Strength from the inside out

This post was written in partnership with Inside Tracker, but the opinions in this post are my own.

Who knew I would get so excited about getting my blood drawn every three months? It’s powerful information. I’m learning what I am doing right as an athlete and what I need to improve on. As a competitive master’s athlete I’m always trying to learn ways to maximize my performance and recovery, always trying to be the best athlete I can be.

Six months ago I learned about a great program called Inside Tracker. You may have seen their hashtag on social media, #blooddontlie. From a small blood sample, they analyze biomarkers that are critical to improving performance and according to their website, “identify the nutrition, lifestyle, supplement and exercise interventions to optimize them.” These are biomarkers that my primary care doctor likely wouldn’t think of looking at, even though he specializes in sports medicine. And honestly, I wouldn’t know what to look for either, so their expertise in this area is part of why Inside Tracker is really appealing to me.

What I learned from IT is there’s a normal lab value for every test, but there is also an “optimal value” for athletes, which often times is different from the “normal range.” When these labs are not optimized, they will help you to correct them.

My Lab Results

Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff: My results and the numbers. I had my blood drawn on June 3 and the results came back on June 8. They tested a range of biomarkers that together look at my strength, fitness, and recovery. They tested my testosterone:cortisol ratio, hsCRP, cortisol, ferritin, creatine kinase, and testosterone to name a few.

They organize the results in a really easy to read format, with a dashboard that summarizes my goals, results, and the recommendations. The medical professional in me really appreciates the detail of the blood work charts and the science of each biomarker. However, it’s all explained in layman’s terms, so you don’t need a medical degree to interpret the information.

There are different ways to view your results. Each biomarker can be viewed in detail in a table format or in a graph format. Looking at my testosterone level in the graph format below, it showed some big improvement.

Inside Tracker testosterone lab results to help improve my performance

As you can see, it came back really high.  It freaked me out a bit initially, so I checked with the Inside Tracker team and I learned that such a high testosterone level is more of a positive thing for an athlete, wahoo! It means I’ve either had a reduction in training (so good rest and recovery), better sleep, better programmed training, and/or increasing vitamin D or magnesium.

When I chatted with my coach about this result, he was excited because this lab value should correlate with an improvement in performance. And as athletes, that’s what we want. On a side note, Inside Tracker isn’t a doctor. So if lab results are not normal, they always recommend following up with your doctor.

Now, let’s look at the table view:

Inside Tracker table view of my lab results to help improve my performance

This is a small snapshot of the table view from my results, they provide a lot of detail in the full table view. The table view provides a clear picture of my previous two draws compared to this most recent one. I also like how this table view groups each of the biomarkers into sections with labels related to my strength, performance and recovery.

Blood Don’t Lie and Inside Tracker Improved My Performance

So, how has this information helped me? With the help of Inside Tracker, I have been able to optimize many of the important biomarkers, which has resulted in more energy during my runs.  It allows my coach to assess my recovery so he can modify my training schedule to either push me harder, or back down if I’m not recovering well.  But best of all, my mood and motivation are better, especially in light of all the hard training.  All of these changes have contributed to overall better training and racing. The powerful thing about having this information, is if your training or racing isn’t going well, it’s a great way to check things off the list as a way to evaluate underlying reasons why it is happening. As athletes, we know there are so many contributing factors to poor training and racing so it’s nice to have concrete evidence to either explain why things aren’t going well or at least give you a way to rule out metabolic causes.   

The really cool thing about Inside Tracker is if your labs need to be optimized, their recommendations to correct these are done through change in lifestyle, such as more rest or healthy nutrition such as eating more healthy fats, ie nuts, avocados, and healthy oils. Other nutritional recommendations may include granola, chia seeds, psyllium, dark chocolate, and beans to name a few. The interesting thing about the dietary recommendations is they tailor it to your dietary habits. For me, I’m vegan, so my recommendations may be slightly different than someone who is a vegetarian or on a paleo diet.

For serious athletes and anyone interested in improving their fitness from the inside out, I highly recommend using Inside Tracker. It’s true, #blooddontlie.

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