What’s In Your Blood? One Test Can Tell You

A blood analysis is a great tool for amateur athletes to use if they want to become faster.

A blood analysis is a great tool for amateur athletes to use if they want to become faster.

Runners are often advised of the importance of keeping a logbook to try and get a subjective handle on what’s going on in their bodies. Are they training too hard? Not eating right? Not getting enough rest?

For runners who want to get an accurate view of their training and physiology, a new blood-testing service available in 13 states may offer a proactive solution.

The WellnessFX blood-testing analysis provides a look under the physiological hood that is otherwise typically limited to elite athletes working with sports scientists. For $699 (cost of the “performance” test) and a visit to a lab service to have blood drawn, an analysis is generated within the portal and posted to a private, personal dashboard. (A “baseline” service that includes everything except for the blood count and the performance and metabolic hormone analytics is available for $199.)

The categories include cholesterol (total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides and more), inflammation, blood sugar, liver enzymes, kidney biomarkers, basic nutrients from Vitamin D to carbon dioxide levels, a complete blood count, advanced nutrients like folate and B12, performance hormones like DHEA and testosterone, and metabolic hormones like cortisol and insulin.

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“You can delve really, really deeply into this stuff,” said Ben Greenfield, a coach and exercise physiologist in Spokane, Wash., who uses the service with running and triathlon clients. “On multiple levels it gives you an interior view of what’s going on in terms of recovery and performance.”

On the online dashboard, personal test numbers are pegged onto a graph divided into three zones: Low-risk (green), moderate risk (yellow) and high-risk (red). The purchase of the service comes with a phone consultation with one of the doctors in the WellnessFX network, who reviews your test information and suggests what changes you might make to improve your scores.

The WellnessFX process starts off with a laundry list of blood tests, and then brings in a doctor to pinpoint potential signs of concerns you may have had no idea you had.

“With blood testing, you can get a precise, objective look into what’s going on with your state of health that is beyond what you can sense in terms of just how you’re feeling,” WellnessFX spokesperson Joe Binder said. The online portal includes a tracking service that shows changes over time, and repeated tests reveal how your body responds to any lifestyle, training or nutrition changes.

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Greenfield points to the inflammation exam in the WellnessFX service that measures high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) levels in the blood.

“High levels of hs-CRP indicate you’re in a highly inflamed state — like after racing a marathon,” he says. “If you’re training when you have a high hs-CRP level, you’re just exhausting the body. The body is already spending a great deal of energy trying to repair the damage. You’re going to be risking injury and causing problems in terms of long term inflammation.”

Greenfield also highlights the value of the kidney and liver function and enzyme analysis. Liver enzymes are critical to how you’re processing toxins, he says, and the test might suggest you may need a liver cleanse. “And the creatinine and blood nitrogen numbers from your kidneys can suggest dangerous levels of dehydration,” he said.

Greenfield said the tests are invaluable if appropriate training and diet adjustments can be made. “It’s telemedicine,” he noted. “Most doctors are not going to offer up these tests. And for most of my athletes, their goals are the same goals as the professional athlete. Mostly they want to feel really good and live as long as possible.”

This piece first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.