Healthy progress thanks to InsideTracker


By Henry Howard


After several years of testing with InsideTracker, my most recent results were the best yet. Of the dozens of biomarkers tested, only three were rated “at risk.”


That’s down from a previous test in February when there were seven in that category. Two of the improvements yielded in the late June test were directly due to a great chat I had with Catherine Roy, a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Scientist at InsideTracker. She analyzed my data and offered recommendations such as increasing my vitamin D.


Regular InsideTracker tests reveal how all stressors — physical, emotional, etc. — and nutrition have an impact on an individual’s health. In addition to the scores, InsideTracker provides custom recommendations based on the individual’s dietary preferences, age, weight, goals and more.


Who should try InsideTracker? It’s recommended for everyone from elite athletes to mid-packers to back-of-the-packers, as well anyone else wanting to learn more about their health. InsideTracker offers a variety of packages on analyzing your blood results and providing personalized recommendations so you can improve your health and fitness. Get 22 percent off any InsideTracker test with my code: HENRYHOWARD.




My key takeaways


The three areas that fell into the “at risk” category were my inflammation group, lymphocytes and the magnesium group, specifically the level of magnesium in my red blood cells.


Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell activated in response to immune system stress. Lymphocytes consist of three different types of cells: B cells, T cells, and natural killer cells. Each cell type works to target, attack and remember foreign substances that invade the body. When lymphocyte levels are low, the individual may be more prone to illness or infection.


The June test came as I was beginning to transition from a moderate period of training to an increase in mileage and intensity, leading up to my 100-miler in October. This test and a follow-up one in about three months will serve as a way to analyze the impact of training for a long endurance race on a masters athlete.


For now, I am focusing on the changes from the February test to the one a few weeks ago.


In my most recent test, 38 of 48 biomarkers were rated optimized, up from three from the test five months previously; while seven were in the needs improvement category, up one; and three rated at risk, down from seven in the previous test.


After analyzing the data, here are some key takeaways:


1. Vitamin D level: I increased my daily dosage to 5000 IU of Vitamin D, which increased my number from 23 to 43, the highest ever. The optimum range is 32 to 100. I also focused on drinking chocolate almond milk, which also helped boost the count.

2. Cortisol level: The trend is definitely heading in the right direction. My number decreased from its high mark of 26.6 to 16.8, just outside the upper range of optimized, which is 15.8. Thanks to InsideTracker, I started taking a daily dose of ashwagandha root up to 600 milligrams after the February test. Among the recommendations from that test were to take ashwagandha. After doing some research, I realized that a few years ago I was able to lower my cortisol rate by taking ashwagandha. And it has worked again.


3. Magnesium: This is an oddity since I take a magnesium tablet before bed each night to help me rest. And I already frequently eat peanut butter, black beans and spinach, which are all good sources of magnesium. Additionally, I even began regularly eating a cereal with amaranth, a recommendation from last time, as a way to boost these numbers. Low levels of magnesium can reduce bone health and muscle strength, causing muscle spasms and cramping. Low magnesium can also impair sleep quality, mood and heart health. I have definitely had issues sleeping so I’ll need to look for options to boost my magnesium with foods and perhaps a second tablet on some nights.

4. Inflammation group: My low white blood cell count is putting my inflammation group at risk. However, it did improve from 2.9 to 3.5, with an optimal score of a minimum of 3.8. White blood cells are the driving force behind a healthy immune system. My increased consumption of nut butter, nuts, avocados and chia seeds appears to be having an impact though there is room to improve.

5. Protein levels: While InsideTracker does not measure it, Roy had recommended that I get 100 grams of protein daily, which matches the goal my coach has set. At the time, I averaged between 90 and 100. In looking back at my logs since late February, I have averaged roughly 96 grams a day. There were a couple of suboptimal weeks when I was traveling and clearly did not get enough protein. But overall there was a slight uptick, which has helped my body recover.


Action steps


After each InsideTracker test, I review the score, analysis and recommendations, and carve out a to-do plan for myself. I don’t always hit the marks but as noted earlier this has been instrumental in positive changes for me, especially during the past five months.


Looking ahead, here are some areas that I will concentrate on.


Magnesium. In reflecting on my diet, I eat a lot of rice. Going forward, I’m looking at getting spinach and quinoa into my rotation more frequently. They are both among the foods high in magnesium that also support cortisol. Others include: pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, dark chocolate and whole grains such as oatmeal.

• Vitamin b12. Vegans and vegetarians like me face the challenge of getting adequate vitamin B12 in their diet. My most recent test scored vitamin B12 with a 393, landing in the needs improvement category. In fact, it was my lowest score ever in the category, falling from 593 last time (optimized range is 488 to 765). I’ll need to be consistent with my fortified granola cereal and chocolate almond milk since there are few options for plant-based people.


• Yoga. Mondays are typically my rest and recovery day. I’ve gravitated more toward an easy bike ride on those days, rather than yoga. I need to get back on the yoga train.


• Foods that combat inflammation. As my training load increases, so will my inflammation. I already eat a lot of blueberries, and really all berries, which are great at fighting inflammation. There are other foods that I consume but can add more of in my diet to ward off inflammation such as almond butter, almonds, quinoa, old fashioned rolled oats and pistachio nuts.


We’ll see how these nutritional improvements and my increased training have an impact on my health closer to the Hennepin Hundred this fall. Stay tuned for that as well as a special deal from InsideTracker that I plan on launching this summer.