In part 1 of my thoughts on the Quantified Athlete, I discussed the general philosophy and what led me to start optimizing for my ideal health and well-being. In part 2 below, we’ll dive into the specifics of what I did and how.
I love Twitter. You can use the power of many to find the right people for any job just by asking for help. It can also connect inspired people together. That’s how I came into contact with my wonderful editor, Stephanie, and became the first member of the Kaplifestyle Family.
Sending out a message into the Tweetosphere is also how I was introduced to InsideTracker, a personalized health analytics company based out of Cambridge, MA. I had some connection there, it being one of the many places where I found refuge during this off-season.
The InsideTracker platform tracks and analyzes key biochemical and physiological markers and applies sophisticated algorithms and large scientific databases to determine personalized optimal zones for each marker. InsideTracker’s expert system offers science-driven nutrition and lifestyle interventions that empower people to optimize their markers. When optimized, these marker levels have been scientifically proven to increase vitality, improve performance and extend life.
I had always wanted to do individualized blood analysis because I wanted to know what my deficiencies were, but a minor league salary doesn’t really allow for luxuries like having your blood drawn of your own volition.
Most third party blood analysis that I had looked into was either too expensive, upwards of $1,000, or didn’t give you the tools to analyze what the results meant. InsideTracker, in addition to offering an affordable service, provides nutrition recommendations based on your results. You can even create daily food menus based on your dietary preferences and needs and upload previous blood tests that you’ve had in the past to track your biomarker history.
They offer a range of pricing plans — I went with their biggest one, the Ultimate. Setting up the test was easy because they use Quest Diagnostics, which are pretty much on every street corner. I scheduled the test for the next day off I had.
The night before, I began my 12-hour fast that was required for the test. When I went into the Quest lab the next day, the two nurses were dumbfounded as to why a healthy guy in his twenties would subject himself to having that much blood drawn.
I’ve always had a tough time with the blood wanting to leave my body. I used to think it was because my blood had an innate survival instinct to stay in my body, but then my trainer told me I just need to hydrate better before the draw. Noted.
Hydrated and with less blood than I walked in with, I waited for the results. They came in faster than I expected — about 4 days. Like I said in an earlier post, I try to offer as much transparency on this site as I can. So much so that I’m willing to share the data from my biomarkers — more intimate than a couple sharing one another’s wedding vows, right?
Out of the 28 biomarkers, 5 were in the red zone, which meant they were either very high or very low. There were 7 yellow biomarkers, ones not in the optimal range and 16 in the green optimal zone.
Like I said in part 1, what gets measured, gets managed. Time to do the managing part. To do so, I needed a plan of attack. I needed to maintain the optimized biomarkers in the green zone, but that entails just continuing doing the good things I’m doing. For the red zone, I needed to figure out what changes I could make that would maximize the effect – improving not only a marker in the red zone, but also improve ones in the yellow.
Before the rest, I would have assumed my vitamin D levels were high. After all, I’m a baseball player, we spend all our time outside in the sun, right? Apparently not. Improving my low vitamin D would be the biggest force multiplier. From InsideTracker:
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium to maintain bone strength and health. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D; our bodies also produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. In addition to aiding in calcium absorption, vitamin D regulates the development and maintenance of the nervous system and skeletal muscle. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D increase the risk of low bone mineral density and stress fractures. People with very low vitamin D may gain weight, experience high levels of fasting glucose, and suffer poor mental health. Poor heart health and increased inflammation are also more likely when levels of vitamin D are very low.
Vitamin D on its own is important, but the benefits of the other biomarkers that the vitamin improves are just as valuable. Regulating vitamin D would reduce my fasting glucose as well as increase my HDL levels.
Vitamin D also has a large impact on biomarkers related to testosterone, which overall as a group was in the low range for me. My testosterone and free testosterone were optimal, but my Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) was high. I thought having anything high in the testosterone group would be good, but it brought the whole testosterone group into the low range. From InsideTracker:
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is a protein produced primarily in the liver. This protein transports sex hormones, including testosterone, throughout the body. SHBG inhibits the function of testosterone. Thus, bioavailability of testosterone is influenced by the level of SHBG. If you have too much SHBG, it binds more sex hormones and prevents these hormones from being active. If you don’t have enough active sex hormones, your sex drive, your overall energy level, and your memory all suffer. Your diet, your weight, your exercise level, and your age affect your SHBG level.
Vitamin D can decrease SHBG.
Now armed with research, my hypothesis was that getting more rest and adding vitamin D into my diet would improve 2 of the 5 red zone biomarkers and 3 of the 7 yellow zone biomarkers. It would also improve my testosterone:cortisol and FT:cortisol ratios, which were on the low end.
Now I needed to find out two things, what ways I could obtain vitamin D and the minimal effective dose I needed to optimize the vitamin’s levels. I had two options – nutrition and supplementation, since I get enough time out in the sun. Vitamin D isn’t found in a whole lot of foods, mostly in fatty fish. I’m not a big fan of seafood, which made me a black sheep growing up in Maine. Also, good luck finding quality seafood while you’re traveling for minor league baseball.
This fluorescent table lamp is also an option, but I don’t really have the funds for that nor the luggage space.
I’m not a huge fan of supplements anymore, but I believe there can be a place for them when you’ve exhausted your options. To use them efficiently, you need to figure out what is the minimal effective dose, that is, the smallest dose that will create the desired outcome. What is the dosage of vitamin D that I need after which any additional amount of the vitamin would either be redundant or counterproductive to optimizing my levels?
Based on my levels and the research I found, the sufficient daily amount I’d need would be around 4,000 IU of vitamin D3. Luckily, there is a D3 supplement from Nordic Naturals that is NSF Certified for Sport.
That’s my current plan of action. I’m tackling the issues specific to my body and finding ways to make the biggest impact for the least amount of effort, change, and expense. So far, these changes have been easy to make. I’m excited to see what the next test results show and how I can further optimize myself and my performance.
PS: If you’re interested in doing the analysis for your own body, InsideTracker is offering an exclusive discount. Just enter the name of this blog (all one word, all caps) to receive it.