I was like a kid at Christmas waiting for my 2nd round of InsideTracker bloodwork to come back, to find out if the tweaks I'm making to my daily routines are working. The good news is, I am making progress—at least when it comes to iron. My ferritin & hemoglobin levels both improved, which is a major accomplishment in my book!
As I mentioned in part 1, I had attempted to improve my iron levels before and pretty much given up. Now that I'm an endurance athlete, low-but-not-clinically-low iron levels don't sound like an acceptable place to be, so I'm making lots of changes, including:
* Eliminating my multivitamin, as I don't need the calcium from the multi interfering with my iron absorption (and I was advised I didn't need additional B12 either, as those levels were already high.)
* I changed breakfast from greek yogurt or eggs & spinach to oatmeal. The oatmeal contains a fair bit of iron on its own, and then I add chia and almond butter, both of which also contain iron. (I also use non-fortified almond milk, again to avoid the interference of calcium.)
* I did try taking an iron supplement and learned that high dose iron supplements don't agree with me (or most other people as it turns out.) I also learned that iron can only be absorbed by the body in small amounts (about 10 mg at a time), so I occasionally take a 10 mg liquid iron supplement later in the day. The trick is trying get the timing right to find an hour between meals, exercise & coffee. (Now that the weather is cooler, I missed the comfort of coffee!)
* I've started packing high iron snacks, like Justin's almond butter. A packet of almond butter is high in iron and protein, so it's a nice little portable snack that does double duty.
* I also try to make dishes with lentils a little more often, and choose hummus as a snack more often, as both also contain decent amounts of iron.
* Last but not least, I'm opting to chose beef more often when eating out, even if it's as simple as choosing beef as the protein source for my bi bim bap. Given I've had such a hard time increasing my iron levels in the past, I figure I need all the help I can get, at least until I reach a "maintenance" level with my iron.
Unfortunately, not all of my results were rosy this time outside of iron. I was disappointed to see that my vitamin D levels were headed in the wrong direction. I suspect this is the result of an "inadvertent" experiment. My son also took an InsideTracker test recently and needed vitamin D supplements, so I gave mine to him and figured that during the height of summer training I was *easily* outside for the recommended 20+ minutes per day.
As I learned after discussing these results with my doctor, the sunlight recommendation is not so helpful for those of us living in the northern half of the United States. So I'm back up to 4000 IU of Vitamin D and hoping to get my levels back at least to where they were.
In addition to Vitamin D, my inflammation group went from optimal to off the charts high, which is likely my fault for testing after a hard workout. Long story short, I went out the night before the test to blow off some steam after a personal loss. Although it felt good to run hard (and I wound up setting a new personal best!), I think I should have rescheduled my test. I'm guessing/hoping that my next test is back to normal so I didn't change anything based on this single result. We'll see what the next test brings.
All in all, I'm glad I took the follow up test as soon as I did. It was great to see the progress in the iron (something to celebrate, yeah!) AND great to discover my vitamin D unexpectedly needed attention. Given that both are such important building blocks to energy and endurance, I'm really looking forward to making more progress during the winter and starting the next racing season with a new burst of energy!
If you're also gearing up for a new race season—or preparing for a new years resolution around your health, I wholeheartedly recommend trying an InsideTracker test. I can easily say it has been the best investment I've ever made, as the benefits are clearly much bigger than just my training. To help you get started, head over to InsideTracker and use my code "THANKSCATHERINE" for a significant Cyber Monday discount.
To your health!
When growing a business and perhaps a family as well, being at some consistent level of tired and living on coffee is de rigueur among entrepreneurs. However, there are times when coffee no longer seems to do the trick and “a different kind of tired” sets in.
It’s one of those things that doesn’t get talked about among entrepreneurs and integrators for whom running on fumes is often a badge of honor. When a busy (and tired) colleague was frustrated about reacting to things that don’t normally phase her, it dawned on me that sharing my journey to solving the “tired issue” could help!
After all, even if you go to the doctor, a “tired” entrepreneur isn’t easy to diagnose. By the time you describe even some small portion of a busy life, a physician is as likely as anyone to shake their head and recommend getting less busy. If you persist and explain something more is going on, you might get a thyroid test. If you’re lucky and/or particularly insistent, you’ll get Vitamin D and Iron tests, too. I’m honestly shocked vitamin D and iron tests aren’t part of a normal checkup, now that I’m learning what fundamental building blocks they are to good health!
In my previous troubleshooting visits with the doc I learned that both my iron and Vitamin D were low; with Vitamin D being a particular concern. I also learned:
Fast forward a few years, and I got a chance to check up on my levels with an InsideTracker test, discounted through my triathlon team, Endurance Nation. Unlike a typical blood test with a few simple numbers, InsideTracker visualizes results in a couple of ways:
I was surprised to see my vitamin D *still* wasn’t in the optimal zone–I had been religiously taking supplements for a long time! Then again, I did take the test after a long Michigan winter… Unfortunately for us northerners, the body utilizes vitamin D from the sun much better than from supplements.
My lessons learned about vitamin D from InsideTracker
Turns out, my hemoglobin and ferritin were both low. Given I’ve been training for an Ironman 70.3 this summer, little nuggets from the test results hit home:
Oops! As someone who keeps a cup of coffee within arms reach at all times, this *could* explain how I manage to keep my iron levels consistently low. Recommendations vary on whether you should avoid coffee from 1-2 hours before and after meals… Either way, that means a big change for me! It's not one I'm excited about, but ready to make. Wouldn't it be ironic if the thing I've turned to for more energy (coffee) wound up being the thing that was sapping my energy by preventing iron absorption?!
It's crazy how much I've learned that I didn't know about nutrition. As a full grown adult who is reasonably well read, I've been shocked by how much I did't know / how big my "blind spot" was. I'm grateful to have InsideTracker as a catalyst for learning (and an incentive to stay on track!). I’m also grateful have a great doctor who is a fellow triathlete, and who has been ever-so-patient with all my new questions as I continue to learn!
It's funny how things come full circle, with this test reminding me to be a good patient and listen better when my doc says things like "don’t take iron and calcium at the same time". It's amazing to me how complex all these interactions are, and how important they truly are to building general health as well as endurance ability.
I’m thrilled to be feeling better already and looking forward to what the next round of tests show. Join me in the journey, and use the code "TRIATHLONLIFE" for a discount on your own test. I'd love to hear how it goes, and what you learn!
--adapted from my business blog, IntegratorHaven.com