Nutrition/ Recent/ Running

I had bloodwork done to analyze my athletic performance. Here’s what I learned.

My experience with InsideTracker’s biometric testing, what my bloodwork showed and what I’ve changed in my diet as a result of the InsideTracker recommendations. I also shared some potential drawbacks of the service, after chatting with an M.D. about the company. And if you decide to use the service, don’t miss the promo code at the bottom. 

For the 14 years that I worked in Corporate America, I had mandatory bloodwork every year as part of my health insurance. And while I would get the results back and maybe pay attention a little bit, I never felt like I had a super actionable plan to improve things that were not ideal.

When I heard about InsideTracker (I think on social media?), I was immediately interested since the service not only evaluates your blood levels, but also gives you specific recommendations for nutrition, exercise and lifestyle on what to improve as it relates to your health and fitness.

And most of the recommendations are dietary based., e.g. tweaking your food intake rather than taking a pill, which I love. Yes, pills are sometimes necessary but if I could fix things with food, I’d always pick that approach first.

What is InsideTracker?

It’s a blood testing service that tracks your blood work and biometric markers overtime. The InsideTracker team is made up of experts in aging, genetics and biometric, who hail from legit places like from Harvard, MIT and Tufts.

They use SCIENCE to drive the recommendations that are personalized to your results and they continually add recommendations to the InsideTracker dashboard based on new research.

And, ideally, it’s a series of tests you have done you have done to watch trends. They recommend having bloodwork done a few times a year so you can compare your results and track progress on certain biomarkers.

You can read more about the biomarkers they measure and how it’s different from a visit to your doctor here. They DO encourage follow-ups with your doctor and use your InsideTracker results as part of your overall medical/health plan.

How does it work?

You schedule an appointment at a local lab, print off the paperwork, go get your blood drawn at the lab and they send the results to InsideTracker. When you purchase your plan, they guide you through everything!

Once your bloodwork is analyzed (I think it was a few days or maybe a few weeks? I dunno – it seemed fast to me), you’ll get an email with a link to a personalized dashboard that has SO MUCH INFORMATION. But, they break it down so it’s easy to digest and easy to take action.

The action plan will include dietary tweaks, lifestyle changes, supplement recommendations and/or changes to your training and activities.

What my test showed

They break your results down by At Risk, Needs Improvement and Optimal. I had two At Risk results, 9 Needs Improvement and 32 Optimal.

My two at-risk items (Lipids/Cholesterol) didn’t surprise me, but it was another good reminder that I really need to pay attention to my diet knowing those are biomarkers I’ve struggled with for years.

High cholesterol is something I’ve had to manage most of my adult life. I was first told that I had high cholesterol when I had bloodwork done at my first job, at Goldman Sachs, when I was 21.

I’ve kept an eye on it ever since and it’s always been borderline high when I’ve had annual bloodwork, and usually my good cholesterol was enough to offset it. But, this test showed it had gotten even worse.

insidetracker review

Other items that need attention

  • Low iron

Female endurance athletes commonly have low iron so I wasn’t too surprised by this. But, I take an iron supplement nearly daily so I appreciated the food recommendations to help increase my ferritin levels.

I already eat loads of dark chocolate and peanut butter… not a problem to eat more. 😉

inside tracker review

  • Low sodium

This was interesting to me because I am ALWAYS thirsty, even though I stay hydrated all day and drink a ton of water. I’ve been trying to be better about including sodium in my diet, since I don’t eat a lot of packaged foods which is where most people get too much sodium.

I’ve particularly been working to take in sodium during and after long workouts and it seems to have helped. I don’t really love sports drinks but they contain sodium, while plain water does not.

  • High cortisol

I mean, I knew I had a lot of stress (cough, see this post) but it was a little jarring to see my bloodwork reflecting that too. They say stress is the silent killer…these results made it a little less silent.

The recommendations to improve cortisol levels include:

  • adding a mindfulness practice — meditation is habit I’ve been trying to form for a while after reading this book)
  • taking Ashwanganda root
  • Making sure I have enough rest in my training

How I’ve tweaked my diet since getting my results

  • Reduced my intake of eggs

I used to eat 2+ eggs a day, 6-7 days a week! Eggs and toast is one of my go-to breakfasts after I run. While I haven’t completely eliminated eggs from my diet, I’ve cut back from 12+ a week to 1-3 a week.

  • Reduced my intake of red meat

I was eating red meat 1-3x a week, thinking I needed it for iron. But considering I have high cholesterol, that’s not necessarily the best approach.

  • Prioritized taking my iron supplement at the optimal time and with citrus

When a dietitian analyzed my diet during marathon training, he pointed out that I need to take iron with citrus to help the body assimilate it more. InsideTracker emphasized that point! (And to be honest, I often forget to take so I added a daily reminder to my calendar.)

  • Adding more beans/legumes to my diet

This was a recommendation for a number of my biomarkers since legumes supply iron, are low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

Why I love it

It’s super personalized. I hate when people are pushing a specific diet since everyone is SO different.

I love that the nutrition suggestions are specific to me, and that is looks at things beyond nutrition, e.g. lifestyle and activity changes. And, to be honest, there is still so much more advice that I could be incorporating that I haven’t. But, one thing at a time, right?

They have a follow-up date in my profile so I’ll get a reminder to get my labs re-tested to see how things have improved (hopefully!).

How much does it cost

There are different plans, starting at $49 and going up to $589. You can see all of them here. I did the Ultimate test.

Drawbacks

I asked my best friend, Anna, who is hardcore athlete and an M.D. (radiation oncologist), for her perspective on InsideTracker and any potential drawbacks to the service. While she noted it’s great that they have people with serious credentials behind the recommendations, there are some recommendations that don’t necessarily have robust clinical studies to back them up (e.g. Ashwanganda root).

She also said that, ideally, people would talk to their doctor in person about their results and be their own advocate to review it in detail. InsideTracker does have a way for you to print your results so you can take it to your doctor.

So, take your results to your doctor and advocate for your doctor to spend time with the results. Anna said to remember that YOU are your best advocate for your health, so make sure your questions are answered in a clear manner that you understand.

She also noted that you can’t take one lab value in a vacuum, that you really have to look at trends over time. (That’s something InsideTracker does encourage, so that’s good!)

Bottom line: would I pay for this service?

Absolutely. While InsideTracker did give me a complimentary initial test, they had no requirements that I post about it. But, I had such a positive experience that I wanted to share. And, I do plan to do the follow-up bloodwork!

You can learn more about InsideTracker here and use promo code AFOODIESTAYSFIT at checkout for 15% off your plan!

An added bonus of trying InsideTracker is that I met Jonathan who works there and also a big influencer in the running community. He’s the guy behind the popular @restdaybrags accounts on Twitter and Instagram and also the host of For the Long Run podcast.

AND, I happen to be the guest on his podcast for the episode that just came out today! Listen to it here. We recorded in Cambridge the day after I ran the Boston Marathon so we’ll see how coherent I am!

insidetracker

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Caroline White
    at

    This is so interesting, I definitely will have to check it out- thank you for sharing! I am a genetic counselor & with elevated cholesterol at such a young age, for someone so healthy, I’d be nervous about a family history of familial hypercholesterolemia. (FH gene) Sometimes carriers have elevated cholesterol and even have heart problems/ heart attacks in their 50s-60s. I’m not sure your family history but couldn’t hurt to ask your doctor about it!

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      I do have a family history of high cholesterol and my grandfather had a heart attack in his 60s. I’ll be sure to talk to my doctor about that. Thank you so much!!! I find genetics fascinating, especially since my mom’s side of my family (and all of my brothers) have so many autoimmune disorders – alopecia, type 1, addison’s disease, crohns, lupus, celiac, the list goes on. What happened to our genes?!!

  • Reply
    Erin
    at

    Thanks for all the information. Just an FYI on the higher cholesterol, it isn’t always dietary related. Besides hereditary factors it can be a sign of undereating, often seen in those with eating disorders. Obviously I’m not implying that is this the case for you, but I do think a lot of people in the running community suffer from disordered eating habits, so just wanted to put a quick note in here.

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Thank you for your comment!! A dietitian analyzed my food log (the post is linked below) and he also indicated that I was under eating but I had no idea that could be tied to high cholesterol. I DO have a history of disordered eating, although I don’t feel it’s something I currently struggle with (my under-eating is more related to just not being hungry/gut problems vs. emotional like it was in the past) but I so appreciate you bringing it up because I agree it’s very prevalent in the running community. <3

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