A few years ago I was introduced to the company Forth, initially as a way to see if I was deficient in anything but also to learn more about optimising my performance and recovery.
They provide home blood test kits for a huge number of sports-specific biomarkers designed for athletes (both amateur & professional ;)).
Now more than ever its so important that we are not over trained or under nourished. There is also huge emphasis on promoting a good immune system.
I recently decided to retest with them. Partly due to the current corona virus epidemic but also due to a change in lifestyle returning to the UK after 5 months in Thailand. Prior to leaving Thailand I was training a lot, and was also under high stress due to trying to decide what to do about travel/cancelled races. As well as choosing the best place to stay and ‘wait out’ the epidemic. Something many of us have experienced I am sure.
Full disclosure my periods often become irregular around race season & I think this is due to stress. And so it was no surprise that IM 70.3 Dubai in February closely followed by travel/race disruptions caused some turmoil.
And I am no expert, but I know this much: Irregular or having no period at all is not normal. And if you have these kind of issues I would get in touch with a professional. FYI they are now back to normal.
Now I am in the UK I have dramatically reduced my training load (just picking back up now in the last couple of weeks) and of course my diet has changed from predominantly Thai food to more western food. Including many magnum’s & biscuits which my parents like to have around. Too tempting!
For all these reasons I thought it would be interesting and important to retest to check that everything is good, and if not what I might need to change. Whether that be diet, sleep or training load.
How the service works
Head to forthedge.co.uk and build your test. You can select preset tests designed for common endurance sports or those more into strength & power. These are also specific to female and male athletes. Alternatively select build your own test. The clever online chat will ask you a series of questions relating to your sport and current aims to create your own personalised test.
You really get what you pay for here. A full comprehensive test for triathletes cost £99 and gives you 30 separate biomarkers. These provide you with “insights into your recovery, key nutrients and hormone health”.
Its a subscription which you can set at any interval you like. And you also have the option to cancel at anytime. Forth recommends to retest regularly to get the best picture of how your body works.
Taking the Test
Around 2 days after you place your order your test will arrive in the post & in a box which fits through your letterbox.
Inside the box will be all the items needed to collect your sample. Including lancets, alcohol wipes and tubes to collect the samples in. After collecting the required amount of blood (follow the instructions given) fill in all the details required and post the sample the same day. You then update your account online to tell the lab your results are on their way.
OK I have had a few friends say they faint doing these tests, so if you are squeamish around blood perhaps consider the health care professional option (when this becomes available post COVID-19), where they will send someone to your house. Also make sure you have filled in any extra information such as supplements you may be on and how regular or irregular your periods are.
You should have your results in 48 hours, they will appear on your online account. This allows you to compare results over a number of tests super easily.
Results from these types of tests are great. But what’s even better is the analysis that comes with it. A professional will look over your test results and provide any feedback required. And of course you also have a comprehensive list of results which you can take to your GP if necessary.
“Biomarkers like creatine kinase and cortisol can indicate muscle damage and stress. Micronutrient levels like active B12 and ferritin can inform diet planning to ensure your body is getting what it needs, whilst changes in hormones give insight into whether you’ve got the balance right between training load and nutritional intake. These and others can build up a clear picture of your health helping you to perform at your best.”
As you can see the majority of my results are in the normal range. You can also see where to click to read more about your results, as well as the analysis comments by a sports medical expert.
Dr Nicky Keay from Forth reviewed my results and said the following:
“Some type of white cells are lower end of range. It is not unusual for endurance athletes to have lower neutrophil count. Nevertheless checking in few months would be advisable. CK (reflecting muscle micro damage) is slightly raised in line with recent higher impact or resistance training load. Assuming that you are not on combined oral contraceptive pill and having regular cycle, LH and oestradiol are low for early follicular phase of cycle.”
After providing more information on my recent stress levels and irregular periods she said the following:
“Yes certainly stress with current situation is being reported to disrupt menstrual cycles in some women. So hopefully cycles will settle. There is also indication that maybe you are bit low on energy intake as T3 lower end of range. So getting good combination of nutrition, training lad and recovery/sleep will help.
If your cycles don’t settle over next few months, then I advise repeating the test. “
So that’s what I am going to focus on over the next few months. Nutrition, training load & sleep. Hopefully I will be able to report back in 3 months time.
If you want to order a test like me please visit forthedge.co.uk