This new mom and endurance junkie craved an epic challenge.
GOALS AND WANTS (WHY?)
Registered dietitian Rachel helps Ixcela clients—many of whom are athletes—understand their test results and stay on track with their health and performance goals. She has been with Ixcela for three and a half years, so she knows the Ixcela test and recommendations backward and forward. But even the experts need data.
Rachel had always considered herself a runner. She enjoyed pushing her pace and distances from 5K to marathon. Before becoming a mom, Rachel would run thirty to forty miles per week and she had participated in half-marathons, 10Ks, and a marathon. Soon after having her baby, Rachel resumed running as a self-care habit. She still loved the mental and physical benefits that running brought her. In fact, she enjoyed running even more than she had before.
However, Rachel needed to redefine her relationship with running. She realized that she could be more flexible with her duration and pace goals. Shorter, slower runs would be just as beneficial as the longer, more intense training she had done in the past. She wanted to challenge herself, but she didn’t have the flexibility to sign up for a marathon. Instead, she decided to celebrate her thirtieth birthday by running thirty miles.
Rachel was well acquainted with the importance of adequate nutrition, hydration, and balancing her training regimen with consistent recovery habits. However, after several months of disrupted sleep due to her new baby, she had been struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep, and her energy was low during the day. She found herself drinking two or three cups of coffee each day, and she would often drink coffee in the afternoon to help keep her focused.
She knew that her gut health, training, nutrition, and recovery would be important as she embarked on this new challenge. That’s why Rachel decided to take care of herself the same way she takes care of her Ixcela clients. She started with an Ixcela test. Her gut health data would provide insight into her gut microbiome function, how well her diet was supporting her needs, and how to best support her body as she built up her mileage and training intensity. She especially wanted to find out if she should focus on reducing the amount of stress on her body in order to avoid injuries such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis, which she had suffered through during marathon training
ROOT CAUSES AND INSIGHTS (WHAT?)
Rachel’s test results showed that her xanthine, a stress marker metabolite, was above optimal levels.
- Above-optimal xanthine reflects that the body is under a lot of stress and is at increased risk of inflammation.
This meant that Rachel’s disrupted sleep, paired with her busy work schedule and intense exercise practices, were affecting her ability to train and recover efficiently.
High stress and poor sleep also put her at increased risk of damaging her (currently balanced) gut microbiome, so it was important to work on reducing stress to ensure she could maintain a well-populated and diverse gut.
AHA! (SO WHAT?)
Rachel’s test results offered insight into the stress that her current habits were causing. They clearly showed that if she wanted to reach her thirty-mile goal, she needed to focus on reducing stress on her body. She was eager to find ways to support higher-quality sleep, supercharge her diet with the nutrients she needed for training and recovery, and—most importantly—create a training plan that would minimize inflammation and decrease her risk of injury, sickness, and gut microbiome damage.
ACTION PLAN (NOW WHAT?)
Rachel started by prioritizing her sleep. Using her Ixcela report, she created goals and a supplement regimen to support a more consistent bedtime routine that would ensure high-quality sleep. The goals she followed in the first 2 weeks included:
Read for 30 minutes before bed.
Take Ixcela Night (a low-dose melatonin supplement) every night at bedtime.
Avoid using a cell phone in bed.
Reduce caffeine intake by drinking half-caffeinated coffee in the morning and avoiding caffeine after 11 a.m.
After she had established a more consistent bedtime routine, Rachel worked to focus on hydration and incorporate more anti-inflammatory nutrients into her diet. To support optimal levels of the stress marker metabolite xanthine and to reduce inflammation, Rachel included the following habits (as recommended in her Ixcela results):
Take Ixcela Protect and Ixcela Defend (two powerful antioxidant blends) daily to support optimal xanthine levels and athletic recovery.
Drink at least 70 ounces of water daily.
Include an electrolyte supplement mix with 16 ounces of water in the afternoon in place of an additional serving of caffeine.
Include 1 cup of vitamin C-rich fruit, commonly blueberries, oranges, and strawberries, as a late-morning snack.
Finally, Rachel worked to create a training program that balanced longer endurance training sessions with low-impact training and the necessary rest and recovery time. Rachel’s Ixcela results helped her realize that even though she had a big goal to work toward, rest days and restorative practices were an important part of getting there. Rachel’s training schedule included the following:
Monday: 30-minute interval training on the treadmill
Tuesday: 3- to 5-mile walk/run with jogging stroller
Wednesday: 4- to 6-mile run
Thursday: 30-minute bodyweight strength training (legs and core)
Friday: 30-minute strength training (upper body) and mobility
Saturday: Long run, starting with 10 miles and adding 2 miles each week up to 20 miles
Sunday: Rest day
Within one week, Rachel started to feel the benefit of taking Ixcela Night (a low-dose melatonin supplement) and following a more consistent bedtime routine. Before the Ixcela test, she had been waking up two or three times a night, but now she was finally getting seven to eight consecutive hours of sleep.
As her training progressed and she reached fourteen-, sixteen-, and eighteen-mile-long weekend runs, she found that she recovered within a day or two—and she didn’t experience shin splints or foot pain like she had when training for a marathon. She knew that her results were related to her more balanced training schedule and including a true rest day with low-impact strength training.
She found that her increased water intake and more consistent inclusion of electrolytes supported her energy better than the second serving of caffeine she had been including previously. She knew this was supporting her recovery from the strenuous 60- to 150-minute training sessions.
Rachel completed her thirty-mile run four days before her thirtieth birthday. Her husband and daughter met her every ten miles with refueling supplies such as crackers, waffles, gels, and water refills.
Twenty-four hours after her thirty-mile run, she was not nearly as sore or stiff as she had been after her marathon, and the mental fog that had seemed to linger after past strenuous events was much less severe. After three true rest days, she was able to start training for her next event and complete a four-mile training run at her typical eight-minute-per-mile pace.
Note: Rachel experienced the Complete Package Program.