#35 – Personalized Health & Athletic Performance with Gil Blander, PhD

The Science and Practice of Extending Healthspan and Athletic Performance Longevity for Older Athletes via Biomarker and DNA Analysis

Today’s WiseAthletes episode is with one of the leading minds in the basic biology of aging and translating scientific discoveries into new ways of detecting and preventing age-related conditions. Gil Blander, PhD. Gil is the founder of InsideTracker, the only fitness program that analyzes a sample of blood and, in conjunction with your DNA and your wellness and lifestyle goals, provides a personalized diet, nutrition, exercise plan, which is best for your body and your goals.

Outline of discussion

In general, what are the things that older athletes can do to shift their trajectory toward better health and athletic performance, both now and for a healthy aging future?

The discussion was broken into 3 buckets (with timestamp):  

  • 2:50 — Nutrition
  • 13:50 — Lifestyle
  • 27:32 — Movement

(1) Nutrition (starts at 2:50)

  • We’ll start with what not to do.
  • Packaged foods aren’t the best. In addition, too much sugar, too much fat, too much sodium in foods prepared in restaurants — make your own food to have more control over what goes into your food
  • And, don’t drink liquids full of sodas, etc.  Just drink water.
  • USDA database has 8000 food items 
  • Average American in an average day eats only 20 food items, and the variation between people tends to be low.  Meaning there are only a small number of things nearly all of us actually eat.
  • Eat more variety of foods
  • Find for each person the superfood that works for them.  Is it kale?  Is it a Paleo diet?  We can find out by looking at what is happening inside the body
  • General rules can get you 60% of the way there, but to refine e even more takes more personalized data.
  • And it’s more than what you eat.  It’s also when you eat and how often you eat.
  • Social pressures can be difficult, so one solution is to try to do these changes with your family.
  • Oatmeal and blueberries are generally thought of as excellent food choices partly because they are high fiber foods which help us even out the rise in blood glucose (avoid spikes) and absorb some of the fats eaten at the same time.
  • Glucose is one of the key biomarkers for longevity.
  • Oatmeal and blueberries are some of Dr. Blander’s superfoods but other people’s could include: avocado, beans, kale.
  • It’s a 60/40 rule.  60% of superfoods are good for all of us, but the other 40% is individual, which can only be discerned by looking at the body’s biomarkers.

(2) Lifestyle (starts at 13:50)

  • Sleep is so important and people are not paying close enough attention to it.
  • The body is like a machine.  We have to maintain it at least as well as we maintain our car.  Sleep is like regular maintenance.  If you want to be healthy, let your body sleep more.
  • Plus, we can look at your blood to see what is going on inside, just as the car technician can plug into the car computer to see what needs repair.In addition to getting enough sleep, consistent sleep is also important.
  • Enable this by getting the technology out of your life when its time for bed.  For most of us, we can live without it for a few hours.
  • Other factors:  temperature of room, light coming through windows
  • Have to manage stress as well.  So much of our stress is manufactured stress…the stress of modern life.  Including that strange modern version of loneliness that also causes stress.  We have to seek out ways to feel happier and more satisfied.  In addition to adequate sleep, meditation, enjoying a good meal, yoga,   Try to think positively.
  • It’s the chronic stress that is the problem.  Some stress is good, but not all the time.
  • We’re all so good at getting charged up, but few have the skills for calming down.  Chemical solutions can work but they come with their own problems.  Alcohol is one of the areas InsideTracker is looking into regarding biomarkers of liver damage as well as DNA based markers of sensitivity to alcohol.  Alcohol in moderation is probably okay.

(3) Movement (starts at 27:32)

  • For the older athlete, largely the problem is getting to much exercise.  
  • From a longevity perspective (and probably performance), it is important to recover.  
  • The absolute amount of exercise that is healthy will vary by person, but take time away from exercise to recover well.
  • If you want to do something everyday, do yoga or swimming or other activities that are less stressful on the muscles
  • Cross training becomes even more important for the older athlete….lots of benefits.
  • And strength training is very important to include as well.  At least 1-2 times per week.
  • And core training is also important.
  • Biomarkers include:
  • Creatine Kinase for tracking muscle damage
  • Cortisol — high level can result from stress, which includes exercise stress
  • Testosterone — low levels can indicate too little or too much exercise
  • Areas not covered by InsideTracker because the science is not ready yet:  continuous glucose monitoring and gut microbiome.

GIL BLANDER, PhD, Founder, Chief Scientific Officer

Inside Tracker:

Dr. Gil Blander is internationally recognized for his research in the basic biology of aging and for translating his discoveries into new ways of detecting and preventing age-related conditions. He received a PhD in biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. He’s been featured in CNN Money, The New York Times, Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Boston Globe.

At InsideTracker, Dr. Blander leads a team of experts in biology, computer science, nutrition and exercise physiology. He founded the company in 2009, alongside top scientists from acclaimed universities in the fields of aging, genetics, and biometrics.

InsideTracker’s mission is to help people realize their potential for long, healthy, productive lives by optimizing their bodies from the inside out. InsideTracker’s proprietary algorithm analyzes its users’ biomarker and physiomarker data to provide a clear picture of what’s going on inside them. Based on this analysis, InsideTracker offers its users ultra-personalized, science-based recommendations for positive changes to their nutrition, supplementation, exercise, and lifestyle, along with a plan of action to track their progress toward their goals. 

The InsideTracker platform analyzes blood test results for biochemical and physiological markers, and then applies algorithms and a giant scientific databases to determine optimal zones for each marker.  Based on the findings, the system provides nutrition, exercise, supplement, and lifestyle advice designed to improve overall health AND athletic performance as well as extend healthspan.


The ever curious athlete who demands answers.
About the Author
Curious athlete who demands answers. Husband to Susan ( Father of 3 daughters. Athletic pursuits over time, in reverse order: cycling, skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, triathlon, golf, tennis, football.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.