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Episode #48 – Biomarkers of Performance and Optimising Your Blood

Episode #48 – Biomarkers of Performance and Optimising Your Blood

Taking control of your blood can help you optimise your performance by using biomarkers to guide your nutritional and supplement needs. This episode has all the information to get you started, including a way to hack the process for cheaper or if it’s unavailable in your area.

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Biomarkers of Performance

Today I’m digging into a new take on performance. It’s along the line of moving away from tick the box type of thinking. It looking through the test/retest methodology. As we move into nutrition month here at Semi-Pro Cycling – this is the ultimate way to test the effect your nutrition is having on your body.

The PhD of me. Getting to know your body inside out.

I’m new to this information as well, so I won’t go too deep into the sciencey side of it, I want to look at the implications for semi-pros, not just for cycling but overall health. It one thing to push your body in order to find its limits, it’s another to ensure longevity in the sport, and even not sacrificing performance today for pain tomorrow.

Biohacking runs deep, blood deep. Which might seem like a little extreme to the Cat 3 cyclist. I see it as the ultimate indication that you’re doing the right things by your body. The blood truly is a window into the body’s health.

Testing athlete blood is nothing new. Throughout my cycling career I’ve been tested many times. The difference with the new generation of testing is what is being tested for. Originally the most important factors for me where hematacrit and iron levels.

What is a Biomarker?

A biomarker, or biological marker, is an indicator of a biological state, or the past or present existence of a particular type of organism.

We are talking about a complete package here that is different to your annual blood test. You can go to your doctor and get an annual check up that may have between 8-15 markers. The difference here is the health and performance markers are also added to disease markers, and the system is designed for actionable steps.

To understand the biomarkers for performance, I think it’s important to see where they fit into the overall picture of performance. Performance in this sense is not as tightly linked to specificity as cycling training, there are general requirements a body needs to function at a high level.

Performance

Building Blocks

Macronutrients: Carbs, Proteins & Free Fatty Acids

Micronutrients: Vitamins, Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Iron, Sulphur

Fuel System

Carbs

Proteins

Free Fatty Acids

Operating System

Hormone

Genes

Adaptive Stressor

Recovery

Let’s look at biomarkers that are assumed to be important for athletic performance and overall well-being:

How are Biomarkers Selected?

Can it be measured accurately?

Are there ways it can be reprogrammed?

What are the biomarkers?

Insidetracker Markers

  1. ALT

  2. Calcium

  3. Cholesterol

  4. Chromium

  5. C-Reactive Protein

  6. Creatine Kinase – marker of formal exercise muscle tissue that has been sheared and enters the bloodstream

  7. Ferritin – transports oxygen

  8. Folic Acid

  9. Glucose

  10. HDL

  11. Hemoglobin

  12. LDL

  13. Magnesium – sleeping issues

  14. Potassium

  15. Sodium

  16. Testosterone – overtraining indicator is low testosterone

  17. Triglycerides

  18. Vitamin B12

  19. Vitamin D – 50% US population deficient: reduce muscle mass and increase fracture in bones.

  20. White blood cell count

  21. Zinc

     

WellnessFX Markers

 

Advanced Cholesterol

  1. Total Cholesterol

  2. HDL

  3. LDL

  4. Triglycerides

  5. Lipoprotein A

  6. Apolipoprotein B

     

Thyroid & Blood Sugar

  1. TSH

  2. Glucose

  3. HbA1c – The amount of glucose that have consumed over the last 90 days

     

Liver & Kidney Health

  1. BUN

  2. Creatine – Not efficient kidneys

  3. AST

  4. ALT

  5. Total Bilirubin

  6. Albumin

  7. Total Protein

     

Nutrition & Electrolytes

  1. Vitamin D – Too little (inflammation), regulates a lot of other markers

  2. Calcium

  3. Sodium

  4. Potassium

  5. Chloride

  6. Carbon Dioxide

     

Basic Inflammation

  1. hs-CRP

     

Complete Blood Count & Advance Nutrients

  1. Complete Blood Count

  2. Ferritin

  3. Total Iron binding capacity

  4. Folate

  5. B12

  6. Magnesium

     

Performance Hormones

  1. DHEA

  2. Free Testosterone

  3. Testosterone

  4. Estradiol

  5. SHBG

     

Metabolic Hormones

  1. Cortisol

  2. IFG-1

  3. Insulin

     

Advanced Thyroid

  1. T3

  2. T4

  3. T3 uptake

  4. Free Thyroxine Index

  5. Free T3

  6. Reverse T3

  7. Free T4

     

Think about results like this:

  1. Deficient – Do something about it

  2. Adequate – For non-athletes

  3. Optimal – Optimal zone for each biomarker in an athlete

Current Screening Options

Unfortunately I am not aware of any services like I am going to describe outside of the US. You can hack the system, I will get to that after I talk about two companies bringing to the masses, well nearly.

insidetracker.com

DIY: $49

Performance: $299

wellnessfx.com

Performance Plan: $529

Baseline: $149

Consultation: $170

I would use the recommendation of every 4 months. Which is 3 times per year.

wellnessfx.com: $1587 per year (3 tests no consults)

insidetracker.com: $899 per year (4 tests no consults)

The main difference between the two other than some biomarkers, IT has an automated approach to recommendations, while WFX is more hands on. They are both partnered with LabCorp for the blood draws.

These services are a new integrated and visual approach, blood testing for performance biomarkers is not new, but this brings it to the masses.

 

Your Science Experiment Parameters

A couple of pointers if you are considering one of these services.

  • Treat your tests like a science experiment

  • Set repeatable parameters around your blood draw

  • Make them consistent

  • Giving blood around training. It’s around 40ml of blood for a comprehensive screen, compared to 400-500ml. 3 to 4 weeks to get back to where you were before the blood draw. 10% of volume taken – guessing 3 to 4 days.

Bad Points and Current Limitations

In a lot of places the world over the regulation is very heavy regarding ordering blood work without a doctor. The policy is in place for protection of the patient if a number is off. In those cases the doctor must step in and notify the patient. I know wellnessFX gets around this by assigning a doctor in the background of each blood draw, and they will only contact you if there is a problem or you choose to have a consult.

There is a couple of ways to hack this, internationally and in the US.

Tech, Hacks & Products

Step 1: Find a lab that will do a blood draw with the biomarkers already mentioned.

In Australia blood tests can be covered by Medicare if you can get a referral from a doctor.

Direct Labs uses the same testing centers, and their baseline blood draw is $97. You order the package online, print out a confirmation page, take it to the closest testing center, and they process everything at the location. Results are available online in PDF form in about 2 business days. From their disclaimer: State law prohibits direct access laboratory testing in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

 

Step 2: Get report. Again in Australia you must see a doctor to get the report. To get value out of this transaction, you may need to look beyond your regular GP.

 

Step 3: Add them the $49 a year insidetracker.com plan. The total ghetto way would be creating your own spreadsheet.

 

Bonus Step: Consult with a WellnessFX practitioner outside of their system (https://wwws.wellnessfx.com/meet). I’m not sure if this is possible, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

 

Just so you know-if I was in one of the WellnessFX areas, I would sign up to their service. Their take on the issue is super pro and very refreshing. 

 

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Photo Credit: thelearningcurvedotca on Flickr

 

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