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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