By Bill Plock
With outdoor off-season approaching most of North America, many people turn to their indoor trainers and treadmills. With that, this may offer a time to do more precise and measurable workouts and a chance to try new nutrition or think about coaching for next season, new gear, or new information. We are going to offer more information on indoor gear, testing, coaching, nutrition and general off-season ideas to improve over the Winter. This week we took a look at InsideTracker
InsideTracker is an organization that can provide a very detailed snap shot of your overall health and guide you to ways to improve it and be stronger and approach your training from your best self possible. Learn about all they offer here: https://www.insidetracker.com
We wanted to take a deeper dive with them and ask some questions about their services and how they can best help endurance athletes.
How does InsideTracker deliver food recommendations?
- I see you make food recommendations, how specific is this?
- Do you recommend things like you need “x” more protein, or carbs etc.
- Or do you give specific food recommendations like “eat more avocado” which I think you do, but where does a dietitian fit in with this for athletes who use one. Or does Inside tracker sort of eliminate the need for dietitians?”
InsideTracker currently has Registered Dietitians spanning the science, marketing, and product teams. From the research behind each recommendation to how recommendations are phrased and displayed to customers is backed by dozens and dozens of scientific papers that dietitians have reviewed.
InsideTracker’s platform simulates the personalized guidance you’d receive from a dietitian all through an app, from the results to the personalized recommendations. Certain food recommendations are for specific foods such as olive oil and avocados, and others remain as food categories to give you flexibility and diversity in your choices. Other food recommendations tell you the recommended food categories for you and provide the best foods to help you get there. These recommendations are hand-picked for you based on the intersection of all of your inputs: your biomarker levels, your DNA data, your fitness tracker data, daily habits, and more.
Then, you can add the recommendations you’d like to include to your Action Plan to help you stay accountable. A feature of the InsideTracker app that helps individuals stick to their action plan is the daily ProTips. ProTips are nuggets of information delivered daily that bring your recommendations to life. For example, if you’ve added the recommendation, “Incorporate olive oil,” to your action plan to improve HDL cholesterol, you may receive a ProTip with a quick salad dressing recipe.
If athletes currently work with a dietitian, they can simply share their InsideTracker results with them to receive their input on their results and next steps.
What blood plan options exist? How do you know if your changes are successful?
Q: “It seems to me some biomarkers probably take longer to change than others. Maybe vitamin D for example takes a few weeks of taking supplements, let’s say to get into IT’s optimal zone. The tests aren’t cheap, let’s say someone can’t afford more than one test, how does it help them, or how do they know they are successful in making changes?”
InsideTracker provides multiple blood plan options. For example, if an individual is looking for an entry point, we offer an Essentials plan that tests 12 blood biomarkers for overall health. If an individual has gotten recent bloodwork through their physician, the Blood Results Upload plan allows them to upload this data into their InsideTracker account, gaining them access to the full InsideTracker experience. Finally, the Ultimate plan is our most comprehensive plan, testing for 43 blood biomarkers.
InsideTracker gives customers the ability to track biomarker progress over time. For athletes, we recommend testing at different points in the season to understand how their training is going. If someone is working on their vitamin D and ferritin levels through food and supplements, it’s also important to track these values over time to make sure that their supplements are working. The general guideline is to test every 3-6 months.
How does getting started with InsideTracker differ for athletes?
Q: “In the “Getting Started” FAQ, you have different instructions for professional athletes, why is that?”
Professional athletes that are testing with InsideTracker may have different logistical requirements. For example, these blood biomarkers are tested in the fasted state (at least 12 hours), which may not work logistically for a professional athlete in season. InsideTracker also recommends that athletes test at different points in the season in order to understand how their training is impacting their wellness and performance. It’s also important to note that professional athletes may require NSF-certified supplement options, which InsideTracker can provide.
How does InsideTracker combine blood and DNA?
Q: “When you add the DNA component, could that almost be de-motivating if someone doesn’t have “good” genes to perform at the level they aspire to?”
DNA isn’t destiny. Genetic potential simply means that an individual must prioritize and work to improve that specific component. A healthy lifestyle can outwork your genes. Here’s an example. Suppose your genetic potential shows that you have an elevated risk for lower vitamin D levels. In that case, your genes are effectively working against you and making it hard to achieve optimized vitamin D levels. Here, you will likely need to prioritize eating vitamin D-rich foods, getting adequate sun exposure, and maybe even a vitamin D supplement. Instead of being a “de-motivating” factor, we like to use data as fuel to inspire change.
Can you really lower your InnerAge?
Q: “Is InnerAge sort of like VO2, you can change it by losing weight, doing certain drills but at the end of the day you can’t move the needle too much as it’s genetically predisposed?”
We know that the number of birthdays you’ve had doesn’t necessarily reflect your body’s internal, biological age. InnerAge measures your biological age, or how your body’s aging from the inside. InsideTracker’s approach to aging is to quantify how your biomarker levels contribute to either a younger or an older InnerAge. From here, InsideTracker provides personalized recommendations to help you improve the biomarkers that are driving up your InnerAge. For example, if LDL cholesterol levels are adding three years to your InnerAge, you’ll receive personalized guidance on incorporating foods that lower your LDL cholesterol. Here, genetic predisposition isn’t your destiny. Instead, InsideTracker empowers customers to beat their genetic odds through sustainable food and lifestyle habits.
How does InsideTracker provide value to athletes of all skill levels?
Q: I realize any athlete, or person can benefit with your service for a number of reasons. But our readers are athletes, so maybe describe how you see this benefiting more specifically: beginners, middle of the pack age groupers and those aspiring to qualify for championships.
The beauty of InsideTracker is that it can help athletes at all levels improve their health because of their hyper-personalized approach. To start, InsideTracker plots your specific blood biomarker values in relation to your optimal zone. Optimal zones take many demographics and habits into account, including activity levels. For example, a female elite runner requires a different ferritin level than a male beginner runner to perform at the highest level, and InsideTracker’s optimal zones take this into account. From there, InsideTracker provides evidence-based recommendations to improve these specific biomarker levels that are personalized to them.
Why should athletes prioritize testing their blood biomarkers and how does this compare to other performance metrics?
Q: “There are many tests available for athletes, how does this compliment or possibly replace: Sodium sweat analysis, metabolic cart, VO2, Lactate threshold come to mind as the most common. It’s hard for athletes to know where to best spend their money to have the biggest impact. I think people tend to lean towards output tests and equipment first to improve performance like power meters, aero wheels, bike fit, clothes, helmets etc before looking internally. So I believe there is an education aspect to this. I’ve always thought a chart of “best bang for your speed/performance” would be well received. I’ve seen some out there but not one that combines “health things with equipment.”
InsideTracker doesn’t replace tests like a sodium sweat analysis, important for dialing in on hydration needs, or oxygen tests like a metabolic cart, VO2, lactate threshold, etc.
Testing blood biomarkers allows athletes to focus on what they need to improve on through diet, lifestyle, supplementation, etc.
Optimizing biomarkers like ferritin, hemoglobin, and vitamin B12 are essential for carrying oxygen from the lungs to tissues in the body. These are objective measurements of how the body is “performing on the inside,” separate yet connected to physical performance tests. For example, vitamin B12 is associated with hemoglobin synthesis, critical for athletic performance and optimal endurance capacity. Therefore, knowing where you stand on biomarkers like vitamin B12, which can be improved through supplementation and food, is a critical component to your performance.
Another example is vitamin D. Athletes may believe that they’re getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure and foods. Still, these two sources are often not enough to optimize vitamin D levels. In fact, 40% of InsideTracker customers have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is such an important nutrient for everyone, but athletes in particular. Vitamin D acts on the muscle to increase protein synthesis, increasing muscle mass and decreasing muscle fiber degradation. Optimal vitamin D levels have also increased the size and number of muscle fibers associated with building strength. What’s more, low vitamin D is also linked to poor sleep quality, and sleep is essential for muscle recovery, particularly after intense physical activity.
All of this being said, we can’t improve what we don’t measure. InsideTracker takes the guesswork out of what specific foods and supplements are necessary to level up health and performance.
Explain the Home Kit option versus the Ultimate plan
Q: “With the home kit you just use a few drops of blood and you get less data than with Ultimate which includes a full draw. I assume it’s a volume of blood sort of thing. Can you not do enough drops to get the same data as the ultimate?”
InsideTracker’s Home Kit allows customers to get their blood tested from the comfort of their home! InsideTracker’s Home Kit uses a self-prick to collect a few drops of blood to analyze seven blood biomarkers that are reliable with this test technology, and are critical for overall health like cholesterol, vitamin D, and hsCRP. The Home Kit is also available to customers outside of the United States.
Q: What projects and initiatives is InsideTracker currently working on?
Integration with the Apple Health Kit is coming to the InsideTracker app! This integration will add several health markers to inform recommendations and make the full power of InsideTracker accessible to more people. InsideTracker is continuously exploring other integrations such as other wearables, constant glucose monitors, etc.
Another company-wide initiative is the addition of “Signature Panels.” For example, we recently launched a custom panel with Olympic runner Shalane Flanagan that measures biomarkers known to impact and enhance endurance performance. Shalane Flanagan’s panel is just one example of how InsideTracker collaborates with athletes and industry experts to create custom and targeted panels that contain a specific subset of biomarkers that zero in on a focused goal. More to come!