So my boy had some needles stuck in him for blood tests recently …
Is he ill no?
Am I cruel? Maybe 🙂
I believe strongly that it is important to be proactive about your health and training especially with something like world championships or any type of A-race coming up.
There is huge power in the knowledge gained from an athletes’ blood test results to ensure that all is on track.
I am writing this blog to give you an example of why this is important; try to avoid getting bogged down in the details and interpretation and instead take home the message that having a functional assessment done of your blood biochemistry at least every 6 months is recommended. I have been reading test results for close to 13 years; so please feel free to contact me should you like for me to cast my expert eye over your own test results.
Blood tests can tell me little things about :
Hormone balance (we want it optimal in many systems to support training adaptations, recovery, good sleep, and body composition goals)
Recovery (sometimes excess inflammation and muscle damage show up)
Electrolytes tell me about stress, adrenal gland function, dehydration, and kidney function.
Certain markers can show me about whether red blood cells are being excessively broken down (from foot strike or nutritional deficiencies) or muscles being excessively damaged.
I can gain an idea about carbohydrate tolerance and whether we are getting it right, and the appropriateness of fat intake relative to training demands; this is taken into the context of diet and the individual.
For some markers of fatigue and inflammation or muscle damage can show up,
The white blood cells and their individual components can tell me about immune function, the presence of infections (bacterial, viral or parasitic) or even low-calorie or protein intake.
Red blood cell differential and B12 is of huge importance to the endurance athlete! You want efficient oxygen delivery!!!
Male and female specific hormones and a carrier called sex hormone binding protein are helpful too.
Some markers such as thyroid and adrenal related markers can give me insights into your metabolism and energy balance.
And lest we not forget the unsung hormone-signalling nutrient vitamin D....this one is very important to maintain in optimal levels for numerous health and functional performance related reasons.
I’m probably forgetting some here too! (many markers indirectly tell me about nutrient availability and suspected deficiencies also).
Doctor based blood tests are quite rough around the edges in their specificity, and I don’t see them as definitive at all, but when you know a lot about the athlete, their training and diet, and have finessed the interpretation of the results and understand the information provided to read between the lines, you can glean a lot of information to then add further tweaks to the training, diet and recovery plan and if more specific and more expensive tests are required then you can go from there ( e.g saliva hormones, viral screens, metabolic tests etc).
I don’t expect anything revelating back if anything at all; and that is great news when you are in final weeks of preparation such as G is.
Information is knowledge; and I have used these basic tests to catch so many issues for athletes in the past all ticked off as perfectly healthy by the interpreting General Practitioner or Nurse such as chronic fatigue, viral infections, anaemia, chronic neutropenia, gastric parasite infections, haemochromatosis carriers, vitamin D deficiency, thyroid anomalies, insulin issues, polycystic ovaries, low testosterone and fatigue, and on and on…..all easily solved once highlighted. It is worth mentioning that every athlete knew at the time that something just felt off.
As an athlete you want to be operating on all cylinders and not finding something minor after its too late.