Blood Don’t Lie: Food as Fuel and Medicine

A little while back I mentioned that I was excited to get my blood drawn so I could get feedback on how I’m doing nutritionally, and how I can alter my intake to improve both my general health and athletic performance. It has been a full year since I last had my personal biomarkers analyzed via InsideTracker, and a lot has changed since then!

In 2015, I had the most comprehensive panel done, what InsideTracker calls their Ultimate panel. I was pregnant, hadn’t been working out regularly at the time of analysis and was not actively thinking too much about what I was putting into my body. This time around, I am almost eight months postpartum, have found a good cadence in my running and workout routine and am thinking more and more about what goes into my body. In fact, I still consider myself to be eating for myself and my little one, as she is still primarily breast feeding. This means that if I’m not getting enough of any one thing in my own diet, my body will leach what it needs for her from my stores. No stores, and you know what that means: deficits. Yikes.

Now, to answer the big question: what changed year over year, and what did I learn this time around via the High Performance panel?

To be honest, I sat on my results for a full day before logging on. I was very nervous about what I might find, as I had not been fueling well heading into the test. However, I also recognized that I shouldn’t change what was “normal” at the time for the sake of the test. My blood would reveal my late night Oreo indiscretions and weekend puff pastry turnover benders either way. At least I recognized going in that I definitely had some work to do.

Once I logged in to InsideTracker, it took me straight to a “business” screen — as in let’s get down to business with this new information. There’s a table that shows you comparisons at a more granular level, but this handy screenshot gives you an idea of how I did year over year when it comes to the ten biomarkers the High Performance panel focuses on.

IT_3_30_biomarkers

I did okay, but not great. This time around, I had fewer biomarkers fall under “at risk,” the scariest category, but I had more move to “needs work” and my number of “optimized” biomarkers had dropped a bit. Breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn’t skewed the other way, I moved on to the next screen, where I began addressing my issues and choosing how I would go about helping myself.

Here are the specifics of my personal “needs work” and “at risk” biomarkers.

IT_3_30_workon

To the naked eye, this may not say much but to me it was screaming. Clearly, I hadn’t made good on my year-ago warning that my calcium and vitamin D were low. After taking a supplement while pregnant I kind of forgot to continue after the baby was born… we’ll blame new mom brain for that, but now I have no excuse to let it continue on. Those are two things my mini’s growing body needs, so clearly, my body is giving up whatever it has to give it to her. The “needs work” markers may as well simply say “Hey lady, you’re stressed out!” Cortisol is a stress indicator, hsCRP an inflammation indicator. ALT is a liver enzyme that plays a role in changing stored glucose into usable energy, and ferritin is a protein that stores iron. (Because my ferritin is low but my hemoglobin is optimal, my “iron group” level as a whole is now low.) InsideTracker then gave me some options and asked me what my goals were. IT_3_30_goals

I decided to choose “Prevent injury/speed recovery” over “Fight aging” for two reasons. I am cross training while still running and loving it as I prepare for races in May and July, and while I’m not overdoing it, I don’t want to get hurt. Genetically speaking, I’m not banking on the aging thing entirely being null, but when your father’s mother is 99, his father made it to 103 (and was still sharp as a tack) and your dad is in his 60s but still runs, lifts, boogie boards and occasionally can be found skateboarding, you tend to feel pretty good about how you might age. “Build strength & power” will hopefully come hand-in-hand with gaining muscle.

Here’s where I giggled a little.
IT_3_30_preferences
When giving a ranking on how to prioritize my action plan, I tried to be realistic about what would really be do-able for me or not. There’s no use in shaming myself and saying I should be able to do all the things equally. Food and exercise could be altered, adding supplements is easy, but when you have a baby who still isn’t sleeping through the night and related stressors in your life, saying “Oh, don’t worry, I can let go of perceived control issues and just chill out” probably isn’t going to happen.

From there, InsideTracker gave me a whopping seventeen choices, then asked me to pick the top five that I wanted to put into play right away. Again, being realistic about the fact that I may be eight months postpartum, but am still figuring out this whole work-workout-home life balance thing, I chose what seemed most attainable. This means I’ll be adding four supplements to my intake and eating unsweetened cocoa (or possibly taking a flavanoid supplement.) The unsweetened cocoa will help reduce hsCRP, 5000IU of vitamin D3 to increase vitamin D, a daily probiotic to reduce ALT levels, 300mg Ashwagandha root twice daily after meals for cortisol levels, and 1000mg of vitamin C daily for two months to help reduce CRP levels. PHEW. Like I said — apparently my poor body is very stressed out. I wanted to choose the “as a runner get more than 6 hours of sleep per night” option, but that’s not guaranteed.

I’m not into Brazil nuts, so when it came to choosing my goal foods, it was pretty easy! I love edamame and it’s easily eaten as part of a meal or as a snack, oatmeal is my go-to breakfast (thanks to my first InsideTracker panel) and adding pumpkin seeds to it will be easy. Hell, I already started this morning. Notably, you can go in and change your goals and goal foods at any time if it turns out what you picked just isn’t working. How easy is that? Plus, you can set up goal food, supplement and nutrition/exercise/lifestyle reminders to be sent to you via email or text message at whatever frequency you need to keep you on track. A morning reminder to take vitamins? An afternoon reminder to meditate? You bet. Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.28.29 PM
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.28.52 PM

This isn’t the end of my recommended foods — in fact, it’s just the beginning. For each and every biomarker, there were a host of foods InsideTracker recommended I use as fuel and as medicine. There is so much information there that I am saving it for another post, and to be honest, now my grocery list looks very different, but in a great way.

Now that I know what I have to work on and how I can go about improving my health, it’s time to take action! As I sit here snacking on blackberries – InsideTracker approved of course – I am eager to see changes in how I feel and perform over the next two months.

What are you most interested in hearing about in follow-up posts? Would you try biomarker analysis for yourself?

2 thoughts on “Blood Don’t Lie: Food as Fuel and Medicine

  1. Heather Patton at Afternoon Glow

    This is so cool! It’s interesting to see how pregnancy and breastfeeding affect the body, since I know so many women who don’t really think about it other than in terms of “I need to eat more calories.” I’m positive you’ll be able to get things back into whack (even if you probably won’t get that 6 hours of sleep every night for a while…)!

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  2. Pingback: Life of Late ~ 4.8.16 | California Endless Summer

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