Monday, 8 September 2014

Blood donation #38 (and what athletes need to know)

That's donation #38 done. As the period between donations is 52 days, that puts me on 3 November for my next donation. But as I like to go to my donor centre during the week between xmas and New Year I'll delay until then. This xmas period is a high-demand time for them and they loooovvveee my O Neg blood. And then Feb next year makes #40.

I've really been on schedule this year - I'll make it for five donations this year (you only need three/year to maintain a 'regular donor' status.

I don't often see many people when I visit my local Bruma SANBS donor centre (they're really nice and friendly here). A man was there when I arrived and while I was there a young woman (Grade 11, still at school) and another man arrived. Nice!

I logged another heart-rate low on their electronic BP machine: 43bpm. Filled my bag in about five minutes too! The one nurse, who I often see and who knows me, even commented, "Gee, that was fast!". Strong heart. Good blood.

I got to thinking about how I deal with blood donations, training and races.

I've only had one time when I felt really sluggish the next day and one time where I felt a bit hammered. And on both occasions I can definitely track not feeling great to my hydration status - before and after donation apply. In both cases I didn't replenish fluids sufficiently afterwards.

In an article on the Ironman website, the author John Post writes:
"As an athlete, your first concern is how long it takes to return to pre-donation blood levels. That depends on specifically what you donate. For example, scientific studies have shown that if you donate plasma, the liquid part of the blood, or platelets, the cells that help blood clot, but not the oxygen carrying red blood cells, you’ll be back to normal in 48 hours. Even if you give whole blood (including the red blood cells), within a week or two you shouldn't see a difference in your training from pre-donation, although a 100 percent correction in your hemoglobin level will take about five to seven weeks."
Haemoglobin is the element that really counts because this is the oxygen-carrying vehicle; and oxygen is what the muscles need. The higher your exercise intensity, the higher the demand.

Sure, when you donate, you're saying bye-bye to red blood cells - around 10% of total volume. If you had a race the next day, you'd feel sluggish and would log a decrease in performance of around 8%. But then you're an idiot if you donate blood today and race tomorrow. Within three to four weeks you'll be back at 100% performance (or sooner, depending on intensity of event that you're doing).

BUT, keep in mind that this is with reference to competitive performance and NOT OVERALL well being and training ability.

Considering that most of us are casual, recreational and amateur competitive athletes and not elite/professional athletes, blood donation is not going to have a neglible effect on your training and competitive performance. And as you only have to donate three times a year, you can plan your donations around events and in your less competitive periods.

The one thing that always concerns me is my system being immuno-compromised following ultras (which happens). If I have a race coming up, I delay my donations so that they're at least three or four weeks before the race and at least two weeks after the race. Easy. With a 52-day (almost two months) interval I couldn't donate more regularly than this anyway.

I don't always train on donation days - sometimes just a chilled run; other times I take it as a 'rest' day to be kind to my body. Today I'm taking a rest day 'cos I have a bunch of stuff I want to do.

Lisa's athletic donation tips
  • Hydrate and eat well the day before and on the day of your donation
  • Hydrate well after your donation
  • Use your donation day as a rest day; the following day take it easy (be kind to your body for a few days)
  • Donate at least three to four weeks before races and not sooner than two weeks after races
  • You only have to donate three times a year to maintain a regular-donor status; focus your donations during your least competitive periods
Here are two pieces to read (#1 RunnersWeb and #2 Endurance Corner) just for info. Both reference a study with three amateur competitive cyclists. The error in the set up of the study is that they measured performance at two hours, two days and seven days post-donation. They should have measured at Week 1, Week 2 etc. Not a very smart experimental plan. As I said above, if you donate today and plan to race hard tomorrow or in two days then you're an idiot.

Just remember too that people are deferred (totally or for a set period of time) from donating if they take certain chronic meds, have/have had certain viral infections, have promiscuous lifestyles and following visits to malaria and other risky areas. Check the SANBS website for exclusions. LGBTI donors are now very welcome.

Pay it forward and donate blood regularly (read my piece below on once-off donations being a waste of time). Should I ever need blood, I'll be helluva pissed off if there's not enough for me. I've been putting blood in the bank for you... it would be nice and considerate if you can think of me too. Don't be like the majority of the population who only start to donate after having received blood provided through the good will of donors. In the US (according to the RedCross) less than 10 percent of the population gives blood annually, for the benefit of 100 percent of the population. It's the same here. As a side benefit of donation, you get regular blood pressure and iron level checks.

 As always (just to remind you):

1 comment:

Lickety Split said...

The Iron level check done, only checks for too low iron levels, not for too high levels.

I now donate regularly due to a medical condition I have. The SANBS are some of the most friendly health professionals I have ever met.