Giving blood (& Long distance running)

Hello everyone!

I went to give blood for the first time yesterday, they encouraged me to ask as many questions as I pleased so I enquired about the ramifications of giving blood with training (As it is the start of the mara/ultrathon season!),

Once I explained my training program (Its quite severe at the moment as I have a few ultra's in the coming months) they deterred me from giving blood (They wasnt happy about me running for the next few days let alone that evening!).

I was just wondering if anyone gives blood & what effect this has on their training/racing ability? This is a little more specified to the longer distances, ie ultras/more difficult marathon runners out there?

Thanks all


  •       Lloyd I haven't given blood  but a long time ago a team mate of mine did -  just two days before a 10 mile road race - and he told me that during the race he felt terrible. At the time he couldn't understand his poor performance, until he remembered donating blood.

          From a scientific view you are removing some of your red cells and this will reduce your ability to use oxygen, making you slower. After a period of time the body will restore the blood to a normal level (about 4 weeks or so) and your performance should return to previous donation levels. 

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭
    Personal experience was that I was dehydrated for a few hours after giving blood, which is why they don't recommend running for the day after.

    However the big problem was for the next two weeks I lost the ability to run at any speed. I was struggling to maintain my normal easy pace, and couldn't get any where near my normal 10k pace during intervals etc. During this time my heart rate would go through the roof, so perceived effort was a very hard run but time/distances were equivalent to an easy run.

    My understanding is that the first 24 hours is due to the loss of plasma, and then it takes several weeks for the red blood cells to come back. I probably made this worse as I was dehydrated when giving blood (as I'd had a 7.5 mile run a couple of hours before giving blood) so my blood was on the verge of being too thick to donate.

    Personally, I'm not intending to donate blood whilst still doing any long distance training.
  • I've donated regularly. Sometimes I've ran that night with no ill effects. Sometimes though it feels almost as if your throat isn't wide enough to get the air in. Very odd.

    I've donated and run a 10k at the weekend and found my pace was about 2 mins off where I'd expect it to be.

    I dont think its an issue unless you have a big race coming up imminently.
  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭

    i give blood, usually in the early evening, and normally run the lunchtime before, making sure I drink a little more than normal.
    99% of the time I run at the club session the following day and haven't noticed any adverse effect .
    I will say that I don't recall having raced the week of a donation, but I have certainly trained (long run) and again not noticed a significant decline in performance.

    However, we were talking about this at the club a cpl of weeks ago, and one or two other guys have suffered in the days following a donation, one or two, like me, couldnt say with certainty that it had a profound effect.

    I guess that doesnt help...but it looks like it depends on the individual

  • I would agree that running that night is not recommended as you will be recovering volume.....

    but there shouldn't be any long lasting effects.......

    just do not give blood in the couple of weeks before your big races.....
    the worse thing after giving blood is that your training pace is slightly slower for a few days.......then so what..

    it would be sad that a training run becomes more important than giving blood a couple of times a year..........

    runners must be amongst the healthiest group of people and capable of giving blood.....

    it would be sad that there is not enough blood....

    imagine if your child was in hospital and there was not enough blood......because people didn't want it to effect one of their training runs.......
  • I give blood regularly and I've never really noticed it having any effect on how I feel while running afterwards. I'm fairly sturdy and not given to fits of the vapours or low blood sugar moments though, and I suppose everyone will be different. I do know people who feel vaguely woozy and out-of-sorts for a couple of days after donating, and I'd never be unsympathetic or suggest they were exaggerating their symptoms.

    Like seren nos says, I see giving blood as more important than a training run. If I was aiming for a PB in one particular race though, I'd most likely try to time my donations so I'd be giving a pint afterwards and not just before. 

    Maybe as a first time blood-giver with a heavy training schedule for several ultras and no idea how donating might affect you, it would be wise to wait until the end of the season and go donate once you've done all your events for this year.

    Most people don't give blood at all, so donating just once or twice a year would still be an excellent thing to do. image

  • We actually discussed this a fair bit a while back (here).

    There's some useful links there, plus one to a marathon talk episode where they had someone in to talk about it. Hope you find it helpful.

  • I knwo I'm late to this, but for anyone else finding this thread, here are my experiences:

    I've been a runner and given blood regularly for a few years. After giving blood I always feel generally fine but have found my endurance in training has been negatively affected. Not just for a couple of days, but for several weeks. As a result I schedule my blood donations to be as soon after goal races as possible because I know it will set my training back for weeks.

    I tend to push myself in all of my training runs, so that may be one reason why I notice the effect.

  • I am a regular donor and have never really noticed any problems. As others have said probably not a great idea to do within a week or two of an event but otherwise its fine. However, as you see in the donor room everyone reacts differently to the loss of blood so it is probably best to go slowly.

    I am not sure of the science but would training with a lower than normal red cell count not have some benefit? I am thinking about the similarity to altitude training or blood doping here. Obviously it would be small but I am just curious.

  • Just in case anyone comes across this thread, my experience is that it takes me up to 6 weeks after donating to get completely back to normal. About 3 weeks to be reasonably ok.  As an example, last year after I donated, I ran 26:30 at my next parkrun (a bit under a week later), 25:30 the following week and 24:30 the week after that which was close to normal for me at the time.  I donated yesterday and expect to see a similar pattern.

    I donate once a year because my iron levels seem to take a while to recover and when I've gone sooner, eg after 4-6 months they've told me I can't donate anyway.  So I choose this time of year because there aren't any big races, just Christmas fun runs and parkruns.

  • Since you bring this up, my personal experience is very different in that I hardly notice any effect at all. I give blood fairly regularly, and just make sure I don't have a big target race for a couple of weeks, but I'm happy to just take the day off and carry on with training the next day, maybe being as cautious as to wait 48 hours before a hard session, but that's it.

    Bear in mind, if you're new to it, and you're taking advice from the blood people themselves, I think they're bound to be ultra-cautious, since their priority is patient health rather than fitness, but I wouldn't let it put me off even if I was in heavy training. I'm giving blood next Wednesday and I doubt whether it will affect a cross country race I'm doing ten days later.

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