Even as my health has improved, I wasn’t sure about my overall outlook. InsideTracker’s report reveals my successes and guides me on where to improve.
By Henry Howard
I began running about five years ago as a way to improve on my health and cross “finish a marathon” off my bucket list. The side benefits have included eating a healthier diet and eliminating soda — with the exception of a rum and coke from time to time.
InsideTracker delivers quality assessment, recommendations
Thanks to good genes and an active lifestyle, I have never been overweight. Even so, I have managed to shed some extra pounds thanks to the changes I have made, including going pretty much gluten-free. I know it’s been working since my running times and overall fitness have improved.
Still, I really didn’t have a good gauge on specifics related to my health. Thankfully, I discovered InsideTracker, which provided me with a sophisticated, metrics-based evaluation of various components that make up my health.
InsideTracker provided me a discount for two evaluations that are done after bloodwork is done. I did my first one on July 6 and received the results about 10 days later (which is about a week longer than normal, due to an issue with the facility that drew the blood).
After the blood work is collected at a clinic — InsideTracker has partners in small, medium and large cities across the U.S. — it is analyzed and detailed in a customized report. The electronic reports are private but users can share them with their health-care professionals.
I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but my report was easy to read and understand. The InsideTracker report provided statistical comparisons of various health markers in categories including metabolism and weight control, bone and muscle health, inflammation, strength and endurance, and more.
What I really loved about InsideTracker is that it mixed scientific data with actionable recommendations. Each of the areas measured included the data but also recommendations of what foods to eat to either maintain a healthy level, or improve upon your score. Some suggestions focused on real food — nuts, fish, etc. — while others suggested taking a supplement.
Even though I have had my results for a couple of weeks, there is so much information from InsideTracker, I still need to do more research. For example, it provides a customizable “Food Basket,” based on the user’s individual scores and preferences. The Food Basket generates a list of foods that will help the individual, based on daily calorie intake, broken down by grain, fruit, protein, etc. And users can adjust the recommendations based on their preferences. For example, clicking on gluten-free, grain free or paleo will generate different suggestions.
Some results were surprising
I was most interested in my scores in cholesterol, iron, blood sugar and magnesium. But InsideTracker went well beyond those basic measurements. I also received reports on my cortisol levels, folate, creatine kinase (muscle health), testosterone and many others. Each received a numeric score and compared that score with what InsideTracker considers optimum, normal or low levels.
The results were as surprising as they were thorough. Among the surprises:
• My Vitamin D level was off the charts and not in a good way. From a 0 to 100 score, it was at 26 in the red danger zone. The optimum levels, InsideTracker informed me, were between 40 and 48. Fortunately, this was the only marker of mine that was in the red danger zone.
The report recommended that I begin taking a Vitamin D supplement daily. Additionally, it suggested that I eat fatty fish such as snapper, salmon and whitefish twice a week. And, of course, InsideTracker recommended getting more fortified dairy in my diet.
The Vitamin D supplement was an easy addition, which I have incorporated into my daily morning routine. I have been more conscious about drinking more milk, especially chocolate milk after runs or hard workouts — all in the name of my health, of course. As for the fish, that’s something I need to improve upon. I usually eat fish once a week. (Oddly enough, the day after I received the results I had a business dinner at a new restaurant. On the menu was red snapper, which made my choice easy.)
• My cortisol, a stress indicator, was abnormally high. I measured 21.2 with 22 being high, and the optimized zone between 5 and 16.3
Now, I think of myself as fairly low stress so this was a shock. Perhaps, it was because I was four days away from my first ultra marathon when I had my blood work drawn. Perhaps, it was because I was rushed that week, trying to balance various work and family obligations. Or perhaps, I had a sudden rush of cortisol when I got caught in a torrential downpour heading to the clinic for the test. How bad of a downpour? I had to return home to change into dry clothes before heading on to work.
In any case, this was perhaps the best advice from the initial report: “Prioritize sleep the night before morning workouts by going to bed earlier.”
Easier said than done.
Other recommendations include: eating more peanut butter (sign me up), chia seeds, quinoa, tofu (sorry, no), almonds, granola and old fashioned rolled oats.
• My glucose, or blood sugar, score of 86 was slightly above the optimized zone of 65 to 83. (I was among the 64 percent of Inside Tracker users who scored in the normal level, compared with 22 percent who were in the optimum level.) The major suggestion was to eat a handful of nuts each day. Previous to this discovery, I would estimate that I had nuts on average three times a week. It was not hard to increase that to six or seven days each week. Other recommended foods include avocado, old fashioned rolled oats, acorn squash and chia seeds.
I found another recommendation to be odd, considering my diet is primarily focused on vegetables and fruits. The suggestion was to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet. As I mentioned, I have sworn off gluten (and feel so much better after doing so) and eat lean chicken, beef and eggs — note to self: don’t forget the fish — to get the necessary protein. This is one suggestion I’ll be setting aside.
InsideTracker also recommended taking daily supplements of berberine, which there is some evidence that indicates it helps reduce cholesterol; and garlic powder, which may help reduce LDL cholesterol, though more thorough research needs to be done. I am starting to take berberine, which is a compound found in plants, and am curious to see whether it helps.
• LDL, or cholesterol transporter, was in the normal range but a little high of the optimum area. InsideTracker lists 0 to 75 as the optimum range, while I measured 85. That puts me in with 62 percent of InsideTracker users who are in the normal range while 8 percent are in the optimum range.
The recommendations for this area were very similar to those in the glucose area. They included eating more nuts — specifically walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts — as they are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help to reduce LDL cholesterol and glucose. Additional recommendations include taking the berberine supplement and considering a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Thanks for the thorough report and advice from InsideTracker, I understand that I have some improvements to make in my diet. My first steps have included taking a daily Vitamin D supplement and having a jar of mixed nuts in my office so I can grab a handful when the 2:30 p.m. snack craving kicks in.
I also will be evaluating my breakfasts more regularly. I will be looking for ways to include more rolled oats and granola (and chia seeds) in my first meal of the day. And, I will be looking for creative ways to introduce some flavors and nuts in those morning meals.
Lastly, I am starting to take berberine. I will continue to do so for about 12 weeks, which will bring me to my next road marathon. It will also bring me to my next InsideTracker test and results.
I can’t wait for the next in-depth look at the data, as well as the helpful recommendations, from InsideTracker.
Editor’s note: You can use the code “MTA” for 10% off any of the InsideTracker plans.