The importance of blood biomarker monitoring for athletes

Written by sports dietician Dina Griffin

Blood biomarker testing is an inexpensive and simple method for assessing health and athletic performance status. Unfortunately, many athletes don’t know the reasons blood testing should be an essential part of their training plan.  If you’ve been confused about this testing or want to better understand how it can help you, take a quick read to understand more.

WHY Blood testing?

The question may be better posed as “Why not?”.  If you invest a significant amount of time and resources in training, coaching, gear and accessories needed to train and compete, blood testing is highly worth the investment and can make a big difference in the “inputs” and “outputs” to your training efforts.

The testing can reveal many insights related to training tolerance, training recoverability, as well as hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and micronutrient deficiencies. The test results allow the athlete and support team (i.e., coach, athletic trainer, sport physician, sport dietitian, etc.) to make relevant and necessary changes to the training plan, dietary pattern, and dietary supplementation. This has a potential impact on areas such as illness, injury, anticipated training adaptations, and your readiness to give it your all on competition day.

Part of what makes the Athlete Blood Test (ABT) service unique is that your results are not interpreted the same way as your general physician would. Rather, your results are put into the context of athlete norms for optimal performance. In other words, how do your results and the type of athlete you are compare to what is athletically optimal? Additionally, a member of the ABT Sport Science team personally reviews your results, along with your submitted questionnaire, so that individualized recommendations are provided in a detailed report. There is nothing on the market that compares to this service!

Who Should be blood tested?

Blood testing is appropriate for all athletes, no matter the age, ability, or competition level. It is especially helpful for athletes who:

  1. follow a specific dietary pattern that restricts a macronutrient or type of food (e.g., nutritional ketosis, vegan, vegetarian)
  2. have recently changed their dietary pattern (from omnivore to vegan or a mixed diet to a very low carb high fat diet, for example)
  3. have an auto-immune condition (such as Celiac disease or Hashimoto’s)
  4. have a significant medical history or current disease state (such as iron deficiency anemia, type 1 or 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease)

Even if you have none of the above, the testing service can provide “peace of mind” that your body is responding well to the training demands and your current nutrition pattern. It is one less worry to know more objectively your body has less chance of breakdown and getting into a “health hole” from which it can take a long time to recover. 

HOW Is blood testing done?

You don’t need a doctor’s order or insurance approval to pursue blood testing through Athlete Blood Test.

There are several blood panels to choose from depending on where you are in your training season, your health history, and interest in consulting with the ABT Sport Science team or Sport Dietitian for an even higher level of personalization.

Summary

Blood biomarker testing and the service offered by ABT can reveal many insights as to hindrances or inefficiencies that can slow an athlete’s course of training and readiness to compete. Just like endurance athletes should be doing periodic performance testing to adjust heart rate or power zones for training, blood testing and monitoring need to be a priority more than once per year.  The ABT service is your best route to get athlete-specific interpretation and an individualized assessment to keep you moving forward – fit and healthy!

Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD, CISSN, METS II
Board Certified Sports Dietitian
Registered Dietitian
The Nutrition Mechanic
dina@nutritionmechanic.com

Written on March 22, 2019
By Ofer

Blood Pressure in Athletes and Runners

It has been well established in countless studies that moderate levels of routine aerobic exercise can help decrease blood pressure in populations with high or normal blood pressure.(1) The American Academy of Family Physicians cites the prevalence of hypertension in fit individual is about half of the general population, but adds that some athletes may have an increased risk of hypertension.(2)

 

Other studies indicate the systolic blood pressure (top number) is elevated during exercise and after exercise for about 2 hours. After the 2 hour mark the blood pressure tends to stay lower for 1 to 3 days.  (3,4) After 3 days the effects of exercise tends to diminish. Because of the diminished effect, experts agree that moderate aerobic exercise on most days of the week is important to maximize the benefits for blood pressure reduction.

Does type and volume of exercise impact blood pressure?

A recent review paper found that endurance trained athletes have a lower blood pressure compared to strength based athletes. (5)   The National Runners’ Health Study , a cross-sectional study conducted in 1997 concluded that runners averaging 50 miles per week or more had slightly lower blood pressures levels than those running less than 50 miles per week and that running in general lowered blood pressure.(6) This type of study design shows correlation but does not prove causation.
For now, the most recent data suggest that moderate amount of aerobic exercise (including running) is beneficial for blood pressure health.

 

Looking to optimize your performance for your next race?
We specialize in biomarker analysis aimed directly towards improving athletic performance. Learn more about our panels here.
  1. Vasan RS, B. A. S. S. L. M. K. W. D. R. L. D. Residual lifetime risk for developing hypertension in middle-aged women and men: The Framingham Heart Study. JAMA.,2002 Feb 27;287(8):1003-10.
  2. The American Academy of Family Physicians: Managing Hypertension in Athletes and Physically Active Patients (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0801/p445.html)
  3. Ruivo JA, Alcantara P. Hypertension and exercise. Rev Port Cardiol.2012 Feb;31(2):151-8. doi: 10.1016/j.repc.2011.12.012. Epub 2012 Jan 10.
  4. Whelton SP, Chin A, Xin X, He J. Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Ann Intern Med. 2002 Apr 2;136(7):493-503.
  5. Berge HM et al.  Blood pressure in elite athletes: A systematic review, Br J Sports Med. (2015)
  6. Williams PT,Relationship of Distance Run per Week to Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors in 8283 Male Runners The National Runners’ Health Study, Arch Intern Med. 1997 Jan 27; 157(2): 191–198.

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Written on March 18, 2019
By Ofer

Hemoglobin levels for runners

What is hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cell that help transport oxygen. Many athletes, especially runners and other endurance athletes are concerned about their iron levels. This is because iron is a crucial component of hemoglobin. Anemia occurs when hemoglobin levels decrease below normal range, with the most common cause being iron-deficiency. For a more detailed description of iron deficiency in endurance athletes read our blog post here.
hemoglobin levels in runners

How does running impact hemoglobin levels?

Endurance training increases production of red blood cells and hemoglobin, along with an increase in plasma levels (the fluid that transports cells in the blood). (1,4) Often the plasma levels increase more than hemoglobin production in runners and endurance athletes, the concentration of hemoglobin may temporarily decrease.(2,5) Alternatively, dehydration and sweat from exercise can show up as a temporary rise in hemoglobin. (3) Variation in hemoglobin can occur due to many factors, it is important to interpret hemoglobin values alongside other biomarkers such as red blood cells, hematocrit, iron, ferritin and other micronutrients essential in red blood cell production.

Interested in finding out your hemoglobin levels and related biomarkers?

We specialize in biomarker analysis aimed directly towards improving athletic performance for runners and endurance athletes. Our experts analyze your hemoglobin levels along with other key biomarkers. Learn more about our panels here.

  1. Mairbaurl H. Red blood cells in sports: effects of exercise and training on oxygen supply by red blood cells. Frontiers in Physiology. 2013;4:332. doi:10.3389/fphys.2013.00332.
  2. Bartsch, P.; Mairbaurl, H.; Friedmann, B., Pseudo-anemia caused by sports. Therapeutische Umschau. Revue therapeutique 1998, 55 (4), 251-255.
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-hemoglobin-count/basics/causes/sym-20050862
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Giovanni_Lombardi/publication/235795326_Reticulocytes_in_Sports_Medicine_An_Update/links/56f2b0a508aeb55674eb510a/Reticulocytes-in-Sports-Medicine-An-Update.pdf?origin=publication_detail
  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-010-1641-1

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Written on March 5, 2019
By Ofer