Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Day 14 - Recovery from Blood Donation

The past few years, I have tried my best to go and donate blood as often as I can. I personally feel as though it is an honorable thing to do as a citizen, and as the Canadian Blood Services tagline reminds you, "It's in you to give."

Anyways, in past instances when I have given blood, I have completed my workout the day of, and even the day after I donate. My workout the day of my blood donation appointment is usually first thing in the morning and then I give blood in the evening. My workout the day after, I usually try and schedule to a lighter routine, as my body is still recovering from giving a pint.

Even though, as you leaving, you are told no heavy lifting or heavy exertion, there is not necessarily any information given as to when you can return to regular, heavy exercise. This may be due to a number of reasons, one of which may be the fact that the average person donating blood won't be getting up the next morning to workout hard like I do (as well as my faithful readers).

As much as I try to 'listen to my body' and get back to intense exercise when I feel up to it (usually after a day or two), I have always wondered how much giving 1 pint of blood effects my aerobic performance.

I was therefore rather interested when I came across a study out of the University of Saskatchewan that looked at the "Time Course for Recovery of Peak Aerobic Power After Blood Donation."

Peak aerobic power (VO2peak) is decreased after blood donation, but the time course for full recovery is unknown. We measured VO2peak and exercise time to fatigue before and weekly for 4 weeks after 450-ml blood donation at a blood donor clinic, to determine the time course of recovery. Twelve moderately active individuals (2 women, 10 men; 24.3 ± 5.2 years) of average aerobic fitness (based on their VO2peak relative to normative values) completed VO2peak exercise tests before donation, the day after donation, and at weekly intervals for 4 weeks after donation. VO2peak was determined by an incremental exercise test on a cycle ergometer. At baseline, mean absolute and relative VO2peak values were 4.06 ± 0.92 L·min(-1) and 46.6 ± 7.0 ml·kg(-1)·min(-1), respectively. VO2peak was significantly decreased on day 1 (3.85 ± 0.89 L·min(-1); 44.0 ± 6.5 ml·kg(-1)·min(-1)) and during week 2 (3.91 ± 0.97 L·min(-1); 44.5 ± 7.2 ml·kg(-1)·min(-1)) after blood donation (p < 0.05), and recovered at week 3 after donation. Time to fatigue and peak heart rate were not significantly affected by blood donation. We conclude that blood donation causes a significant decrease in VO2peak for between 2 and 3 weeks. The practical application of this study is that aerobic power in people of average fitness will be decreased, up to 3 weeks after donating blood. Despite this, there is no effect of blood donation on performance as measured by time to fatigue during an incremental test on a cycle ergometer.

The test observes individuals with 'average' levels of fitness, comparing their Maximal Aerobic Power (VO2 Max) prior to, and following a standard 1-pint (450ml) blood donation.

Maximal Aerobic Power, also known as VO2 Max, carries a strong correlation between an endurance athlete and their VO2 Max level. In basic terms, an individual who has high VO2 Max level can continue to meet the majority of their energy demands through aerobic metabolism. In other words, as the energy demands increase with time throughout an aerobic endurance event, a high VO2 can relate to increased performance for longer periods of time. Athletes with a high VO2 Max generally have high endurance performance, although there are other factors that can be just as, if not more important such as a high lactate threshold, good exercise economy, and a high ability to use fat as a fuel source.

The study found that VO2 Max will not return to pre-donation levels until 2-3 weeks following.

I am still a firm believer in 'listening to your body', and that individuals who donate blood, should be able to return to training fairly soon following donation, this should give a bit of insight into those that wish to compete in competition. If you wish to be at peak physical condition for a competition, it is probably best to schedule giving blood for at least 3 weeks before.

Quote of the day:
"Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his Goals."