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Recovering from Donating Blood? Mitigating, and perhaps a Really Bad Idea for Competing Athletes

Science News reports that Bouncing back from giving blood can take months (emphasis added):

People who donate blood can take months to recoup their stores of iron, a new study shows. But the process moves much faster if they take iron supplements afterward, scientists from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and elsewhere report in the Feb. 10 JAMA.

The findings help to explain why up to one-third of regular blood donors develop iron deficiency, which can cause fatigue, irritability and other symptoms.

In the United States, healthy people are permitted to donate blood every eight weeks. The Food and Drug Administration is weighing whether this interval should be longer, the researchers note.
...
IRON REBOUND Levels of the protein ferritin, which stores iron in cells, recover faster in blood donors taking daily iron pills afterward — regardless of whether they start with low or high iron levels in their blood.

WIND: Not spoken to in the above is the rapid degradation of red blood cells by athletes (physical degradation), which might entail similar risks of iron deficiency, an idea that rings a bell for me—speculating—sometimes my hematocrit has been low after some months of hard training, which always seemed odd to me. OTOH, I have always rapidly acclimatized to altitude. What does it mean? Higher hematocrit can be a huge advantage when racing, which is why I raise my hematocrit prior to the Everest Challenge the natural way: acclimatizing.

Legal disclaimer: Since we are not doctors, never follow anything based on health-related or training topics on this or related sites without first consulting with your doctor or other trusted health professional.

I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but the issue of adequate iron is one I’m pondering consciously now. Excessive iron supplementation can be dangerous to kidneys, but once or twice a week might be OK, and especially since those iron-rich dark leafy greens don’t make it onto my plate as often as I’d like (and bison ribeye steaks are a distant memory!).


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