Roughly three months into my new pescatarian lifestyle, I wondered how it had been affecting my overall health.
After recovering from a foot injury that had cut short my running from early January through February, I was able to get back to where I needed to be physically in mid-April. I felt ready for my 50-mile race, which I completed the day after taking an InsideTracker blood test. I took the test so that I could learn about how my insides were being affected — if at all — by my decision to drop red meats, chicken, turkey, etc. in addition to the physical toll from training and everyday life stressors.
The test was the fifth one I have taken with InsideTracker since July 2016, days before my first ultra, a 50K. The blood draw is easy and the results are thorough and offer helpful recommendations. After my previous test, taken last July, I listed five action steps that I would take.
Take 300mg of Ashwagandha root daily. Achieved
Increase daily protein to 112 grams per day. My weekly averages since the beginning of 2018 range from 76 to 115, with the only two meeting the goal in the first two weeks of the year — just before I launched the pescatarian change. Not achieved
Look for opportunities to increase Vitamin B12, including different types of fish. Achieved
Work in more servings of beans, oatmeal and fish. Achieved
Increase the amount of sleep I get each night. Not achieved
InsideTracker analyzes the subject’s blood in a couple of dozen different categories — from various vitamins to cortisol to iron to other markers — and then uses easy-to-read charts to see how the subject compares. Each segment is placed in one of three zones: green, yellow and red.
My most recent scores were mostly in the green zone, with a few in the yellow zone. They were: glucose or blood sugar, lipid group, iron group, testosterone group and Vitamin B12.
I also noted some successes over time, most notably getting my cortisol or stress level on the right path and Vitamin D. In previous reports, InsideTracker recommended taking Ashwagandha root, which I am doing. As noted above, I have also incorporated oatmeal regularly into my diet, usually four or five times a week. Additionally, I also have been eating fish at least twice a week.
Areas to improve
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for athletes, especially masters athletes like myself. Too little Vitamin B12 can lead to poor performance and even anemia, something I had a touch of according to a separate blood test at my doctor’s office recently. Anemia can lead to a feeling of weakness or tiredness. As this blog post on InsideTracker points out, when athletes don’t absorb enough B12 from food to make red blood cells, the body’s oxygen capacity decreases, along with endurance.
In chronological order, my scores have been: 492, 741, 473, 486 and 473. I’m going to assume that the second test was off. All of the other scores are close to the bottom of the low end of the optimized zone, which is 488 to 768.
InsideTracker recommends increasing my daily totals of dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese to at least two per day.
The Iron Group, which looks at oxygen transfer and blood function. Of all the various categories, this one has shown the most up and down for me, as the chart in the image below shows.
I went from originally being low to high, with one stop in the “good zone.” InsideTracker came to this conclusion, based on analyzing various other markers. It says, “Elevated serum iron, coupled with elevated TS (Transferrin saturation) and low TIBC (total iron-binding capacity) signifies a high level of unbound iron in your system.”
For those who have high transferrin saturation, like me, it can indicate that overall iron levels are high, which can explain feeling tired or weak, or having joint pain.
Similarly, when TIBC is low, people may have excess iron, which can leave them feeling tired and weak, with abdominal pain and joint pain.
Among the recommendations are foods that are already staples in my diet: peanut butter, spinach and black beans. Other recommendations include dark chocolate (yes, please), kidney beans, white beans and toasted sesame seeds.
The Lipid Group, which is high due to my elevated LDL and low HDL. This has been at the same level during every test in the “needs work” area. The recommendations include a serving of nuts daily because they are “high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that improve cholesterol markers and glucose.”
It also recommends eating beta-glucan daily, which is found in oats and barley. I found this odd because of my nearly daily helpings of oatmeal. Since I am gluten-free and don’t often eat bread or cereal, I’ll need to look at my options for GF breads and cereals that offer good amounts of beta-glucan for my non-oatmeal days.
Other recommendations call for adapting a vegan or vegetarian diet, eating at least two servings of fruit daily and fish twice a week. I’ve already noted my pescatarian adherence, usually have at least four serving of fruit daily and fish twice a week.
Glucose, which has usually been just outside the optimized done during all of my tests. This time it registered 87, while I have averaged 85 and the optimal zone is 65 to 83. The recommendations to my diet include various kinds of beans, avocados, acorn squash, chia seeds and berries. I’m pretty good and getting all of those foods in my diet but will see if I can squeeze even more in. Other recommendations include:
A serving of nuts every day.
Increase your intake of caffeine to 2-3 servings per day. Consuming moderate amounts of caffeine has been associated with decreased fasting blood glucose.
Sleep more. I average between 6.5 and 7 hours per night. The recommendation is for between 7 and 8 hours each night.
Start taking a daily probiotic supplement to help reduce your above optimized glucose.
Testosterone has been the exact same level each night in the “needs work” category. The recommendation is to increase my sleep to seven hours per night. According to InsideTracker, “Increasing your sleep will help you combat your above optimized glucose. Increasing your sleep by as little as 45 minutes each night can have a significant impact on your glucose levels.”
My action plan
Overall, this was a good report on my inner health. It confirmed that while I feel healthier since cutting out most meats, I need to be extra vigilant about getting enough daily protein. I had been supplementing with servings of chia seeds and hemp seeds, but clearly that wasn’t allowing me to get enough protein, especially during a stretch of endurance training.
One way that I will aim to increase my daily protein is to supplement with PlantFusion, a scoop with water adds 21 grams of protein — a good way to follow up a workout or a run.
Additionally, I have set some goals for myself, based on the InsideTracker test results and recommendations.
Increase protein consumption to an average of 112 grams per day.
Consume two servings of milk products a day.
Eat a serving of nuts each day.
Get at least seven hours of sleep per night.