Managing What You Measure
“82% of the American population is compromising their longevity by not looking carefully/maintaining their glucose.” -Dr Gil Blander (From an interview here: http://buff.ly/1xfBlZx)
As Dr. Gil Blander explains, glucose is a marker that most Americans have elevated levels of, especially athletes who consume a lot of simple carbs (most of us).
My own glucose level was trending in the right direction, as it dropped 1 point between my first 2 tests. After my 3rd test, it was elevated along with cortisol (a birthday party on the Saturday night prior may have had a slight impact as well, leading to a lack of quality sleep). Either way, all 3 readings are still not optimized, so it’s something to work on.
In addition to following InsideTracker‘s guidance for glucose (more nuts, moderate alcohol, more chia and avocado, etc) I’m going to be having a serving or two of Generation UCAN’s Superstarch on a daily basis. UCAN was founded to help a child with a rare form of diabetes, and has evolved into a sports nutrition product that promotes endurance as well as regulating blood sugar / glucose levels. For more info on the science behind GenUCAN, click here.
I’ve used UCAN to fuel me through 3 marathons, as well as a half dozen or so long runs of 15+ miles. I’ll use it for any workout longer than 90 minutes. It doesn’t contain any complex ingredients, and there’s no rush or crash from it. I do recommend consuming it at least 30 minutes prior to exercise. It doesn’t have the greatest taste but it isn’t bad, and the science behind it is very solid, to say the least.
Going forward, I’ll use UCAN on a daily basis, and will retest with InsideTracker in 2-3 months to monitor the impact of doing so.
Optimized glucose means better energy levels, increased fat loss, improved blood pressure, improved overall health and longevity.
With improved sleep and a focus on recovery comes a spike in testosterone. Optimized testosterone (important for both men and women) means better ability to increase and retain muscle mass, as well as improving your ability to use oxygen during exercise. My coworker tells me I need to hit the gym more to make the most of a level like this.
I’ve been using ithlete, a Heart Rate Variability app to monitor recovery (or lack of). HRV is a measure of how recovered your body is, so I’ve been able to see the direct impact of sleep and quality nutrition on a daily basis. I recommend checking them out, especially if you aren’t working off of a personalized training program through a coach. It helps determine which days to go hard and when you should have an easier recovery day. My coach wrote up a review on using HRV here. The goal is to see an overall lower HRV during higher training weeks and after a hard race effort, and a higher average HRV during recovery weeks.
As with just about everyone, endurance athletes in particular, I need to continue to pay attention to cortisol, the stress hormone. This may have also been elevated slightly by a lack of quality sleep a couple of days prior to the test, but it’s still important to monitor especially since I’m 0/3 on well optimized readings. The screenshot below shows the importance of cortisol. High cortisol for athletes can lead to less than ideal training progress.
More training is not always better. This brings us to Free Testosterone:Cortisol ratio, developed by InsideTracker. “A high FT:C score shows your body is getting enough sleep and recovery time to increase muscle mass and strength.” <— The ultimate goal of training. This metric is a direct reflection on how successful your training is, or if you could stand to make some changes (more or less volume/intensity) for improved results.InnerAge:
InnerAge is a direct reflection of lifestyle. It’s a metric we’ve developed based on the age of your body compared to your actual age. It’s calculated by using the 5 biomarkers that have the biggest impact on aging and longevity. These biomarkers reflect decisions you make every day related to nutrition, sleep, recovery and alcohol consumption. My InnerAge improved slightly, though the increased glucose had a very negative impact.
The feedback I get most often from our users after learning their InnerAge is that it is “incredibly eye opening.” Sometimes it pisses people off and they get angry enough (“I’m not ### age!!!”) to take action to change it the next time around. That’s what we love to see. My coworker just blogged about how she used to think she was doing everything perfectly – eating well, training well, sleeping enough, etc. The data showed that she wasn’t. She was overstressed, not sleeping enough and had a few nutrition tweaks to make to get better. That’s the beauty of it. There’s no arguing with data; you’re either optimized, or you’re not. If you’re not, there are very specific actions you can take to improve, which is the goal of InsideTracker… To help you make more informed and efficient decisions.
If anyone reading this is curious about where they stand and monitoring your own potential for improvement, please feel free to reach out with any questions on InsideTracker or ithlete. Knowledge is power, and #BloodDontLie.
An InsideTracker and training update
After the Boston Marathon, I took a few weeks off from heavy training, as I had been going hard for about a year straight on a 6-7 day program with only a couple of weeks off after harder race efforts. I saw a lot of progress, and my 5k time dropped by over 6 minutes, and I ran 3 marathons in that time. Only towards the 2nd half of the year did I start to get real serious about nutrition, sleep and recovery and the impact it has on training.
I joined the InsideTracker team in November, and the PR’s haven’t stopped since. I dropped a full minute from 18:42 to 17:42 in the 5k in the month of November. My training volume didn’t change – I could just train harder, as my body was primed to recover faster due to some nutrition and lifestyle changes I was making.
January brought on marathon training again, and despite adding volume (2 days of strength training + occasional yoga, at InsideTracker’s recommendation for creatine kinase) and intensity to a 7 day program, my recovery continued to improve, and I noticed I was sleeping better and had more energy overall. It seemed like magic at this point.
So I retested during a peak week in February. Most of the data continued to improve, which I was thrilled about. Testosterone dipped a bit, as expected with increased training load, but remained in the middle of the optimized zone. With my third test, after more sleep and decreased intensity, it went back up again. My coworker says I need to start throwing around some heavy weights in the gym, as a T level like that makes it very easy to pack on muscle. Good to know.
Free Testosterone:Cortisol ratio also improved, which is good, because if it hadn’t it would have indicated that I had not appropriately recovered from the two recent marathons.
Many of the athletes we work with use this (and the T:C ratio) as a way to measure training load, and if you’re overreaching/overtraining, at a good spot, or have room to add more volume or intensity to your training. My coworker, an Ironman triathlete has been experiencing similar (if not even more impressive!) results!
Electrolytes: now that it’s finally warm again in Boston (although many of us were sure that never would be the case again), electrolytes have become an issue for me. Water doesn’t seem to be enough, even though I’m not training for more than 60-75 minutes at a time these days. I’m going to start using Skratch Labs (a real food based electrolyte mix)
After my potassium level was elevated (and even higher on 2nd test) I seem to have almost stopped eating bananas entirely. Looks like it’s time to have a few more every week now. I changed my magnesium nutrient timing to consuming it on an empty stomach rather than with other foods, which definitely made a difference. Thank you dark chocolate.
Hemoglobin, key for endurance athletes (learn about our findings with GU in our blog here) has come back up as well, and this is one that will be critical going forward, as the miles start to increase again.
Overall, I’m excited with the progress, and am looking forward to eating more sushi, drinking more red wine (a glass a day helps with glucose!) and training harder. Next up in terms of racing is The North Face Endurance Challenge’s marathon relay in Ontario, where we’re gunning for a podium spot. After that, I’ll be racing that same event in Utah in September. I’ve added in a new pre-workout fuel lately to my normal routine of spirulina algae: Beet Boost. It’s beet and cherry juice powder, which supposedly helps with oxygen production and fueling your muscles. I use it prior to every hard workout.
Next crazy scary goal: sub 17 5k, and 1:20 half. As Shalane Flanagan says: pick goals that scare you, share them as well as your journey, and help everyone get better along the way.