Jarrett: When I first heard I was going to be getting the opportunity to use InsideTracker, I got really excited. Of course I’d love to use a platform that can analyze different biomarkers in my blood and provide a personalized recommendation of what can be improved and how to do it.
Then I started to think about it more… I’m kind of a mess. I eat like a crazy person. Things like chocolate, donuts, ice cream, pizza. In dietary circles, it’s referred to as the “Buddy the Elf” plan. I also run 5-6 days a week and push myself way too hard. I don’t take enough rest days and I usually get about 6-7 hours of sleep a night. So yeah, I’m a total mess, but the idea of seeing my body’s thoughts on what I’ve done to it was incredibly intriguing!
Most of us have had a typical blood workup at a doctor’s office. It’s pretty limited in its findings; while your glucose may be a little high, little other data is provided. InsideTracker goes significantly deeper. They analyze your blood test results and provide an explanation of what exactly glucose is and ways to increase or decrease it with food, supplement, or lifestyle recommendations. And while It may seem like InsideTracker was designed for elite athletes trying to improve their health, that’s not the case.
Meaghan: Almost exactly four years ago, I reviewed InsideTracker for the first time. While the process has remained nearly identical, the insights and feedback have gotten a facelift. Let’s jump right in.Check Out InsideTracker
How It Works
Jarrett: I’m going to start off with how simple getting started is. Just choose a plan and how many tests you want. Plans range from $49 all the way up to $589. You can then select additional options like InnerAge (a measure of your biological age and not calendar age), DNA analysis (genetic potential for issues), or even mobile blood draw where a licensed phlebotomist (I’m actually super proud to say I knew what this was without googling it) will come to you for an additional cost.
I signed up for the Ultimate plan. I then had to create an account on the website and fill out a short questionnaire about some foods and drinks I consume as well as what sort of exercises I do. So, beer and running. That was quick. You are then asked to choose a goal (i.e. what you’re looking to increase and get out of all of this). I chose endurance.
Next comes the blood draw, included in the cost. You get a doctor’s slip to print out and take to a Quest Diagnostics. Tons of locations were available near me within a 10-mile radius. I made an appointment online for the next day. There, I handed them the slip, they drew my blood, and sent the results off to InsideTracker. I received an email 3 days later that my results were in.
I actually got rather nervous logging in to the website. Was I healthy? Is my love of candy killing me?? Would I find out my body is in shambles?! The first thing I noticed on the dashboard was that out of 42 biomarkers, 33 are optimized, 9 need improvement, and 0 are at risk. Go me (and go candy)!
Each biomarker is categorized into three levels: at risk, needs improvement, or optimized. According to InsideTracker’s website, the optimal zone is range-specific to each person that takes in to account unique demographic information including age, gender, ethnicity, and activity level, as well as lifestyle and performance goals.
Now that my mind was put at ease, I started digging into the information. It’s an incredibly overwhelming amount. My advice to a first-timer is to delay reading your results until you can focus and digest it all.
I found it very interesting that my testosterone to cortisol ratio (overtraining and stress indicator) seems to be low. Without more information, that means nothing to me. However, the recommendation tells me that I need to avoid rapid increases in training load and prolonged heavy training periods without rest. That makes so much sense. As I said, I’m running 5-6 days a week and about 40 miles. I don’t rest nearly enough.
A new addition to InsideTracker is the Daily Actions plan on the dashboard. Since I chose endurance as my goal, it included 4 things I can do daily to help with improvement. It includes things like adding HIIT workouts and consuming more dairy. Why would dairy help with endurance? If I click the details it shows me focus foods like nonfat yogurt or soymilk and then tells me that dairy can help optimize my B12, glucose, and triglycerides.
Another fantastic addition is the personal food list on the nutrition page. InsideTracker added hundreds of recommendations that can be seen for specific Biomarkers or goals. For example, my iron needs work. If I click on the iron icon, there are 20 types food listed to help with that. Things like dark chocolate (the worst kind of chocolate), peanut butter, beef tenderloin, or oysters.
Ideally, after 3 months you would get your blood taken again and InsideTracker would compare your results and show you your progression.
Meaghan: To recap the process: you pick a plan (blood test), you fill out some personal information (the standards), you make an appointment at Quest Diagnostics to get your blood tested, and within a few days you get results. Pretty simple.
Once you receive results, you’re prompted to pick a Goal. Whatever you’re looking to improve, whether it’s endurance (that’s me), metabolism, cardiovascular health, etc. they’ve got it – and your results are tailored to your goal. Every biomarker is listed with a green, yellow or red color and an explanation of what you’re doing well or what you need to improve upon. From this, InsideTracker builds you a personal food list. Pretty cool. My most recent test suggested I eat ½ bar of dark chocolate every week to increase my iron levels. You got it, doctor.
On the revamped Dashboard, InsideTracker includes 4 daily actions – little things you can do every day – like drink more water or add resistance training, to get closer to reaching your goal.
I was happy to find that several areas of concern (red/yellow) from my first test had fallen into the green. After my first InsideTracker results, I incorporated foods I didn’t necessarily eat before and kept up the habit. It’s fascinating to see that while my mileage has shot up quite a bit, my Cortisol (stress) level has gone down. And even better, my testosterone to cortisol ratio improved. Does this count as bragging?
- Getting started was hassle free.
- The amount of information InsideTracker provides is incredible and extremely detailed.
- InsideTracker does accept HSA/FSA benefits under some insurance plans.
- You aren’t just given your blood results and told to fix things. You are provided with a detailed and personalized assortment of evidence-based nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations.
- If you get retested, InsideTracker will compare your results and progress in each biomarker.
- Bonus: You can share your blood results with your doctor so you don’t have to get blood drawn again!
Meaghan: You have to fill five vials of blood for this test. Not awesome, but really not awesome when they fill up four vials, say you’re all set, and then realize they missed one and make you take a needle in the other arm. While this is in no way, shape or form a critique of InsideTracker, I feel obligated to include this life struggle in my review.
Outside of the physical trauma, the only negative to InsideTracker is the overwhelming results. There’s a TON of nutritional data and information on the site, from videos to blog posts and even references to academic papers. It can be a lot to digest all at once.
Okay, one more thing. I feel like InsideTracker should have some sort of award-system for improved biomarkers. Like, I deserve a badge. Did you see my Cortisol levels?
- For people who aren’t science lovers, the information can be overwhelming. There is a lot to go over—make sure you are giving it your full attention!
- If you’re going for it all, it can get expensive. Thankfully there are multiple plan options with a wide range in cost.
Jarrett: InsideTracker isn’t just for the elite athlete who wants to figure out how they can take it to the next level. It’s also for the normal everyday person who wants to find out more about their health and what they can do to change it. In reality, you don’t even need to be an athlete to justify signing up for InsideTracker. You just have to care about your well-being. I knew that there were times where I was just so tired, but had no idea why. My results were exactly on point in showing why. Now I’m having things like more oatmeal for breakfast to lower my glucose and including in my diet some supplements to help.
Meaghan: I am a huge nerd that loves data. I especially love data about health, fitness, and nutrition so I’m a big fan of InsideTracker. As an athlete constantly trying to improve (and not always taking the smartest route) these tests are a good check-in with your body. Even if you’re not an athlete, it’s a good way to gain insight into your current health conditions. For more information on InsideTracker, check them out here.Check Out InsideTracker