Recent/ Running

InsideTracker Review: What I learned when I had my bloodwork analyzed

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 lifestyle 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, use this link to save 25%.

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 test 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 first heard about InsideTracker through a friend that I followed on Instagram, I was immediately interested since the service not only analyzes 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 can fix things with food, I always pick that approach first.

InsideTracker Review

What is InsideTracker?

It’s a blood testing service that tracks your bloodwork and biometric markers over time. The InsideTracker team is made up of experts in aging, genetics and biometric, who hail from places like from Harvard, MIT and Tufts. InsideTracker measures your white blood cell count and then tells you if it’s in the optimal zone. It’s far more comprehensive than the standard bloodwork you get at the doctor. And even analyzes things like your calcium levels.

They use science to drive the recommendations that are personalized to your results. And 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, especially as you age, have major life changes, or change your training load.

You can read more about the biomarkers they measure and how it’s different from a visit to your doctor here. It doesn’t replace medical advice, but rather they 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 my bloodwork was analyzed (mine took a few days), I received 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 includes recommended foods to eat, lifestyle changes, supplement recommendations and/or changes to your training and daily activities. The website has really comprehensive information. And you can also see everything at a glance on their app, which is handy.

What my test showed

Results are broken  down by At Risk, Needs Improvement and Optimal.

  • The first time I used InsideTracker, I had two At Risk results, 9 Needs Improvement and 32 in the Optimal range.
    Most recently, I have zero At Risk, 7 Needs Improvement and 40 Optimal! So I definitely improved by my biomarkers by being informed and making conscious choices based on their recommendations!

They also provide your Inner Age vs. your biological age. I’m almost 37 so I was quite happy with my InnerAge of 26. Even though I definitely don’t feel that way most days with a young baby!

InsideTracker Review

Two specific biomarkers flagged as at-risk — Lipids/Cholesterol — didn’t surprise me. But served as another good reminder 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, my first test showed it had gotten even worse.

insidetracker review

 

However, with my most recent test in March 2021, my bloodwork showed that my cholesterol and improved. And that’s while breastfeeding, which can often cause elevated lipids and cholesterol. More on that in a future post!

InsideTracker bloodwork

For reference on the details with at-a-glance info, the screenshots above are from the website and the one below is from the app.

 

cholesterol history

To improve your overall health and specific biomarkers, they provide a food list and other things to incorporate, which is helpful!

insidetracker website

 

Again, the website is more comprehensive and the food lists are a bit easier to see on the website vs. the app.

food lists

But, you set reminders in the app to check-in if you do well with that kind of accountability.

 

food check-in

Other items that need attention

Beyond cholesterol, there have consistently been a few biomarkers I need to keep an eye on, like low ferritin, low sodium and high cortisol.

  • Low Ferritin

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.

insidetracker 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. However, what I learned was that drinking a ton of water, especially right before a blood test, can be the reason sodium comes back low. 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 and other electrolytes, which are critical during long workouts and after any sweaty workout. Nuun or coconut water is my go-to for electrolytes!

  • 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. Elevated cortisol can also be connected to injuries and I’ve been struggling with a few the past few years — plantar fasciitis, torn posterior tibial tendon, quad strain, sheesh.

The recommendations to improve cortisol levels include:

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!

  • 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 it 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!).

I prefer the website over the app because I like LOTS of information but if you just want high-level reminders, the app is great. The website also has recipes and helpful articles from registered dietitians, M.D.s and other health experts, like “Should I take a multivitamin?” and “Optimize Your Microbiome” and “I went Vegan Keto. Here’s what happened to my body.”

How much does it cost

InsideTracker offers multiple plans, starting at $49 and going up to $589. 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. And that’s something InsideTracker encourages too!

Bottom line: would I pay for this service?

Absolutely. While InsideTracker has given me three complimentary tests over the last few years, it’s a service I’ve recommended to family and friends. And I’d pay for it myself too!

You can learn more about InsideTracker and get 25% off your plan here!

 

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6 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

    • Reply
      Kaitlin
      at

      Could you elaborate on that?? I’ve never heard of that. I realize I was undereating for multiple months while ironman training. My cholesterol went up (but I have a strong fam history like Teri. It’s virtually inevitable they’ll want to put me on statins at 50 but I refuse so ?). Any sources? Thanks. I no longer look at weight as an indicator of health/being in shape.

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