How to use InsideTracker to gauge a year of tests
By Henry Howard
For years, I have been getting InsideTracker blood draws and their easy-to-understand data along with customized recommendations, based on my age, fitness level, dietary preferences and more. However, I had never put together a review of what I learned over the past year.
In 2023, I had blood draws in March, July and December. The first two represented the before and after 100-mile training for a race last July. While I knew the data would be jacked up from the physical stress, I wanted to be able to see how the training affected my key biomarkers as compared with the previous test March 27, when I was just finishing training for my April marathon. The December test was taken just over a week after my last race of the year, a half marathon.
Regular InsideTracker tests allow me to analyze how my training, nutrition, recovery and other factors impact my overall health. After each blood draw, I receive comparable metrics for more than 40 biomarkers in three categories — optimized, needs improvement or at risk. From there, I receive science- and nutrition-based recommendations on how to improve certain areas.
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How to use InsideTracker data over a year of tests
After reviewing each InsideTracker test, I create a to-do plan for myself. I also publish the action steps I will take to hold myself accountable so that the next test should yield better results.
I analyzed the three test results, and identified areas where I improved and others that still need work. After my first test in March, I selected three areas to focus on. Here’s how I fared:
• Improve sodium level. In March, my sodium level had plummeted from 134 to 130, and since then it has been consistent, hitting 132 in July and 131 most recently. Still, those numbers sit deep in the at-risk zone, below the bottom of the optimized baseline, which is 137. Sodium is critical for maintaining a healthy blood pressure; and mine is very good. So I’m less concerned about this than other deficient markers, especially since InsideTracker says, “Low sodium levels may be the results of overhydration before your blood draw.” I tend to hydrate a lot before my draw since my skinny veins often create challenges for the phlebotomists.
• Reduce potassium level. After back-to-back tests that show high potassium levels, I sought to improve them. My levels went from 5.5 in March to 5.2 in July and 4.1 last month, squarely in the optimized area, which is 3.6 to 4.8. That’s good news since, as InsideTracker points out, "Optimized potassium levels in active people are associated with better endurance performance, stronger bones, and healthier cholesterol and glucose levels.”
• Keep boosting white and red blood cell counts. My red blood cell count (RBC) improved throughout the year, going from 4.1 to 4.3 to 4.4, in the lower part of the optimized zone. For my white blood cell count (WBC), the numbers dropped from 3.7 to 2.9 in both of the most recent two tests. The baseline for the optimized score is 3.8 and 2.5 is considered troublesome. So I have work to do to improve my WBCs, which are an indicator of inflammation throughout the body. InsideTracker provides some thorough information about WBCs, including tips to improve these readings. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout the body. A healthy number of red blood cells helps ensure your body receives the oxygen it needs to function properly.
On a side note, my folate levels are nicely in the middle of the optimized zone. They have been consistently right around 15 to 18, while the zone is from 5.3 to 40. Folate is important because we need it to create new red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body.
What does other InsideTracker data show
Overall, the year showed a slight decrease in health, according to the biomarkers. But many of those with the most recent at-risk designation were related to the WBC issue.
Optimized: 34 (December), 34 (July) and 35 (March)
Needs improvement: 8 (December) 9 (July) and 8 (March)
At risk: 10 (December), 7 (July) and 6 (March)
Still, this gradual increase tells me that the surge in training and continued issues with sleep are having an impact on my body. In checking over InsideTracker’s nutrition recommendations, there are several areas where I see potential to improve by:
• Consuming more chia seeds. I’d been having a spoonful daily, now upping that to the recommended serving size of 2.5 spoonfuls daily.
• Increasing my intake of nuts as well as the types. InsideTracker recommends pecans, pistachio nuts and almonds to improve inflammation. I usually have almonds and cashews and will be adding the other two into my routine.
• Boosting the beans. I eat between a half cup to a cup of beans daily, mostly garbanzo, black and kidney beans. InsideTracker suggests Navy beans, as well as garbanzos, to help inflammation. And to improve cortisol, Brazil nuts are recommended.
While I still have work to do, I’m grateful that I am able to use InsideTracker’s easy-to-understand, customized, science-backed data to improve my health. And no matter what this year brings as far as running performance, I know I’ll be healthier thanks to InsideTracker.