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!