Discovering my DNA
I have found my customized InsideTracker analysis and recommendations to be extremely valuable over the past few years. A simple blood test every three to six months is analyzed for three dozen biomarkers and then turned into personalized recommendations.
This peek under my hood has resulted in me progressing as a masters athlete. I have fine-tuned my diet to emphasize areas identified in the InsideTracker reports. For example, an early InsideTracker report identified Vitamin D as deficient but since then it has greatly improved.
When I had the opportunity to have my DNA tested by InsideTracker, I jumped at the opportunity. After swabbing the inside of my mouth, I sent off the DNA test kit and waited for the results.
The DNA results come from 261 genetic markers that could have an effect on one’s potential. InsideTracker analyzes the blood test data and pairs it with the DNA to determine your genetic potential and any at-risk areas. And each time you get a new blood test, that information is automatically updated.
Just like the blood tests, InsideTracker provides individual recommendations on ways to achieve or avoid your body’s potential for certain traits.
InsideTracker is recommended for athletes of any skill or experience level, as well as anyone else wanting to learn more about various markers that define their health. To learn more, visit InsideTracker.com and use my special link for 15 percent off.
Diet and nutrition
I learned a lot from the 48-page report that outlined my DNA traits and how they correspond to my health factors as identified in my most recent blood analysis.
That blood draw was taken Feb. 10, which followed my first 50-mile training week as I geared up the Bel Monte 50K in mid-March. Some of the blood test results were obviously affected by my training load. But that is why it is important to have regular tests – to see the trend lines and not focus too much on one particular result.
As a masters athlete, I feel that I am in good shape and the DNA test confirms that my Body Mass Index (BMI) is 19, in the normal range and far from being overweight. However, the DNA test indicates that I have a genetic variant that predisposes me to the possibility of gaining weight.
Other takeaways related to nutrition:
• There has been a lot made of low-fat vs. high-fat (low carb) diets. Thanks to this DNA report, I learned that my genetic history is better off with a low-fat, high-cab diet, which is what I follow. Additionally, the report indicated that I have an above-average risk for gaining weight on a diet high in saturated fats. The report considers more than 22 grams per day as high. In checking back on my app where I track my daily nutrition, there was only one week since the start of 2020 when my daily average was higher than 22 (and almost all were in the teens). That was a week when I was traveling and eating a little more packaged food like granola bars than usual.
• Speaking of nutrition, it appears that adapting a nearly vegan diet has led to one of the few categories where my genetic risk points in one direction but my blood analysis tells a different story. Vitamin B12 — commonly found in meat, eggs and dairy products — is oftentimes a challenge for plant-based eaters. While my genetic risk is high, my most recent blood analysis puts me at the low end with 473 while optimal is between 488 and 760. This confirms the need for a B12 supplement as most who follow a plant-based lifestyle also need to do.
• While my genetic outlook for fasting glucose is average, the trend from my bloodwork indicates that my glucose levels are high. The recommendations include eating more chia seeds, avocados, nuts and other foods, as well as incorporating more yoga into my weekly routines, and starting a garlic and alpha-lipoic acid (ALC) supplement. I’ve decided to add a garlic supplement but I’m holding off on the ALC one since there appears to be little research to date on its effectiveness.
• As someone who became a coffee drinker in the past few years, it was interesting for me to learn that my DNA indicates I have an elevated probability of consuming more caffeine than others. This probably explains my habit of having multiple soft drinks during evening shifts earlier in my career, well before I found running and adapted healthy nutrition.
• I have an average genetic risk for lower magnesium, while my blood level is below optimal, which could explain why I get less sleep and sometimes have issues with sleeping.
In perhaps the biggest surprise of this DNA report, I am predisposed to excelling at power sports like sprinting or weight lifting. My score for genetic potential for power was 64.3 while my score for genetic potential for endurance was 35.7. As someone who performs better at longer races, I would presume this to mean that proper training and mental strength can overcome genetics.
The DNA results also checked for allergies to gluten, lactose and peanuts. In the least surprising finding of all, I have a gene variant that gives me an elevated risk for a gluten intolerance or allergy. I have been gluten free for about eight years now after both of my sons tested off-the-charts for Celiac Disease. And the switch to eating gluten free has helped me shed my lifelong stomach issues.
While the results indicated I also have an above-average risk for a peanut allergy (4.5 percent compared to 1.5 percent), I have never experienced an issue with peanuts or nuts of any kind.
These are my initial discoveries in the InsideTracker report. There is more digging and researching I need to do to fully understand it, as well as how it correlates to my most recent blood test and recommendations.
The report itself is easy to follow and full of useful information. There are many important takeaways here. For example, understanding which genetic factors I have a predisposition for will help me shape my nutrition going forward. And the report certainly confirmed a lot of things I already knew — my gluten intolerance/allergy and my preference for a low-fat, high-carb diet.
Still, it was well worth it to have the science and metrics that will help me craft a proper nutrition strategy for my training load and based on my unique DNA.
After all, knowledge is power.