My alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m., and I stumble my way into the living room where my gym bag is stuffed with necessities for the arduous day ahead. I slap on my Garmin 920XT with the heart rate monitor, make sure my Milestone Pod is securely fastened to my shoes, and I make my way to Luke’s Locker to run with Gilbert’s Gazelles. The first few miles always feel a bit uncomfortable, my heart rate rises above 140 bpm as my pace drops below a 7:30/mile. After miles of running, I get back to my car to upload my workout to Garmin Connect and Training Peaks. Slews of data populate the graphs for me to interact with and evaluate my performance. It tells me my average cadence is 189, my stride is 1.12 meters and I spent 80 percent of my time in Zone 4. I measure everything that happens outside of my body, because data pieced together within context and applied to a vision provides powerful insights unique to me.
Every competitive athlete is in pursuit of their “personal best” through the use of tools and gadgets. What if there was something more robust that was at one point only available to pros? What if your blood could unlock the key to your greatest performance?
Here enters Blueprint for Athletes, a science-based tool for athletes that want to perform at their peak. Blood-based health markers, called biomarkers, are tested to produce personalized and actionable insights. Athletes can use it to improve their performance, avoid injury, and support overall health. Even better, the report includes details on what the health markers are, how they relate to the sport, and what ranges the athlete’s results should ideally fall.
So, how did it help me? As a five-year veteran I thought I had it all figured out. I knew how much rest I needed, how many grams of carbohydrates and how much water to drink; my body was functioning properly. Any athlete's worst nightmare is feeling “stuck” and plateauing despite the effort and hours put in every day. The time on my watch wasn’t getting any faster, my energy level was dragging and I was losing muscle. I had no idea what was going on until I got the results from BPA showing I was dehydrated with normal level of electrolytes, and I was breaking down my muscle as fuel instead of carbohydrates.
After reviewing the insights in the report and speaking with their expert, I was told my issue was with my timing. I was not eating enough during my events, so my body was breaking down muscle as fuel, and in the morning, I was abnormally dehydrated. I increased my carbohydrate intake before and during my events, and focused on drinking more water, without electrolytes, at night. The insights got me to my first sub 8-minute-mile off the bike and a 4th place podium at Ironman Austin 70.3.
The question is, what package do you start with? BPA currently offers six packages ranging from endurance to recovery. Each package has a set of biomarkers that can uncover information you might be missing from your training, and provides the insights to help you understand why and what do next. The tests can be pricey, but are well worth it if you have someone to explain the actionability. Secondly, this information is only useful if you are willing to implement the insights provided and retest a few months later.
Get a baseline of where you are in your overall fitness to help optimize your athletic performance, with personal insights into health, nutrition, hydration, recovery, and endurance status with the Performance Package.
After 2–3 months into your training, gauge whether it is time to turn up the intensity or taper back in order to reach your goals with the Recovery Package.
Nutrition is key to hit a PR—identify nutritional deficiencies that may interfere with your ability to reach peak performance with the Fuel Package.
To this point, we have only used biodata that skims the surface, like BPM, BMIs, and VO2 Max. Each of these only gives us a snapshot of our body’s current state, and little of its ensuing capability. Imagine getting contextualized information that went beyond an impressive presentation and told you what the data meant as an athlete, then gave you a plan for future victory. My watch tells me what I did, my body can tell me how I feel, but Blueprint for Athletes told me what was working and what more I'm capable of. And as an athlete, that type of information is very impactful and encouraging.
Disclaimer: Blueprint for Athletes service is offered by Quest Diagnostics through their Sports Science and Human Performance Diagnostics division. Angela Vega is a sponsored athlete for Blueprint for Athletes and this article was written independently of her relationship with BPA.