iron a day regularly for 6 months (if not longer). I was really surprised that even though I am taking iron supplements every day, my iron level was still low.
My iron level was 34 ng/mL and the optimal level is 60 to 150 ng/mL. The recommendation is to increase the intake of red meat to twice per week, to avoid drinking coffee with meals (I really only do this at breakfast, but still … bummer!) and to avoid eating legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, etc.) or whole grain cereals at the same time as iron-rich foods, because this impedes the iron absorption.
I knew that certain minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, etc.) blocked the absorption of iron, but I didn’t know that legumes did. After learning this, I think that I am likely getting enough iron (mainly from my supplements), but I am just not absorbing it properly.
ALT is an enzyme primarily found in the liver that helps chemical reactions occur. It plays a role in changing stored glucose into usable energy. When there is liver damage or disease, then ALT enters the blood stream. Damage to your liver can result in fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and weight loss. Your liver has some ability to regrow after injury and damage so it’s important to take action that will help your liver repair itself.
My ALT level was 20 U/L the optimal level is 10 to 16 U/L. The recommendation is to consume regular or decaffeinated coffee (3 cups/day), take a probiotic supplement daily, and to reduce intake of soda, juice and other sweetened beverages.
Where do I go from here?
I plan to take the following action-steps (based on the recommendations above):
- Add a vitamin D3 and probiotic supplement daily.
- Add more peanut butter, spinach and black beans to my diet.
- Eat fish and red meat twice per week.
- Drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and try to not drink coffee with meals.
After a couple of months of incorporating these changes, I will have my blood work redone to check my progress. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Question: When was the last time you had blood work done? Did you learn anything interesting or helpful from it?