Blood Work For Runners | My InsideTracker Experience. Part 1

Let me start by getting something out of the way. There’s a couple things about me that define me to the core. 1) I love data. Gathering it, analyzing it, using it and comparing it. 2) I’m lazy! Not the bad type of lazy, the “I don’t have patience for time wasting crap that is too difficult or too tedious” kinda lazy. I don’t like exerting effort in things that feel like they take more effort than what I believe should be required.

With that said, you now have the basis for why I used to never get blood work done. Even though the educated and competitive side of me knows that getting blood work done as an athlete is absolutely crucial to optimal performance.

Chances are, plenty of you out there are just like me. You put in lots of time training, learning and practicing running, but you avoid getting blood work done like it’s the plague, or some wild witchcraft that isn’t worth your time entertaining. Now, if you’re also like me, you aren’t avoiding it because you don’t want the information, you simply don’t know; where to start, what to do, or how to interpret the info as it relates to you, the athlete. This however is where InsideTracker came to the rescue and absolutely changed this for me, and had a massive impact on my running performance, recovery, and potential going forward. I had put off getting tested mostly because I thought I needed to make appointments with a doctor, and would need to go for multiple appointments in order to test and get results. Due to InsideTracker’s extensive amount of marketing, they happened to catch my eye as I noticed the cleanliness of their dashboard and data presentation, so it coaxed me into looking into them further, and it was at this point I found that they were the solution to my problem.

About This Series of Posts

There are so many sources for information on blood bio markers and athletic performance, from scientific sources as well as trainers and athletes. Many of these get deep in the details and explain vividly why and how these bio markers are important. I highly encourage you to read these for a full understanding, and many will be cited down below. As always, you’re best off consulting with a doctor to ensure you’re taking the best approach to testing and supplementing, doing so blindly can cause more problems than it fixes. But, my posts on the topic won’t do a deep dive into the science, but more of a straight to the point and simplified look at what these bio markers mean and my personal experience with getting my blood work through InsideTracker and how it’s affected me, and why it may apply to you as well. I’m going for the short and sweet approach, and trying to not make this drawn out and tiring to understand like some other articles can be.

My Experience and Results

My Past Performance Problems

In addition to knowing that I needed to keep up on blood work to ensure I’m operating efficiently and not causing any problems from all of the training I put in, I had been having issues with my endurance, both cardiovascular and muscular, as well as muscle soreness that seemed to last longer than what is normal. For about a year I had experienced this feeling while running that I knew wasn’t right, and I would describe it to my coach as feeling as if I wasn’t getting oxygen to my heart and body. When I was running at easier efforts, no matter how deep of a breath I’d take, it felt like the air was going in but none of it was being disbursed throughout my body (similar to running at higher elevations). At faster paced runs, the feeling was worse, and even the biggest breaths seemed to not do anything for me, and I would need to take breaks mid-run to regain myself. My endurance had progressively been decreasing, and it felt like I was getting slower each month for the few months leading up to my blood work.

I had asked plenty of experienced runners for advice, as well as scoured many sources to find some possibilities that could explain what I was experiencing. If you were to look around the internet for this, you’d find lots of possibilities, but 2 will be more frequently recurring and are considered the most common for an endurance athlete: Iron and Vitamin D deficiencies.

Iron

In honor of keeping things short, I’ll just say that iron deficiency anemia is common for runners. Please see my sources below for an in depth reasoning for this as well as symptoms and causes.

In my case, the symptoms I was having were text book examples of someone whose iron levels are low. These included: shortness of breath, lack of endurance, higher heart rate during runs, harder time recovering, feeling of tiredness throughout the day, trouble sleeping, mood fluctuations, and the list goes on, but these were the biggest red flags.

Realizing that my iron was probably off, I did a lot of reading and decided to supplement my iron. Knowing that iron toxicity could cause a lot of problems, I went with a lower dose. My feeling on the matter was that a little extra iron may not make a big difference (good or bad), but I could see what effect it had, and if things got better I would know I’m on the right track. But, after a few months of taking a small dose of iron once per day I didn’t notice any changes what so ever. Because of this, I assumed that iron may not be the issue, so I ultimately stopped taking it as I assumed I didn’t need it.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another nutrient that is found to be low in the majority of serious runners and other endurance athletes. From the research I’ve done, there’s no definitive answer to why this is the case, but a deficiency in this vitamin can have similar symptoms to an iron deficiency, such as; fatigue, trouble recovering, increased occurrences of injuries and reduced muscular performance.

Being that the iron supplement didn’t seem to help, I assumed it must be vitamin D! Same symptoms, I run a lot, iron didn’t fix me….. it must be this! With my new findings, I began supplementing a low dose of vitamin D. As you can imagine, that too had the same outcome as the iron, nothing new for me good or bad. So, I ultimately ended up stopping that as well.

Testing with InsideTracker

So here we are, I’ve tried to correct the problems I’m having by self-diagnosing my deficiencies and guesstimating my needs. Also, I don’t want to get tested because I don’t feel like jumping through hoops and dealing with the BS. I don’t think I’m alone in this cycle as many people I’ve talked to do the same, or do nothing at all but complain. But, how can we expect to fix a problem if we don’t know what it is, and further more how much correction is needed.

At this point, I’m sick of not resolving the problems I was having, and coincidentally had seen my 10,000th Instagram ad from InsideTracker. I had always admired the cleanliness of their GUI (graphical user interface) and noticed that their site presents tons of clean data that’s well laid out and informative. It’s at this moment I realized I had an issue, and this company I’ve admired was offering a solution. It should’ve been more obvious a lot sooner lol!

Here’s the breakdown of my experience with InsideTracker.

Initial Setup

Initial setup on the website is as easy as it gets. The hardest part is making a choice on which test you want to take, and as with most things in the world, you get what you pay for.

For an athlete, you’ll want to choose one of the test from Essentials ($189) and Ultimate ($589). Each test offers a different set of bio markers, and you’ll need to decide what it is that YOU want tested. In general, all of these tests will serve the purpose for most athletes as vitamin D and Iron (Ferritin and hemoglobin) are a couple of the biggest problem areas, but for a deeper analysis, I’d recommend High Performance (the one I chose) or Ultimate.

The more data you gather, the more decisions and adjustments you could make. Once you choose the right test, all you got to do is pay, sign up for an account, fill out your profile, and you’re done! Perfect for someone lazy like me, click some buttons while sitting on your ass!

Blood Draw

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive an email with instructions for getting the blood draw. You do have the option of getting tested at a lab or having a mobile blood draw done, but the mobile option does cost more. I opted for the Quest Diagnostics option, as it’s super duper easy and truly effortless.

You’ll receive a email similar to this with your instructions for what to do to prepare for the draw, and how to setup an appointment. Some tests required fasting, some don’t, but your specific instructions will detail out everything you need to do. Quest Diagnostics’ blood draw appointment booking can all be done online within a few steps. You choose your location, day and time, and that’s it! You’ll receive a slip from InsideTracker that you need to take to the lab, and when you get there you simply sign in and present them with your slip. A few minutes later you’re taken back and getting the blood draw done. That’s it!

Getting Results

Results come quite quickly despite the company referring to a 1 week time frame. In my case, I tested at noon on a Monday, and my dashboard on the InsideTracker website was updated with my results and recommendations by that Wednesday afternoon. All of the results are automatically uploaded and there’s no interpretation and other fussing around needed.

Data and Feedback

The data and feedback is really where InsideTracker shines. Lots of data is great to have, but if the data isn’t understandable or doesn’t have relativity or meaning to it, it’s useless. For most people, raw data means nothing. In my years doing data analysis, I can say without a doubt that what makes a company or person truly valuable is their ability to present complex data in a way that makes instant sense and is very easy to understand the how’s and why’s behind it.

The image to the right shows my Dashboard. This is a quick glance area to track my progress for my specific goal. You have a few options as a focus such as; endurance, energy, muscle building, etc. I opted for endurance seeing that I do long distance running, and my problems had to do with my endurance more than anything.

The image to the right shows my Dashboard. This is a quick glance area to track my progress for my specific goal. You have a few options as a focus such as; endurance, energy, muscle building, etc. I opted for endurance seeing that I do long distance running, and my problems had to do with my endurance more than anything.

The images above are what you’ll see in the analysis section of the site, and is the bread and butter of the service. This area will show a graph of your results for each bio marker, and will continue to graph your progress with each test you take, in my case there were 2 tests taken, hence the 2 dots. In addition to the graphing, you’ll be presented with a science based description of what this bio marker does and why it’s important. Along with this is also recommendations for improvement and management with diet and supplementation, depending on your measurements and overall goal.

My Next Steps

At the time of writing this, I’ve taken 2 blood tests and learned a ton! After my first test I began taking 1 10mg dose of iron daily as well as 2,000 IU of vitamin D3. My goal was to take a very low dose to see if that would correct things, as I wanted the least supplementation possible for my desired results. After taking my pills for a month, I really didn’t notice much of a change, so I opted to test again to see if, 1) my results didn’t change much, or 2) maybe the results are now ideal but I have another cause that’s lead to the problems I was experiencing. To my relief, upon testing for a 2nd time, I saw that my D3 had improved and was in a more ideal position. But, my iron had barely moved from not good, to not good. This was a relief as it meant iron could still be a possible cause as I suspected all along.

Now with 2 tests worth of data, I scoured more sources for a better resolution to my iron problem. I ultimately decided to go with a new pill supplement called Viron-C. There are 2 reasons why I went with this, aside from it having great reviews (many iron supplements have great reviews). Reason 1, it was a higher dose in a single pill. The pill isn’t much bigger than the 10mg pill, but this one packed 65mg! And I clearly needed a hell of a lot more than I was getting. Reason 2, the pill has vitamin C in it. Vitamin C apparently has a significant role in the absorption of iron in your body, so adding vitamin C is like supercharging the iron. I mean, if your body doesn’t adsorb the iron, no matter how much you take, nothing will happen……. other than getting an upset stomach.

To Be Continued…..

I will follow this up with another post (a much shorter one) soon, as soon as I take test 3, which will be around late June 2020. At this time I’m still taking 2,000 IU of D3 and 2x daily Vitron-C. I feel like a machine now, and my endurance is better than it’s ever been, so I expecting good numbers this next go around.

To anyone reading this who has similar issues, your blood work will be different and your supplementation needs will be different as well. So, don’t simply follow my supplementation regimen, you need data and specific advice in order to proceed properly.

Get 15% off your order at InsideTracker

Use code: PURSUING262

Resources

Why You Need to Get Blood Work Done

Your blood caries a tremendous amount of information about you and your health, and as an athlete (specifically a runner) your performance, recovery and endurance will be significantly tied to the different data points that are measured in your blood work. While there are so many aspects to your health that can effect your ability to perform or be healthy, there are some specific indicators related to athletic performance for endurance athletes that are notorious problem areas that put runners into a slump or increase instances of over training or injury.

“As somebody goes from mild, to moderate, to significant activity, the stresses on the body become more intense and more frequent, and if there is an underlying problem in the body, the ability to continue to improve athletically can become compromised,” he says. A simple look at hematocrit and hemoglobin can go a long way toward telling if an athlete is doing well, or if there’s an issue somewhere. Ross sees anemia fairly frequently among athletes, particularly women. Because of that, he likes to check iron levels as well. He says anemia is often tied to nutritional imbalances, and notes, “When I see people who feel sluggish but have normal exercise testing, I check ferritin levels. Anemia can do weird things.” – “Doctor-Recommended Test for Runners” – Map My Run Blog, Michael Ross, MD

Runner’s World

Map My Run

Active

PubMed

Run To The Finish

Rockay

Seattle Marathon

Mayo Clinic – Iron Deficiency

WebMD – Vitamin D Deficiency

2 thoughts on “Blood Work For Runners | My InsideTracker Experience. Part 1

  1. Thank you for such a phenomenal and thorough write up! As a marathon runner and coach, I’ve been keeping my eye on this company and the services they offer.

    Also as a healthcare data scientist, I absolutely love the way you worded this part: “For most people, raw data means nothing. In my years doing data analysis, I can say without a doubt that what makes a company or person truly valuable is their ability to present complex data in a way that makes instant sense and is very easy to understand the how’s and why’s behind it.”

    1. You are too awesome! 😎. Yeah I’m an accountant and specialize in analysis and pride myself of being able to paint a picture that any end user can fully understand so they know what’s going on and what caused it. So when I saw their presentation of data, I was so pleased that it wasn’t something that required an MD to break down into simple terms

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Super Rad Newsletter

Stay Connected, Learn Cool Stuff, Train Better, Get PR's

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy! 🍋