Improving Athlete Performance with a Blood Test

By Perrin Braun, August 1, 2022

Blood test for athletes

Should athletes turn to blood tests to improve their performance? Blood tests can help athletes measure specific biomarkers related to performance giving them an edge over the competition.

Blood analysis provides a unique window to your body, using select biomarkers as an evaluation metric to recommend steps to achieve optimal health. These selected biomarkers can be improved with simple interventions such as diet, supplementation, exercise, and training modifications. From just a small blood sample, InsideTracker is able to generate uniquely personal recommendations to optimize your athletic performance and reduce injuries.

See how a range of athletes including Olympians, CrossFitters, ultra marathoners, and many more are using InsideTracker blood testing to optimize their performance. 

This athlete used blood testing in preparation for the Olympics

  • In preparation for the Olympics, US Olympic track cyclist, Sarah Hammer, spent hours training and building her endurance. But to reach the next level in training, she needed to know what was going on inside her own body. An InsideTracker blood analysis revealed that she was very low in vitamin D, which is a nutrient extremely important for overall athletic performance. Specifically, vitamin D helps to increase muscle mass and strength, improve bone health along with the help of calcium, increase the size and number of the muscle fibers used for short bursts of speed and power, and improve lower body strength.[1-2] 

Furthermore, adequate Vitamin D can also help to reduce inflammation in the body specifically, the inflammatory marker, CRP. This meta analysis found that vitamin D supplementation can lower serum CRP levels by 20%. Lastly, according to this study, low vitamin D can also lead to low testosterone, especially in men. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone produced in both men and women that helps to increase bone strength and stimulates the development of muscle mass and strength,.

Vitamin D is a crucial for athletes, and a simple blood test is a sure way to measure the status. InsideTracker gave this athlete and her coach a set of simple interventions to increase her vitamin D. That helped to make a measurable difference in her performance. And it contributed to her success in London where she won two Olympic silver medals in track cycling! 


Elite athlete uses blood testing to overcome fatigue

Crystal Seaver is an ultramarathoner who crushes 50 and 100-mile races in her space time. After a 100-mile race last year, Seager couldn’t figure out why she was struggling to bounce back. Instead of guessing, she looked at her bloodwork to get a picture of what was actually going on inside her body before beginning another training cycle. For her, it was addressing iron and ferritin levels.

Ferritin is a type of protein that binds to iron. In fact, most of the iron that is stored in the body is bound to ferritin, which makes it a good marker for how much iron you have. Iron is an essential mineral that is a part of the protein hemoglobin, which is found in all the body’s red blood cells. Hemoglobin works to supply the muscles and other organs with enough oxygen, as well as to help the body to convert carbohydrates and fat into energy. Maintaining optimal levels of iron is important for athletes and non-athletes alike because iron plays the following important roles in the body:

If you’re deficient in iron, you probably have lower levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin. As a result, your blood can carry less oxygen to your muscles and brain, and this can negatively impact performance and overall wellbeing. Since red blood cells play a critical role in transporting oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs throughout your body, a lack of oxygen can make you feel lethargic and weak. Low levels of iron in the blood can decrease your body’s ability to use energy efficiently during exercise or normal physical activities. Symptoms of iron deficiency can include frequent injury, a weakened immune system, chronic fatigue, irritability, and a high exercise heart rate.

If you’re an athlete who wants to keep your body energized throughout an athletic event, you need to maintain your iron levels so that you don’t become fatigued too quickly! Even if you’re not an athlete, people with ferritin deficiency may feel tired and weak, which can result in decreased levels of concentration.

Athletes: Your body loses iron during heavy training periods through sweating, running, and the gastrointestinal bleeding that can sometimes follow intense workouts. So, it’s very important to watch your iron intake to avoid plateauing during an athletic event.  Athletes with low levels of iron should raise their blood iron level, which consequently increases the amount of oxygen their lungs can absorb (known as their VO2max) and their anaerobic capacity. 

To read how you can maximize your iron stores, click here

25965846 Iron supplementation prevents a decline in iron stores and enhances strength performance in elite female volleyball players during the competitive season.

25361786 Is iron treatment beneficial in, iron-deficient but non-anaemic (IDNA) endurance athletes? A meta-analysis.         


This athlete uses blood testing to prevent overtraining

Next up, Kris Brown will be coming in off a strong 2017 with a first place finish at the San Diego 100 mile and fourth place at The North Face 50 Mile.

“After getting into Western States I wanted to increase my training volume significantly, but before doing so, I wanted to have some blood work done so that I could plan my training and nutrition in reference to certain performance related biomarkers. About a year earlier I found out that I had a severe iron deficiency, so I wanted to check in to make sure I was healthy and safe before amping up my workload. InsideTracker showed me that my iron levels, while not as bad as they were the year before, could still stand to improve. I also found out that I had some early signs of overtraining syndrome, like elevated cortisol. In response to my test results, I doubled down on my commitment to supplemental iron, and to try to reduce my cortisol levels I started taking Ashwagandha root daily and whey protein at night. My test results from InsideTracker had the direct effect of improving my performance by helping me identify and address the specific needs of my body, but they also gave me the confidence boost of knowing that, aside from those minor, fixable issues, I was ready to train hard for the biggest race of my life.”




Why use InsideTracker blood testing specifically for athletes?

“Athletes are willing to inject their bodies with drugs to get an advantage, so why not withdraw information to improve performance naturally?” said founder Gil Blander. Blander emphasized that in order optimize your body’s physical capabilities, it’s necessary to have scientific evidence about your unique blood biochemistry.    

The InsideTracker team spent four years analyzing over one thousand research papers to find the biomarkers that are the most critical to improving your physical performance, and to identify the nutrition, supplements, lifestyle, and exercise interventions to optimize them. Roughly 3,000 potential biomarkers were narrowed down to 20 of the most essential for injury prevention and athletic performance.

What makes InsideTracker unique is its integration of an “optimal zone” in the blood analysis—a number that is specific to each person and takes into account his or her own unique demographic information such as: age, gender, ethnicity, activity level, as well as lifestyle and performance goals.

InsideTracker’s sophisticated algorithm called B.R.I.A.N (Biomarker Research Integrative Analysis Network) determines the optimal zones for each marker based on the latest peer-reviewed research. For example, the generic normal range for a woman’s level of ferritin, a blood marker for iron, is between 12 and 150 units. But InsideTracker recommends that an active woman in her 20s should have blood levels of ferritin between 40 - 150 units for optimum performance. 

If you're not in your optimal zone, the sophisticated B.R.A.I.N. algorithm recommends effective and simple  intervention involving diet, supplements and training modifications that are specific to your needs. For example, if you have low stores of iron, B.R.I.A.N might make a three-pronged recommendation: add more iron-rich foods to your diet, take an iron supplement, and change your training routine to include some lower-impact workouts. 

The benefits of following your customized InsideTracker recommendations may include:

  • Enhanced performance
  • Increased metabolism
  • Reduced pain and injury
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy

From amateur athletes like Meghan Johnson and Rob Montgomery to professionals like Jarrod Shoemaker and Sarah Haskins, InsideTracker has helped athletes improve their performance.

In addition to its personalized recommendations, InsideTracker sophisticated algorithm called B.R.I.A.N guides you through the various, and sometimes conflicting, nutrition and fitness information available on the internet and in the media. By segmenting the vast landscape of nutrition and fitness information, the service provides you with the information that is relevant to you.

The InsideTracker team created B.R.I.A.N to produce the most accurate nutrition, supplements, exercise, and life style recommendations for its clients, based on cutting-edge scientific research, all extracted from peer-reviewed scientific literature.

blood testing athletes

Sky Christopherson, U.S. Cycling Team

Sky Christopherson, an Olympic coach, and an Olympic cyclist himself, noted that “by quantifying and optimizing all of these components and understanding how they’re all inter-related, you can create breakthroughs in performance.” Sky summed up perfectly what InsideTracker is all about—by combining the latest scientific research with information about the unique biochemistry of your body, InsideTracker helps you to become more informed, more fit, and a better athlete!







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