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 this link and code AFOODIESTAYSFIT at checkout for 20% off an InsideTracker plan.
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.
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.
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 tests 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.
- The next time I had zero At Risk (yay!), 7 Needs Improvement and 40 Optimal!
So I definitely improved by my biomarkers by being informed and making conscious choices based on their recommendations! But, mostly recently I have two At Risk results, 9 Needs Improvement and 37 Optimal. My InnerAge also went up from 26 to 30.4. But hey, still pretty good, especially considering I have a young son and it’s been a stressful year.
One thing I especially love about InsideTracker is all the charts! It makes it easy to identify trends or sudden changes. I also find the visual cue helpful and motivating! The screenshots below that don’t have charts were from my first results. You’ll notice as more results are added, trend lines are added to the charts.
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.
Here’s my first Cholesterol report in 2019.
In March 2021, my cholesterol and lipids improved. And was while breastfeeding, which can often cause elevated lipids and cholesterol.
But, you can see in my October 2021 bloodwork that my cholesterol elevated again, dangit! I stopped eating as many oats in the summer and switched to smoothies. I wonder if that really could have impacted it that much! Easy solution: add oats to smoothies!
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.
To improve your overall health and specific biomarkers, they provide a food list and other things to incorporate, which is helpful!
Again, the website is more comprehensive and the food lists are a bit easier to see on the website vs. the app.
But, you set reminders in the app to check-in if you do well with that kind of accountability.
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.
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.
You can see how my Ferritin has struggled to improve over time, even though I take iron (and I don’t take it at breakfast since coffee can interfere with absorption) and incorporate iron rich foods into my diet. An RD suggested taking my iron two times a day (rather than two pills at once) to see if that will help improve what’s stored. So we’ll see what my next test result shows.
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!
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. My stress has elevated the past year, but that’s not surprising since I had a rough postpartum period and I’m a working mom. However, studies really do show that mindfulness can improve cortisol so I have a goal to meditate 3-4x a week, if only for 10 minutes. (I use the Peloton app for their meditation classes.)
Other recommendations to improve cortisol levels include:
- taking Ashwanganda root
- Making sure I incorporate enough recovery days and complete rest in my training
My platelets also came back VERY elevated at my last test. I had just gotten over a cold so it’s possible it was elevated for that reason. But, I contacted my doctor about it and we re-tested just to be sure. It came back normal, phew. But, elevated platelets can be quite serious and I’m grateful for a service like InsideTracker that can help me catch things if they are indeed an issue.
How I’ve tweaked my diet since getting my most recent 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 1-2 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. I have red meat 1-2x a month now.
- 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.
- Eating chia seeds daily, as this can help with cholesterol. I add them to oats or smoothies!
Why I love InsideTracker
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 or need to be addressed.
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 and included InnerAge. (Pssst! You can save 20% on your plan when you use this link with promo code AFOODIESTAYSFIT.)
InsideTracker would make an amazing gift this holiday season. What better way to care for someone you love than by making their health a priority!
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. (My mom has used it too!) And I’d pay for it myself too.
You can learn more about InsideTracker and get 20% off your plan, here!
You can see results from previous updates below!