Burned Out and Gaining Weight: One Entrepreneur’s Quest to Take Back His Health

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Credit: Josh Trent

Meet Josh Trent

Josh Trent, WellnessForce

I live in San Diego, CA and I’m a 36 year old digital health coach, podcast host, and wellness entrepreneur at www.wellnessforce.comMy 23andMe test has me at 50% Italian and 50% English, while my north star as a wellness coach guides my passion for helping others improve their personal wellness. This post is about sharing my ongoing journey of using biomarkers and self quantification to discover how I can show up more powerfully in the way I work, live, and perform with the intention to help others do the same.

Having lost over 70 pounds in 2003, I’m no stranger to the journey of health transformation.

That very passage is what inspired me to use my weight-loss as a health professional and guide clientele since 2005.

[Josh’s testing results, health outcomes, and biochemical changes he shared here are unique to Josh, influenced through a number of factors. Through diagnostics, we know that our biochemistry is unique and health and wellness is not  “one-size-fits-all.” To receive recommendations based on your unique biomarkers, consult your PCP or book a consultation with any of our nutritionists, registered dietitians or physicians.]

Why I Tested My Blood

Throughout my 20’s, 10-11 hours on a gym floor with clients and arduous personal workouts were all part of the daily grind. After all, my body was my billboard and I had a living to make. After coaching over 10,000 sessions as a fitness pro and helping hundreds of people let go of old weight, the energy in my tank began to run dry.

I was tired all the time, and my previous body composition of 205-210 lbs, 14-15% body fat, and high performance during weekly HIIT workouts became just a reflection in my rearview mirror.

As a wellness coach building a virtual business to help support the health of others, ironically, I was the one now needed the support of my own.

Burned out and gaining weight, I found myself disconnected from my body’s voice.

My days had turned into coffee, phone calls, and more coffee until the caffeine eventually lead me to adrenal fatigue, poor sleep, concentration problems, low performance and low libido.

All the certifications, workshops, and education didn’t seem to help at this point, so I did what all of us do when we’ve tried to walk alone unsuccessfully, I reached out for more support.

Subsequent to the Self Spark and Quantified Self conferences in San Francisco, and after 18 months of pushing through late nights, long days, and high stress as an online entrepreneur, my body finally raised the white flag and I signed up for WellnessFX.

My Blood Test & the Process Explained

I’d researched different case studies with multiple CrossFit athletes, CEOs, and everyday people who’d had impressive transformations from testing their blood. From my research and intuition, I was ready to take a deeper and honest look into what my body had been trying to tell me.

I chose to start with WellnessFX’s Performance Panel since it tests over 75 biomarkers. That’s 3x more comprehensive than the blood test from my average yearly physical.

I wanted to see more than just my cortisol and cholesterol, and I felt this was the magnifying glass that could get me there.

For guidance and programming, I also booked a medical consultation with one of the licensed Physicians from WellnessFX’s practitioner network. Next I was emailed a PDF with clear instructions, I picked out a local Quest Diagnostics Lab and got a confirmation to attend a fasted blood-draw. This was all done in under 10 minutes.

Step 1: Getting The Blood Draw

Twelve hours fasted and a plastic basket full of ten crimson red tubes later, I walked out of the lab the next morning with a sense of accomplishment. I had just taken that first step towards living and feeling better.

In about week, I received an email from WellnessFX that my results were ready. I logged into my account excited to learn, and I was met with a color-coded and easy to read visualized interpretation of my results. There were green, orange and red blocks with supporting links and explanations to guide me through the detailed report.

Since WellnessFX offers the ability to upload past results, I entered some previous blood test results I had, to compare. I felt prepared for my consultation with a physician that was just a few days away.

Step 2: The Medical Consultation Call

This is where I got an even more comprehensive look behind all my numbers.

Being able to walk step-by-step through pages of biomarkers with a medical doctor was both refreshing and mind-blowing – especially since all my previous physicals with face-to-face MD’s lasted about 10 minutes with no real time for questions; only a cold stethoscope to my chest while I breathed.

My WellnessFX physician, Dr. Jeff Edman, was excellent. Dr. Edman cross referenced the values of my 23andMe test, Promethease, and even took the time to craft a specific supplement and lifestyle change protocol to improve my numbers on the re-test.

Having his guidance and recommendations was worth its weight in gold. I got to take a break from reacting to the frustration I felt about my higher than normal body fat percentage, low energy, and libido, and started looking at the data behind why things had gone south.

What we found was humbling. It also held the insight I’d need to take more inspired action in reducing my stress levels and changing my diet on the next round.

Step 3: Understanding My Results – August 2015

Areas For Improvement

  • ApoB: Very high at 88 pointing towards cardiovascular risk. Considering my apolipoprotein E gene (ApoE 3/4) and my elevated body fat at 20%, the line of action was clear to immediately adjust dietary fats and smart exercise protocol.
  • Vitamin B12:  Levels showed to be on the low side of the reference range at 392. With symptoms of low B12 being muscle fatigue, lethargy, and clouded thinking, this was the second line of attack on my radar.
  • Triglycerides: High midrange at 143. Another caution was my high Triglycerides  to HDL ratio at 2.7.  Again, addressing the higher fat levels in my blood through dietary intervention and smart exercise were a third course of action.
  • Total Testosterone: Low midrange at 597. Having less than 600 for my age isnt terrible, but for the amount of strength training I do, I knew raising my total and free T scores would help with energy and fat metabolism as well.
  • Free Testosterone: Low side midrange at 128. With the many causes (stress, trauma, existential angst) of low T, this was going to take a more holistic approach to raise.
  • Smart training: Cross referencing my 23andMe test to support training specificity, we found the ACTN3 “Sprinter’s”gene to isolate smarter exercise typing for my unique physiology.
  • Fat metabolism: Using Promethease to decipher 23andMe data identified my carrier status for APOE 3/4, a genetic disposition found in 17% of caucasians that increases risk of alzheimer’s, and more importantly, points to a suggested dietary intake of lower fat than an APOE 2/3 genotype.

Step 4: Taking Action

Establishing a Baseline in Exercise Performance Testing
I performed the following exercise performance testing protocol to establish a future delta:

  • Rest: 24 Hour rest period with no exercise
  • Warm up: Active flexibility
  • Work Capacity: Test #1: I reached level 18 RPE (after 32 box jumps @ 152 BPM)
  • Rest: 5 minute
  • Work Capacity: Test #2: I performed the Deadlift @ 305 pounds x 10 repetitions   

Activate Support & Intervention Protocols

  • Low B12: Supplement liquid vitamin B12 at 0.5ml per day
  • High Triglycerides: Supplement 2400mg Omega 3 fish oil capsules daily  
  • High Triglycerides: Reduce saturated fats (specifically for my ApoE 3/4 typing)
  • High ApoB: Increase fresh vegetables to 5+ servings per day
  • Total Testosterone: Meditation and stress reduction
  • Sprinter’s Gene: Remove long duration steady state cardiovascular training
  • Smart exercise: Perform HIIT through 6 sets of 20-30 second sprints 2-3 times per week
  • Metabolic & muscle health: Traditional strength training of push, press, squat and pull exercises at 10-12 repetitions with 3 minute rest intervals

Integrate Additional Supplementation

I also activated some Nootropic Blends to help with focus and mental performance as a busy entrepreneur.

  • Nootropic blend of R-lipoic Acid, Sulbutiamine, Idebenone, and BioPQQ, 2 capsules per day
  • Nootropic blend of Aniracetam, CDP Choline, Phosphatidylserine, and Pycnogenol, 2 capsules per day
  • 2000mg Vitamin C per day
  • Rhodiola Rosea, 400mg per day
  • Vitamin D, 5000-1000 IU per day depending on sunlight exposure
  • Chlorella 1400mg per day
  • Spirulina 1400mg per day
  • Natural Calm magnesium, 350-700mg per day

Over the next 6 months, my commitment to addressing positive changes in biomarkers were supported through using the Fitbit SURGE to track activity, training volume, HRT zones and nutrition, Muse to track meditation quality, and DXA scan to track body composition.

***** PART 2: Conducting My Follow-Up Testing ***** 

Step 5: Test Again. My Follow Up Results

From retesting, I was happy to see solid improvements in my Vitamin B12, Triglycerides, and overall athletic performance, but other stress related and cardiovascular markers unfortunately got worse.

Improved Triglycerides

Credit: Josh Trent

Credit: Josh Trent

Improved B12

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Credit: Josh Trent

Although I religiously followed the nutrition, supplement, and training protocol recommendations, what I didn’t expect in my time between tests was a two year relationship ending, tending to stressful family matters, and entrepreneurial challenges that would all mount a pervasive attack on my biology.

Regressed Total Testosterone

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Credit: Josh Trent

Test Results From Re-test in March 2016

  • Vitamin B12: Levels showed major improvement raising to 556
  • Triglycerides: Levels dropped to show improvement at 116
  • Triglycerides to HDL Ratio: Slight drop to 2.6 yet still in caution zone
  • *Total Testosterone: Dropped almost 56 points
  • *Free Testosterone: Dropped 154 points (the most shocking measurement and the hardest for me to look at)
  • *ApoB: Increased to 98

(*Decline in health)

Step 6: Retest Exercise Performance Markers

  • Rest: 24 Hour rest period with no exercise
  • Warm up: Active flexibility
  • Work Capacity: Test #1 **Increased work capacity. I reached level 18 RPE after 41 box jumps @ 148 BPM
  • Rest: 5 minutes
  • Work Capacity: Test #2 **Increased work capacity. I performed the Deadlift @ 315 pounds x 12 repetitions

(**Increase in work capacity)

Step 7: Hold Medical Consultation Call

In review of the numbers and lifestyle modifications, I couldn’t help but share my frustration around the incredible drop of my testosterone levels.

After all, part of testosterone’s job is to be a cornerstone in male sexual function, maintaining muscle size, and supporting general well-being

All of which for me were on the decline.

This is the point in our call where my physician Dr. Jeff Edman asked me a simple yet very powerful question:

“Are you laughing out loud everyday and enjoying life?”

That question hit me hard because I knew the answer was no.

I’d spent the last 6 months putting out so many fires, dealing with stress, and executing for my business that I’d lost touch with the most important marker of them all, my happiness.

Sometimes, the right blood test paired with the right question can change your life.

Together we set a new course for my best wellness yet and it looked like this:

Step 8: Update Action Plan

Updated Support & Intervention Protocols

  • High Triglycerides: Supplement 2400mg Omega 3 fish oil capsules daily
  • High Triglycerides: Further reduce saturated fats
  • High ApoB: Increase fresh vegetables to 6+ servings per day
  • Hunger: Increase dietary fiber for digestive health and satiety
  • Nervous System: Decrease caffeine consumption to 40-60 mg per day
  • Testosterone: Reduce stress, increase self care and restorative practices
  • Testosterone: Increase gratitude practice and mindfulness meditation

Additional Supplementation

  • Nootropic blend of R-lipoic Acid, Sulbutiamine, Idebenone, and BioPQQ, 2 capsules per day
  • Nootropic blend of Aniracetam, CDP Choline, Phosphatidylserine, and Pycnogenol, 2 capsules per day
  • 2000mg Vitamin C per day
  • B12 Methylcobalamin, 100mcg per day
  • Rhodiola Rosea, 800mg per day
  • Vitamin D, 5000-1000 IU per day depending on sunlight exposure
  • Chlorella 1400mg per day
  • Spirulina 1400mg per day
  • Natural Calm magnesium, 350-700mg per day

Putting it All Together

What I took from these two eye-opening panels was:

  • Stress takes its toll 2x more in my mid 30’s then it did in my late 20’s
  • If my sleep or stress levels are poor, I emotionally eat to soothe my nervous system
  • Mindfulness and meditation quality for stress reduction is incredibly important
  • Protein and saturated fats both need to be monitored closely moving forward
  • Enjoying the process of work and life are now a focus
  • Yoga and restorative self-care practices now are integrated 4-5 times per week

Afterthoughts: What If Diet & Exercise Isn’t Enough?

It’s no question whether or not  markers for disease and poor performance show up in our blood long before symptoms ever surface.

Hidden in the numbers lie the warnings for early stages of sickness, poor athletic performance, and a host of other preventable pitfalls that are as unique to us as they are to the neighbor down the street.

I can only imagine a medical system that allowed patients to access this deep level of self knowledge through numbers on a bi-annual basis.

It’d be no surprise that the power and impact of this medical mindfulness would send ripples through the CDC’s obesity rates, not to mention our GNH.

Medicine and mHealth in the next 10 years will bring us biometric sensors, ingestables, and powerful monitoring tools to track our body’s overall biochemistry 365 days a year.

In the words of Ray Kurzweil, “the singularity is near.”

Before then, the uncomfortable reality is that just a small percentage of people will ever get their blood tested annually, and even if they do, it’s typically only for only a few broad factors.

The Secret To Health Information Overload

In the virtual sea of health information, diet plans, and fitness gurus, finding a trusted source to hold on to can make personal wellness seem like one big mystery. Those clues are becoming easier to spot than ever before with the rapid evolution of the Quantified Self and Digital Health movements that fuel modern medicine and healthy living.

Admittedly, one problem with having the world at your fingertips is that to find what’s really right for you, it might take months of filtering through all the noise.

The uniquely personal and relevant answers to what we’re looking for can be found in a specific blood tests from which we garner pragmatic, practical, and inspired healthy action.

This is where understanding our own bio-individuality and the right blood tests can make all the difference.

What’s Next?

After addressing diet and stress levels, practicing mindfulness meditation, and basking in how happy I am to be alive in an era where we have tools like WellnessFX, I’m looking forward to my custom retest for lowered ApoB and higher Testosterone in a couple months. (Go here to follow my journey)

Because of these panels, I actually had a way to quantify what stress, diet, and exercise did to my biology so I could (and will continue to) take inspired action. I’m incredibly grateful for the citizen science that WellnessFX has empowered me with.

I hope this has inspired you to experiment as a citizen scientist, and provoked thought around how powerfully you can show up as the best mom, dad, brother, sister or person you want to be.

How WellnessFX Can Help

WellnessFX, in addition to providing customized blood tests and access to personalized clinical advice, is a secure web-based platform that guarantees our members’ medical records remain safe and confidential.

If you want to get started by testing and monitoring your own biomarkers, check out the package Josh used. Regular blood testing empowers you to understand and improve your underlying health by combining advanced biomarker analysis with an intuitive health dashboard to track your results. Include a 20-minute nutritionist consultation for personalized recommendations you can implement immediately. Cheers to being on the road to a healthier you, with you in the driver’s seat.

See the Test Josh Used

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.