By this stage you’ve probably seen athletes of all walks running around with a big black dot on the back of their arm. It’s a wearable—a sensor, actually—called Levels ethat helps you understand how your body utilizes carbs (more on this below).
It used to be that you could only get specialized health tests on a doctor’s orders—now, you can mail in blood, saliva and urine tests without ever putting pants on. This shift from outpatient to at-home testing is thanks to advances in sample collection. Whether you’re sending in your samples or going to Quest Diagnostics, the science is basically the same, says Kamal Obbad, co-founder and CEO of Nebula Genomics.
The issue is in interpreting the results. When your doc orders a lab test, they know your history and review your data with that in mind. But when an algorithm spits out recommendations in an app (with oversight from a physician you’ve never engaged with), “be carefeeul about considering that information diagnostic.” Translation: Don’t make any medical decisions based on an at-home test. “Talk to an expert about your results whenever possible.”
What you can use these at-home tests for is optimizing diet and fitness so you feel and perform better.
1. Levels: Best for Optimizing Diet
Glucose—which comes from carbs—is your body’s fastest, most accessible form of fuel. Head into a workout without enough in your system and you’re likely to bonk. This biowearable uses a small sensor (stuck on your upper arm) to monitor blood sugar levels 24/7 for two weeks at a time. Manually log workouts and meals via its app, and you’ll see live feedback as to how those impact your glucose so you can tweak habits to feel and perform your best.
[$399 for one month; levelshealth.com]
2. Inside Tracker: Best for Fitness and Performance Insights
This blood test (go to a lab or have a technician come to your home) analyzes up to 43 biomarkers involved with energy, metabolism, strength and endurance. Tack on the DNA test to see how 261 genetic markers influence your athletic potential. From there, the app flags problem areas and delivers custom interventions—“have one serving of probiotics each day” or “aim for three 20-minute HIIT workouts per week”—that can help you level up.
[From $179; insidetracker.com]
3. Everlywell: Best for Testosterone
The right amount of testosterone coursing through you can mean the difference between feeling like a stallion versus a mopey zoo lion. High or low T can lead to symptoms like fatigue, depression and decreased muscle mass because it influences metabolism, sex drive, muscle production and fat loss. Spit in a tube, mail your sample to the certified lab, and an independent, board-certified physician in your state will weigh in on whether your level is normal. If it’s not, see your own doc about next steps.
4. Rootine: Best for Nutrient Deficiency
Fill out a 10-minute online quiz about your health and fitness habits, then take an at-home DNA or blood test (or upload data from ancestry.com or 23andMe). Rootine’s medical-grade genetics lab will analyze 52 genetic markers that have been shown in studies to impact how your body processes nutrients. Based on your genetic needs, the company will whip up a custom micronutrient formula with up to 18 vitamins and minerals. Just remember, supplements shouldn’t be used in place of healthy eating.
[$69 per month for 3 months; rootine.co]
5. Thorne: Best for Fertility
Out-of-whack reproductive hormones can cause unexplained weight gain, sleep issues, mood changes, fatigue, and more—issues that affect people beyond those trying to conceive. Mail in your saliva swab and blood test, and certified labs will analyze hormone levels, thyroid function, and stress responses to provide you with a personalized health plan based on your results (think tips like “focus on resistance training in the morning” or “choose a Mediterranean diet”). Be wary of supplement recommendations; since those aren’t federally regulated, you should always discuss them with your doctor.
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