Importance of Blood Tests for Athletes

February 1, 2023

Blood testing is an important tool to increase performance, improve recovery, and monitor training. It is a gold standard for validating, integrating, and calibrating other systems in sports training. The ultimate data set is blood, which can be tested quarterly to make changes to your program. Biomarkers, thanks to the advances in technology, are a great tool for achieving this goal. An easy blood test can provide valuable information about the body's reactions. This information can help coaches manage nutrition and training, assess stress levels, and identify any deficiencies. It also helps them to prevent injuries and optimize performance. 

Every athlete is unique. Even though athletes may have similar training and eating habits, their bodies can react differently to different environmental and genetic factors. These differences should be taken into consideration, especially when optimizing performance. Let's look at 5 reasons athletes should have their blood tested regularly.

1. Checking the nutrient status:

Nutrient deficiencies can manifest as fatigue, mood swings, depression, power output reduction, susceptibility or illness. Low levels of any of these can be due to a variety of nutrients. It's difficult to determine if symptoms are caused by a deficiency or another underlying cause, such as illness or infection. Once you have identified the nutrients that you are lacking, you can make changes in your diet or use supplements to increase them.

2. Strike a balance between training and recovery:

It is tempting to believe that you must train, train, and train in order to improve your performance. While training is essential to improve your performance, it's easy for people to forget the importance of rest. Not only does it give your body a break, but it is also an important part of the process for improvement. Your body's actual work of building muscle and strengthening bones, as well as increasing your aerobic capacity, takes place when you are at rest. The levels of biomarkers, including cortisol and white cells in the blood, can be used to identify overtraining. The body may be under stress if cortisol levels are high because it isn't getting enough rest. It can be a sign that your body is under stress because it doesn't have enough energy to properly fuel its immune system.

3. Keep track of your progress:

One test can give you a snapshot about your health. However, repeated testing over the course a season or more will allow you to see how nutrition changes affect your body and identify when you need more recovery and rest time after major events. It's motivating and inspiring to see your performance improve, no matter how small or large, and it allows you to understand how your body is evolving.

4. Ensure you recover well from injuries or illness :

Athletes can be extremely frustrated when they are injured or ill. When you're used to being active and healthy, enforced rest is at best boring, and it can be tempting to ramp up the training before you're fully recovered or train harder than you should in an attempt to 'make up for lost time. But if you push yourself too hard or too soon, you risk delaying your recovery and jeopardizing your performance. If you're not sure if you've fully recovered from an illness, infection, or injury, a blood test can help you figure it out.

What are the best times to perform a blood test for sports performance?

  • Off season testing :This is when you can establish your baseline. This will help you establish your average.
  • Pre-season Training: Testing at the end and beginning of your training season will tell you how prepared you are for competition. This can help you feel confident that you aren't overtraining.
  • Competition season: Testing should take place around intense exercises like a training test or a week of challenging training. This will reveal any deficiencies in your body's ability or ability to respond optimally.
  • Peak competition season: It is a good idea to test before and multiple times after a major event or injury. This will allow you to assess if your body has recovered before you attempt to restart

Meryn Aricatt
Sports Nutritionist

Meryn, with a Master’s in Sports Science, is a pivotal member of the 'Evolve' vertical at iThrive, specializing in sports nutrition. She operates under the philosophy that "Nutrition can elevate a good athlete to greatness." Beyond her role at iThrive, Meryn imparts her expertise as an instructor for both the Functional Sports Nutrition and the Functional Nutrition Certification courses at iThrive Academy. She is passionate about helping sportspersons enhance their performance, ensuring they lead healthier, happier lives through the power of sports nutrition.

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