InsideTracker review - blood analytics and nutrition recommendations

After being wrapped up in work on an insane startup for two years and neglecting my health, I decided in April 2014 that it was time for establishing a baseline of my health, and not only that - my performance. I’m in my early 30s, and ordinary lab tests I’d get from a doctor would screen for disease but won’t target performance. Time for a Quantified Self approach.

Enter InsideTracker - a personalized blood test panel for up to 30 biomarkers aimed at optimizing health and performance (mood, energy, sleep, metabolism) and accompanied by study-backed recommendations involving diet, supplements and activities.

How is InsideTracker different?

A regular blood test will check your cholesterol, glucose and C-reactive protein levels, to determine inflammation and the risk of heart attack and diabetes.

InsideTracker’s scope goes beyond the user’s health, towards optimum wellness and athletic performance. The latter was actually how I learned about InsideTracker - from Sky Christopherson’s QS presentation on helping the US women’s sprint cycling team train for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which won them a silver medal. Among the digital health devices and services used, InsideTracker provided key feedback on biomarkers.

Plans range from DIY ($45, where you enter your existing test results and receive recommendations) to Basic ($99, testing Glucose, Cholesterol, LDL, HDL and Triglycerides), to Ultimate ($499), which provides results and recommendations for 30 biomarkers: albumin, ALT, AST, calcium, cholesterol, chromium, cortisol, c-reactive protein, creatine kinase, ferritin, folic acid, GGT, glucose, HDL, hemoglobin, LDL, magnesium, potassium, serum iron, SHBG, sodium, TIBC, total testosterone, free testosterone, transferrin saturation, triglycerides, UIBC, vitamin B12, vitamin D, white blood cell count, and zinc. Chromium isn’t included in the Ultimate plan, but is part of the Performance plan. All plans allow you to enter previous test results, which InsideTracker will store and chart.

When I inquired about testing InsideTracker for the Quantified Self community, I had the privilege to talk with Gil Blander, founder and Chief Science Officer of Segterra, the company behind InsideTracker. Gil provided me with a discounted Ultimate plan, and we’ve had several conversations to integrate my feedback in a new revision of the InsideTracker UI. While my testing of InsideTracker was partially sponsored by the company, no part of this review was directly influenced by anyone else but myself.

For a 15% InsideTracker discount, please contact me.

My InsideTracker experience

After receiving a discount code from Gil, the checkout process was painless. The confirmation email arrived immediately, with a receipt and a lab slip that you must print when you go to the testing facility.

InsideTracker advises to refrain from intense exercise for about a week prior to the blood draw, take one day of rest, and to fast 12 hours before.

To have blood drawn, you’ll need to pick a Labcorp facility. There are about 10 in San Francisco. Yelp shows mediocre reviews for them, with some having scary 1-stars, and some that have 4- or 5-star recent reviews. I advise consulting the Yelp ratings for your area. Scheduling and later rescheduling the appointment on LabCorp’s site were easy.

I had the blood drawn on a Thursday, and results were already available on Saturday. The InsideTracker website asked me a few lifestyle questions (drinking, smoking, activity level, exposure to sunlight 20+ minutes/day), then showed the biomarkers data. Once you have some data available, a pop-up window allows you to direct a question to the InsideTracker team. I was pleased to learn that those questions were read individually by Gil.

User interface

The InsideTracker UI consists of three main pages: Bloodwork, Nutrition, and Food Basket

The Bloodwork Detail view (below) is the default one, and shows your biomarkers sorted by risk, with the ones that need most work first. In my case, the top biomarker needing attention was the relatively common Vitamin D insufficiency (even Hawaiians who spend more than 4 hours per day in sunlight suffer from it). None of the five regular medical checkups that I’ve had, had tested my Vitamin D levels.

Each biomarker is displayed along with:

  • a brief description and the absolute value
  • its history, if you’ve entered previous bloodwork results
  • a Recommendations tab advising on dietary, supplement and exercise choice
  • a Science tab citing studies published on PubMed and supporting every claim that InsideTracker makes

During my evaluation of the service, the InsideTracker developers had upgraded the UI to a sleeker, more modern and clean look.

I was pleasantly impressed with the attention to detail, such as the automatic highlight of the row and column under the mouse in the Table View. A simple enhancement, but a useful once that not even Google Spreadsheets or Excel support, despite being aimed specifically at presenting tabular data.

From this page, you can also export the data as CSV. I’ve tested this functionality, and all results (both those by LabCorp, and those I had entered manually) were exported.


The Nutrition page lists all your biomarkers, with the problematic ones on top, and a list of diet restrictions you might have on the right. This makes it easy to select foods aimed at optimizing a particular biomarker: in my case, I need to up my Vitamin D levels, and I prefer to minimize cooking, so I selected “Read to eat”. InsideTracker propmply advises:

eggs, eel, mackerel, salmon, sardine, swiss cheese, whole grain cereal, yogurt

…plus some alternatives like herring in case I don’t find any eel nearby. Perfect.

However, if you need to optimize for more than one biomarker, or just want a biomarker-optimizing diet spoon-fed to you, check out the Food Basket.

The Food Basket

The Food Basket is the sort of software that hopefully in 20 years will drive Star-Trek-like food printers to come up with the perfectly balanced, personalized and varied meal that you need. It has 7,500 foods in its database and a button called “Not happy with this food? Generate a completely new food basket”

Again, you can pick dietary restrictions such as vegan, paleo, or lazyminimal preparation, drag a calorie slider to match your desired caloric intake, and the Food Basket will update itself.

Now here’s a crazy thought: what if Food Basket were integrated with Google Shopping Express, which supports Whole Foods? I would gladly pay for a monthly service to send me minimal-preparation ingredients that can be quickly thrown together into optimized meals.

Things to improve

While writing this review, InsideTracker has already revamped its UI, so there’s very little to complain about. One aspect would be the selection of activities in the Sports section of the onboarding questionnaire - I found Martial artslacking, though it’s arguably more common than, say, skating.

Another aspect would be the interface for selecting meal/diet preferences (aka food restrictions). The choices are represented by checkboxes, so you can select both “Vegan” and “Pork-free”, which is a bit redundant. “Ready to eat” seems like a subset of “Minimal preparation” but both can be selected separately or together. Perhaps a combination of radio buttons and drill-down checkboxes would make the choices clearer.

More information

InsideTracker was exactly the motivation I needed to once again take my nutrition and exercise regimen seriously. Hope you found this review useful. Please feel free to ask any questions. Also,

1 Like

Awesome review Dan! I guess my biggest question is; how did you use the data from Inside Tracker? Did you take-up any of the nutritional recommendations? etc…

I’ve been an InsideTracker customer for 2+ years now (also an advisor!) and the service has been extremely helpful! My primary care doc will do some basic testing (lipid panel) - but many of the markers I’m trying to move like Vitamin D, Testosterone, etc. I can only get through InsideTracker. I try to get my testing done ~2/year and I’ve always found surprises that changed my behavior!

Hi Dave, thanks!

After taking the test, I realized that my ordinary Vitamin D supplementation, combined with the amount of time I spent in the sun, wasn’t sufficient, so I switched to 4000 IU Vitamin D/day. I’ve also switched from of the foods I eat to lower-fat version (e.g. cottage cheese that comes in three fat percentages at Trader Joe’s). I plan to have a follow-up test after some time passes - need to research when, for instance, the Vitamin D levels should be restored given the new supplementation regimen.

Hi Dan,
Nice review and very thorough. I congratulate you on taking the most important 1st step and the step that starts the QS process…the baseline! Often for healthy young adults the best action is to document where you are now. I always remind patients that we all (hopefully) start out healthy and optimized but despite our best efforts, 70% of us wind up dealing with heart disease, stroke, and cancer later in life. Regular checks of blood levels for CRP, ESR, LDH, Ferritin are incredibly useful “dashboard lights” to identify how well optimized we are. InsideTracker is great for the athlete targeting specific nutrient levels but equally valuable for the average 30 year old who wants to know that he/she is staying optimized for work or family.