Science gains: HRV, bloodwork and changing your mindset

Three weeks ago I wrote an article talking about taking your training to the next level using technology and science. You can read it here.

On the advice of my coach, I got my blood work done using Inside Tracker and started using my heart-rate monitor to track my heart-rate variability (HRV) each morning. To learn more about HRV and how to use it to help your training, you can check out Elite HRV’s page here. They also make the app I use to track my HRV. The short version: your HRV can tell you if you are recovered each morning and allows you to adjust your training based on your nervous system’s ability to handle the stress of your training.

Inside Tracker’s “Ultimate” package, measures more than 20 panels – testing everything from your Vitamin D levels and testosterone to your cholesterol and glucose.

In my efforts to figure out why my training was suffering of late – the price tag of $500.00 seemed like a wise investment.

Performing at a maximum level takes hard work in the gym and even harder work outside the gym. Knowing where your body is deficient is what can take you to the next level.

Performing at a maximum level takes hard work in the gym and even harder work outside the gym. Knowing where your body is deficient is what can take you to the next level.

The results were not surprising. Inside Tracker shows you your level inside a graph that details what normal, high, low and “optimal” levels are. IT has taken some heat in reviews for their “optimal” zone. They gauge these levels from athletes, so it can be hard to hit for some people.

The good news: 25 of the 28 levels that I tested were either normal or optimal. 20 were optimal.

My testosterone and free testosterone scores just showed a picture of me watching The Notebook, crying. Ok, they weren’t that bad, but they were low for a man my age. My HDL cholesterol was too low and my Vitamin D was very low. Inside Tracker gives you tips next to each score, telling you how you raise or lower levels. For my testosterone, bringing my Vitamin D and HDL score up, will be an easy fix that will help this level as well.

The Art of Manliness website did a great write up on how the author doubled his testosterone levels in 90 days and it offered many of the same ideas as Inside Tracker. Sleep and Vitamin D being two of the biggest areas to correct.

Logging my HRV score every morning to gauge my recovery, has forced me to focus more on what time I get into bed and making sure I get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. My HRV readiness scores have been consistently solid every morning since I started logging – even on mornings following an intense workout.

Your nervous system can tell you every morning if you are ready to train with intensity - you just have to listen to your body...and log your scores.

Your nervous system can tell you every morning if you are ready to train with intensity - you just have to listen to your body...and log your scores.

Update: After 19 days of logging my HRV, I had a bad score on Tuesday morning. I had a tough session on Saturday, 3 competitive events in 2.5 hours – but after resting Sunday, my score was a 10 on Monday morning. I squatted heavy, for me, on Monday, hitting 155kg on a 3 second pause back squat. Then Tuesday morning I scored a 2, retested, scored a 2, retested, scored a 3. I sent my score to my coach and asked him what was going on.

Hit my first snag after about three weeks. Luckily I have a coach who can explain why the number is low, and how to get it back on track.

Hit my first snag after about three weeks. Luckily I have a coach who can explain why the number is low, and how to get it back on track.

He explained it is not uncommon following a competition, for your CNS to be fine in the day or two after, then crash. Your body produces adrenaline and cortisol to deal with the added intensity, then that wears off and you see the results. He recommended a 30:00 aerobic recovery workout of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off with max effort bodyweight movement sets sprinkled throughout.

This was the first day I had to change my mindset – I felt ok, and normally would have just powered through and done the workout that was programmed. This works for a while, then the wheels come off, my coach said.

I did the 30:00 workout he gave to me – and this morning my score was a much improved 7, and I can get back to training with intensity.

Knowing how to recover is as important as knowing how to train with intensity. You don't simply "have a rest day". You train, just with a different purpose.

Knowing how to recover is as important as knowing how to train with intensity. You don't simply "have a rest day". You train, just with a different purpose.

The biggest changes I’m making are in my diet – cutting down on my red meat consumption, adding more fish and, gasp, eating less bacon. I eat bacon every, single, day. I eat lean ground beef probably 4 times a week. To correct a few of my numbers, I am cutting that down to once-twice a week and eating less bacon…I can’t quit you bacon. I added 5000IU of Vitamin D to my morning vitamin habit and am working to be better about taking my ZMA supplement at night for deeper sleep and to increase my magnesium levels – which will also help increase my testosterone levels.

So no huge changes. More focus on my sleep quantity and quality. Slight changes to my how I get my macros every day, especially my protein and fat. I will be retesting later in the year and am eager to see the changes not just in my numbers but in my training.