Blood donation and running.

I donated blood last night and was curious about its effect on runners. Not that I’ve been running yet, mind you, but I’m really gonna start again. Any day now! Truly!

Moving right along…

I was looking for some good information on the effects of blood donation on runners, and found that there isn’t a lot. There’s a whole bunch of anecdotal wisdom on the subject, but not really a lot of firmly supported knowledge. The good news, however, is that the general consensus is that you only really need to worry about the effects if you’re a high-performance athlete. In other words, not like me.

According to this article, a “recreational athlete” (or “not world class athlete” (i.e. me)) shouldn’t notice much difference. There may be a reduction in “maximal” performance, but “sub-maximal” performance is unaffected.

The two caveats to that are make sure you’re not iron deficient (take supplements if you are (but be careful of taking iron supplements if you’re not iron deficient)) and to make sure that you hydrate “aggressively” the day of and after donating. They say that endurance athletes should treat donation day as a rest day.

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128 Responses to Blood donation and running.

  1. Your Sister says:

    Last time I gave blood, they told me I should not run until the next day. I was done giving blood by 5pm. I ran about 8 that evening. No worries. I’m also not anemic, nor am I skinny as a rail. That’s my experience with running and giving blood.

  2. jank says:

    Likewise – I’ve never had problems provided I hydrate heavily afterwards.

    BTW – best wishes for the New Year – I’ve been similarly not as diligent at both hitting the road and blogging, and hope to correct in the future.

  3. april anne says:

    Any signs of running? Keep us posted and happy 2005!

  4. april anne says:

    Have you been running recently? If not, you are more than welcome to
    send your Garmin Forerunner 201 to me and I’ll use it!! (Just Kidding)
    I hope all is going well!

  5. Lafe says:

    Thanks for checking on me. No, there’s no sign of running YET. But I AM going to. Really. I mean it. I can’t have a toy like the Forerunner and not run, now can I? :)

    I have, however, well and truly fallen off the wagon. I’ve just gotta get to the point where I can climb back up on it.

  6. Rod Sanzana says:

    i´m an amateur trithlete, and i donate blood the other day, i felt really bad, and i reduce my endurance, i was running de 5k in 18 min, the next day the time is 20 min.

  7. dman says:

    I was doing some research on the effects of giving blood and running and came across your comments. My daughter is on a high school cross country/track team and her coach kicked her off for giving blood. Said she wouldn’t be able to run for 3 months. Based on what I have read on the internet the coach is a moron.

  8. Lafe says:

    Dman, I’d have to agree with you. Sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. While it looks like you’re not best off donating right before some large test of endurance (see Rod’s comment, or the article), there isn’t a large impact otherwise.

  9. David says:

    I gave blood last week.
    Before that I had been doing a 5 mile run in 35mins, and a 7.2 mile run in 51mins.
    2 days after, I struggled in my 7.2 mile run and came home in 54.5 mins.
    7 days after (today), I struggled in my 5 mile run and came home in 37.5 mins.

    I’m convinced its related to giving blood.
    I’m hoping I get my form back soon.


  10. S Coveney says:

    I’ve been running (or should I say jogging) since 1975. When I run, I go 3 miles. In the early years I ran 5-6 days a week. I am now happy to run 2-3 days a week.

    In 2005, I began donating blood regularly, every 2 months. In 2005, I have been struggling with my running, all year long. I thought, how can I suddenly have gotten old *this* year? I finally visited a blood donation web site, and read that the 2 month limitation is to give your iron time to completely build back up. I wondered if this is my situation. Once this year, I noticed I finally had my energy up when I ran, and it was the weekend before my next scheduled blood donation!

    I am considering stopping the blood donations, as I’d rather have my high energy back, and enjoy my runs once again. Comments?

  11. Old Badger says:

    I’ve been running for years (1st marathon in 1975) and have been giving blood for years. In the past, when I was young and in shape, giving blood didn’t seem to affect me as much as it does now (mid 50s). I have stopped giving blood during the summer and fall when I’m training and racing hard since I’ve noticed that donating seriously affected my ability to train for 2-3 weeks. This year I was considering donating platelets or plasma during my “season” and was wondering how that would affect me. I found a Web site that answered that question
    This site includes “this article” refered at the top. Entry number 3 at the site gave me best info and says that donating will definitely affect maximal performance.

    My thoughts to those of you great people who do donate, like S. Coveney, is to donate less often than every 8 weeks or donate whole blood regularly during your “off season” and switch to donating platelets or plasma during the season. That’s what I’m going to do this year. I’ll let you know how, as George Sheehan used to say, this “experiment of one” goes.

    In relation to dman’s (#8) comment on the x-c coach’s behavior — kicking her off the team was inexcusable unless before the season it was made clear that donating blood was cause for removal from the team. If he’d kept her on the team it would have been a learning experience, for her and the rest of the team — she might have gone from #2 runner to #6, or from #4 to off the varsity, and she’d have to decide in the future if donating in season was worth what it did to her running. She’d learn a valuable lesson on trade-offs in life. But kicking her off the team in either of examples I gave would not make the team better.

  12. S Coveney says:

    Thanks, Old Badger, from S Coveney, and old Badgette. (Not to be confused with an Old Baguette, which would be very stale, indeed!)

    Well, I went in for my regular whole blood donation about 3 or 4 weeks ago, and low and behold, they rejected me for low iron. I forget the number, 35 or 36, but they said it was within “normal range”, but not the minimum number (38?) required for donation. That’s the first time that happened. I figure that every 2 months, it must have been getting lower and lower, until I bottomed out. Interestingly enough, the Sunday before I donated, I tried to do my regular 3 mile run (jog), and I must have had to walk a dozen times. Some times I could only go 20 paces before dying, and walked 20 paces, then tried to run again, but gave out again after 20 paces. You’d think I was at Everest Base Camp! But I’m at sea level!

    So this was the confirmation, that my iron was low. I had mentioned the blood donation to my ob-gyn last fall, and she told me to take an iron supplement, so now I decided to go ahead and do it. Apparently, I was not able to improve it with diet.

    I checked CSPI (Nutrition Action Healthletter) and they say no more than 18mg for women, and no more than 9mg for post-menopausal women or for men. I checked my vitamins and there was no iron in them.

    I began taking 18 mg, and the effect on my running (jogging) was night and day! I am now as fresh at the end as I am at the start. The effect was immediate, too, having a good run the very first day I took the supplement! No longer am I struggling, mentally, with “just 20 more paces til the end of the block”. Now, I’m jogging, and my mind is wandering all over the place. I love it again! This is huge! I can honestly say, I know what “iron deficiency” feels like.

    Soon, I should call the blood bank, and make another donation, since I missed the last one, and there is a shortage.

    Thanks, again.

  13. Paul H. says:

    Glad to find your web site! I’ve noticed low running performance (4 min. slower on a 4 mi run!) and have been looking for some confirmation on this. I’ve used a heart monitor since my last two donations and my rate averages about 10 beats higher for a few weeks afterward. Yeah, I guess I should try plasma and platlets rather than double red donation. I’d like to how other people are fairing with platlet and plasma donation.
    Thanks Again!

  14. James Stephens says:

    I figured after the “kiss me I donated blood today” sticker had fallen off my tie and I had drunk lots of fluids for a couple of days that the affect of the donation was gone. I’m 46 and after years of inactivity am enjoying running and blazing through 5ks at about 8+ min/mile pace. I ran 5.4 miles today on a warm day and thought I was going to die. I felt as bad as I did last year after a minitriathlon in hot weather. I am trying to prepare for a 1/2-marathon in May and was discouraged about the process after today’s experience. But it was in the shower trying to recuperate that I remember that I had donated 72 hours ago. The wikipedia web site states that it can take 6-7 weeks to recoup the iron and 5-6 weeks for bone marrow to regenerate the lost red blood cells. So the redcross needs to put the warning out to runners – that for older farts, donating blood can be hazardous to your times
    – James Stephens:

  15. Tom Ruen says:

    Great topic – Thanks!

    I am considering myself giving blood 9 days before a 15k race – my first! I bike all the time for years and noticed some effects when my blood level got around the 38% limit to give blood. I’ve been taking iron pills and raised iron level to 42% last time I gave, so I figure I’m doing okay.

    I admit if I wanted to “optimize” my time, perhaps I’d hold off on blood, but since I’m just starting and can afford to lose a few minutes without crying. I imagine my heart has to work harder when my blood can’t carry as much oxygen, so perhaps I can get a “better workout” without having to run as fast! Well, sounds good. We’ll see.

    Thanks again!

  16. Jessica Pigg says:

    To anyone considering donating blood, If you are a very dedicated runner who is worried about their performance on the track I would suggest waiting until after track season to donate blood. My sister who is an extremely good runner recently gave blood for a required twelth grade government project. She had to run in a very big meet the next week. Her iron was so low after giving blood that she looked horrible physically and she lost to people she beat earlier in the season badly. She said she had enough energy to run and finish the race, but she didn’t have the usual burst of energy that is normal for her. My sister is a very small framed girl which I’m sure had something to do with the effects blood donation had on her running, but it was kind of heart breaking to watch her unable to run like herself in the biggest track event of the year especially her senior year. I’m sure if the red cross would have told her these effects beforhand she would have never done it.

  17. Debra P says:

    I’m so glad I found this site. Your comments are making me feel so much better. I’m dealing with the same issues right now. I donated double red on May 15th, I ran 3.5 miles the day before (which I do 3-4 days a week). I rested May 16th as recommended to donors. Went back to running on May 17th, well I attempted it anyway, and couldn’t finish my run. I struggled through 2 miles and every step was difficult. The next day the same thing. It has now been 9 days and I’m still not performing to my ability. I’m very upset that I wasn’t given better information at the blood bank. I have 2 young kids at home, and I’m even struggling keeping up with them right now. I feel like I changed overnight. I’m hoping to feel better soon. Reading your comments makes me feel better, I thought something was really going wrong with my body. I’m very in tune with myself physically and things just aren’t the same right now.

  18. pharmgirl says:

    Thank God this is not in my head! I have been running all my life off and on with increased milage over the last year to prepare for a marathon. I have done several half marathons with recent time PD (predonation)of 8-8 1/2 minutes for 7-8 miles or more. Easily 8 minutes during 3 minute mile runs, running 25-25 miles per week with recent fitness tests verifying excellent cardiovascular health. I am a smallish female of 120 lbs and 38 years old. I never really paid all that much attention of the effect of donating blood on my running until recently and whoa Nelly! I can hardly make a 9 minute mile a week later while my husband, who also runs and gave blood, recovered in 2-3 days. I honestly think it will take me another 2-3 weeks at least. So I calculated the blood volume lost for me and it was greater than 10%….I didn’t lose that much in childbirth! Warnings need to be given as my heartrate was dangerously high (190) while running the week after donating! I probably will not donate again if I plan to run in the next 3 weeks…

  19. Old Badger says:

    Hi, the Old Badger finally returns. I’ve donated platelets twice since my last posting and was fine the next day both time. Last Thursday I donated 2 units of platelets (actual donation took about 1.25 hours) in the afternoon. I had the next day, Friday, off and since I’m training for a marathon I went for a long run Friday morning. Twelve hours after finishing my platelets donation I ran 22 miles and felt fine (except for the effects of the 22 miles). I would have to say, from my limited experience, that donating platelets has no noticable effect on running performance. If you want to be a good runner and a good person donate platelets when you are training and racing hard and donate whole blood during the “off season.” Encourage your non-running family and friends to donate whole blood year-round.

  20. Susanne says:

    I’m so glad I found this! I exercise regularly, but I don’t perform at any sort of competitive level. My iron is usually borderline, and they usually have to centrifuge a sample to see if I’m over the cutoff or not. The last 2 times I donated, I felt absolutely awful all week afterwards. I got winded just going up one flight of stairs! And this even though I increased my intake of of iron-rich foods for days before. I donated monday, and I haven’t tried to exercise yet. At least I know its not just me!

  21. Kevin says:

    There is something new that the Red Cross is doing now that you should be aware of. I gave my first donation when I was 18, 30 years ago. I never noticed any effect on my running unitl last week when I gave what the Red Cross called a “double red-cell” donation. Basically, they centrifuge the red cells out and put the rest back. You only donate a unit of fluid, but almost all of that is red cells. The effect on my running has been devastating. I ran 10 miles the day before my donation at a 9:00/mile pace. I have not been able to hold that pace since my donation, and I have not been able to go more than 3 miles without walking. I don’t now yet how long it will be until I am back to normal.

  22. Debbie says:

    Add me to the list of runners with huge performance issues after blood donation. I basically run every day 3-4 miles a day and a 5K almost every single weekend. Well, the morning after my blood donation I attempted a 5K as usual, didn’t get quite a mile before I had to stop. I couldn’t get my breath and was so light headed that everything was gray. I moved to the side of the pack and held on to a street sign until my vision cleared a bit, then turned around and walked back to the start – got in my car and sat there until I felt well enough to drive home. This is the first time I’ve not finished a race of any distance and I’ve run them all up to and including half marathons. The scariest part was that when I got home after this event, I took my blood pressure with a top quality monitor and couldn’t get a pressure the first two times I tried. The third time I finally got a reading – 61/50! Pulse 101. Incredible. My normal resting pulse rate is 60. BP about 108/78. My morning workouts have been horrendous for the past two weeks since and I’ve avoided racing for the past two weeks because of this. I’m trying to get a handle on this, but had trouble finding info until I found this site. I’m supposed to race tomorrow, but I’ll see how I feel in the morning and go from there. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone out there…

  23. Ralph says:

    Thanks for validating my concerns. Another unhappy runner WRT to donations and lost endurance. I’ve been an avid runner and blood donor for twenty years.

    On Friday, I went to a local blood drive. Sizing me up (6’1″, 195#), they asked if I’d be interested in donating “double red blood cells.” After a little education, I agreed. The education did not include a word about the effects of endurance and I was still in running clothes from a run an hour previous. The next day, I played racquetball with a neighbor. Five minutes into the game, I was moving like a turtle and breathing similar to my hike of Mt Shasta (elev 14,142′) a month before. Immediately, I related it to the donation because I’d never before given twice the RBCs. In denial, I played racquetball again today with the same results. He smoked me all three games. Still in denial, I attempted a three mile run – I finally gave in and walked after ten minutes and a pitiful pace.

    I’ve never had a huge performance drop after a single unit donation. After a week, I’m typically back to my normal pace. However, I doubt I’ll give “double” again while I’m so active. I’m fearing a long recovery time after reading some of the other comments. Granted, the blood centers may conveniently omit this information to bolster recruitment efforts, they ought to realize donors overstressed tickers will one day result in taking a life when their mission is to save them.

    Note to the readers. I’m still a strong advocate of donating blood. I believe it’s an extremely important civic duty to those capable donors. However, this forum validates the need to time donations in conjunction with your personal training goals.

  24. Bob says:

    Thanks for this site. I gave single blood in Jan, March and May 06 and noticed no effects in my morning runs. Then I gave double red August 10 via the Alyx system.
    The next day my normal running commute of 4.5 mile very hilly run of 33 minutes (garmin 101) turned into 38 minutes and I had to walk two hills. I’ve done this run 500+ times without walking (except when it is raining and I lose traction).
    Also, I have a 6 mile rolling hill course that I ran in 39 minutes twice in the previous two weeks took 42 minutes one week after the double red.
    It is almost four weeks later now and I’m down to 35 minutes on my 4.5 mile hilly run and I’m not walking anymore, but still tough to get up the hills. My legs have energy, just no air.

  25. Bobby says:

    I gave blood yesterday, after giving it serious consideration. I’ve had difficulty with giving in the past; just wooziness I guess, though I never passed out. They even made me lie down and put wet paper towels on my head and elevated my feet (I was mortified since everyone around watched) Anyway, it’s been about 5 years and thought I’d give it a try, and I would just make it that day a rest-day, running wise. So I went running today, 1 day later. I couldn’t run to the 2 mile mark (halfway), without stopping and stopped 2 more times. I felt horrible and could tell my heart-rate was high. Mind you that I had run this same route 2 days before without stopping and felt fine. So absolutely, not having those red blood cells must make a huge difference. Thank-you to all you who have helped me to see it’s not in my head!

  26. Reno Guy says:

    In case someone needs one more person to chime in to convince them that donating blood can affect performance…
    I am training for the Honolulu Marathon in December and following Hal Higdon’s Advanced I training schedule. I was feeling great, doing speedwork 1 day a week was comfortably running 12+ miles at an 8 min/mile pace. I gave a double red blood cell donation on Friday. And now I feel like I’m climbing Everest just trying to maintain a 9 min/mile pace on flat runs! I struggled to finish a 16 mile long run on Sunday, and I’m taking the rest of the week off. I’m afraid I’m going to get really sick. Every time I run I feel worse.
    I, like other contributors, am a big advocate of donating blood. My daughter spent two weeks in the NICU and needed 7 blood transfusions when she was born. If it weren’t for blood donations, she would be dead. I can certainly live with a few weeks of being slow to know that I may be saving someone’s life. At the same time, I think people should at least know that their training may suffer dramatically with a blood donation. Especially that darned double red blood cell donation. I’ll never do that again. You aren’t really donating more blood by doing the double donation anyway because you have to wait twice as long to donate again anyway! If you’re a runner (or any endurance athlete), don’t donate right before a race. And stay away from the double donation. But don’t stop donating.

  27. Ron F says:

    Hey all,
    Being a freshman this could be a rookie mistake but last wednesday i got suckered into the double red blood cell donation. i love giving blood and since i gave it last spring during lacrosse season with no effects i decided it wouldnt be that bad to give it during XC season this year. When i got to the donation center the lady told me that the double RBC donation would leave me more hydrated and i would feel much better than someone giving whole blood. well she was wrong, i went to practice an hour later for a light run and felt pretty tired, but not terrible, and i thought id be alright. That saturday i raced an 8k in bostons Franklin park for New England championships, a huge race with all the schools in new england, including the ivy leagues, and boy was that a nightmare. i had absolutely nothing in my legs, i was breathing hard and could not keep up, i went from running a 28:45 8k (5 miles) the week before to running a 30:45 on a relatively flat course, it was ridiculous. in a workout yesterday, i couldnt keep up with a pace i was killing the day before my donation. the overnight effects were astounding. later my coach said there was a chance i threw away my cross country season. Im fighting to make it back for league championships but don’t know if thats possible. once again, if ur a serious runner, stay away from the double red blood cell donation in season, its not a good idea.

  28. drew says:

    I have had the same problem with double red Alyx donation. Any ideas for counteracting its effects?

    No problems with regular donations.

  29. kathleen says:

    Typically I can run 10 miles no problem on any given day, however, my hemoglobin levels are typically low (between 10-13) and after I donate blood, I do feel as though I have “sluggish” runs. Hydration is not usually an issue, since I drink about 3 liters of water a day and can donate a unit in about 4 mins! I am female, 5’4 and 125lbs with some muscle as I lift weights too. Hope this helps.

  30. Terry says:

    Ditto on Reno Guy. The double Alex will put a serious crimp in training, and worse in competition for at least two weeks. The first day is OK but the next 4 or 5 are no fun. Seems to accumulate for a short while, like running at altitude. Not much you can to do to speed the recovery up, but lots of iron (red meat, spinach, etc.)helps a little. Liquids don’t do much, assuming you drink adequately already. I feel for you Ron, but that was a doozie and I can’t beleive they let you donate during season. I’m all for donating; I think the trick is timing it when you need a break (maybe during light injury).

  31. Geoff says:

    I went for a 4.05 mile run today, the day after donating a pint of blood to the red cross
    I completed it in 19:18, very fast but about 15 seconds slower then usual (before)
    But the main difference is that I had to stop every 2 minutes
    wereas before I could do it countiuously
    and now my head hurts worst then after a tough 800m race all out
    it was weird, I couldn’t really place the source of tiredness, I just lacked the desire to run, and the pace felt much more intense then it should have

  32. scott says:

    It’s nice to see active people donating blood. Blood donation is always in high demand, and certainly not enough eligible poeple do it.

    I have been doing apheresis every month for three years and donate red blood cells whenever my levels allow. I still participate in marathons, triathlons, and Alcatraz swims. I know there will be an effect after a donation, especially after donating RBCs, but I use this as a part of my training to make me work harder. I know my performance will be that much better once my fluids have completely recovered from the donation.

    A small amount of time added to a run is small in comparison to the benefits gained by a cancer patient or a patient in surgery after an accident by receiving your healthy blood!

    Keep donating and keep training!

  33. Laura says:

    I just searched “blood donation and running” and this blog came up. I’m glad that other people had concerns about it. I donated blood yesterday afternoon and just got back from a run today and felt awful. I run my dog 3 miles a day and do long runs on the weekend. Today, I was 15 minutes into the run and felt awful. My legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds and my breathing felt shallow and painful. I ended walking for several minutes before finishing the last mile. I suppose it had an effect on me because I’m only 120 pounds which is right at the limit where you actually can donate a whole pint. I guess I’ll just have to take it easy this week and maybe run a little slower. Ugh.

    However, unless I am training for a long race, I will continue to give blood. We all are making a wonderful and small sacrifice. For this tiny inconvenience, we can save someone’s life. I’ll try to keep that in mind when I’m angry about my 10 minute mile pace!

    Good luck everyone!

  34. Curt says:

    I’ve been regularly running for many years. I’ve never run a 5k under 21:00. I ran a marathon in 2003 with a time around 5:40:00. I participate in races about 1 per month, sometimes 2. I also regulary donate blood. I can definately feel the impact of blood donations on my running performance. If I trained as hard as I could, I still wont come in first, so what’s the point? In my opinion, it’s more important to donate blood and maybe save a life than worry about beating the next runner. In races, I’m just there to participate and have fun running with friends.

  35. Kevin says:

    I donated double red cells on Thursday morning, and went for a 4 mile run at night, noticing that I was slower, sluggish, and just generally felt like walking. By contrast, on Tuesday I’d had a great, fast run on the same trail.
    Its Friday night now, and normally I’d go do my planned run of 3 miles, and then 8 tomorrow, but I think if I miss tonight tomorrow will be better. Its just how I feel, which is unusual.

    I’ve experienced this before with the double red blood cell donation, but its worth it. Anyone who can donate is lucky, and it takes something special that you can’t just reach into your wallet to provide. Also, the double red blood lessens the chance of someone catching a disease or something from the blood, since they might only need one donor (or at least fewer).

    Just chalk it up to a little more of a free gift to folks in need. My race isn’t until May, and I won’t do this again until June.

  36. learningtorun says:

    Thanks for all the info. Now, at least I feel human.

  37. worledl says:

    I gave blood yesterday after running 6 miles in 40 minutes and having run 40 miles last week. I planned to run 6 miles at easy pace today as i recover but couldn’t run 4 miles at ANY pace. Problem is I am in middle of training for Boston Marathon and don’t have 2 months to recover from donation. I may have realized too late not to donate while in training!

  38. Jessica Pigg says:

    I just wanted to add on to my previous blog, and another lady’s. A woman earlier in this sequence said that after giving blood and running, she had a very high heart rate. I am curious to know why the red cross does not inform people especially teenagers of the ill effects and dangers of giving blood and then exerting yourself in an extremely strenuous activity like running. I said before my sister gave blood before a state qualifing meet. She looked horrible(deathly) and it caused her to lose her race. It kind of angers me, not that she lost the race, but that her heart rate was dangerously high just as the other girl who left her blog. I said the blood drive for my sister was required for class and being her senior year, she could not afford not to do it. I have to wonder if all the athletes who end up dropping dead of heart attacks,(as young as they are) are not giving blood before these games. The red cross has a duty to inform these kids that endurance is temporarily lost and not to exert themselves in strenuous activities until they are back to normal. The reason these athletes feel light headed running after giving blood is because the red blood cells carry their oxygen and with less red blood cells (which take time to reproduce, even though most people believe they will be back to “normal” levels within a day or two,)there is less oxygen.

  39. Roger S says:

    I was just glad to find this site with the comments. I’m a beginner runner (working on getting more run than walk in each 5 minutes) and was wondering what the heck happened to me this past weekend. The legs were heavy and the breathing tough and I was wondering if I was just wimping out. Now I just chalk it up to giving double red on Friday and keep on pluggin’. When I think about it, something must happen after giving blood because they require you to wait 4 months before giving double reds again. Thanks again. (But I will wait until after the marathon before I give blood again.)

  40. Pradeep says:

    Hi! I started jogging two years back and make sure to run thrice a week and finished Auckland half Marathon in 1hr.47min.I was shocked to hear all runners comments about blood donation.It is interesting to note all negative comments about blood donation for runners.Please understand blood donation is saving a life not peak performance.I do agree there is a impact but how many of us are champs who think that we are going to win a medal. I personally feel saving life is more important than jogging or running.Joggers need to inspire people about good health and helping people if required. I have taken jogging for good health,happiness and release of stress.All this comments about iron/jogging will make people to against blood donation. I think most of the people will have some minor health issues but this type of articles will reflect totally negative about donation. Please in the interest of society we need to keep refrain from commenting or publishing this article.

    With regards

    Pradeep Chandak

  41. Frank says:

    I’m so thrilled to have found this page. This morning was the first I’d learned of Double Red Donations. I theorized the dramatic loss of RBCs might negatively affect the fatigue which has gripped me in as little as half a block of adrenalized (crisis) running. (I was trying to catch the last bus which could get me where I needed to be.) Such a crisis situation is unlike my regular 2 hour YMCA Cardio-room workout. The Cardio room involves holding a targetted heart rate on equipment like treadmills, bikes, and steppers. My endurance on these machines has been improving but not as well as I’d sometimes expected. About 5 years ago I set rudimentary targets for key nutritional elements. I clearly set my target for iron way too low, even for a 40 year old male. As a direct result of having read this page I’m readjusting my target from about 15mg per day to 50 mg per day. This will clearly allow me to feel much less hesitant about both spinach and liver. Much like the exhaustion Debbie wrote of and much like in Bob’s comment of having energy but no air, I theorize my low iron exhausted me within half a block of crisis despite 2 hour YMCA endurance.

    I wonder if cautiously-bulking-up on iron rich foods a week before a Double Red donation might help runners minimize any critical recovery times or other adversity from donating.

  42. Frank says:

    I’m so thrilled to have found this page. This morning was the first I’d learned of Double Red Donations. I theorized the dramatic loss of RBCs might negatively affect the fatigue which has gripped me in as little as half a block of adrenalized (crisis) running. (I was trying to catch the last bus which could get me where I needed to be.) Such a crisis situation is unlike my regular 2 hour YMCA Cardio-room workout. The Cardio room involves holding a targetted heart rate on equipment like treadmills, bikes, and steppers. My endurance on these machines has been improving but frequently not as well as I’d expected. About 5 years ago I set rudimentary targets for key nutritional elements. I clearly set my target for iron way too low, even for a 40 year old male. As a direct result of having read this page I’m readjusting my target from about 15mg per day to 50mg per day. This will clearly allow me to feel much less hesitant about both spinach and liver. Much like the exhaustion Debbie wrote of and much like in Bob’s comment of having energy but no air, I theorize low iron (like vacant RBCs)exhausted me within half a block of crisis despite 2 hour YMCA endurance.

    I wonder if cautiously-bulking-up on iron rich foods a week before a Double Red donation might help runners minimize any critical recovery times or other adversity from donating.

  43. rose says:

    I’m 37, 5’1″, 108 lbs, in good mental and physical health, and I’ve run all my life, anywhere between 2-4 times a week for ~4-5 miles.

    I donated blood for the first time last week because I finally meet the weight criteria. It was a great experience, as everyone was so nice, and the process was incredibly easy/simple. Afterwards, I was told not to participate in any activities for the rest of the day that would raise my heart rate. I understood this because I know that the blood they took needs to to be replenished within my system, and furthermore the heme in my blood is the oxygen-carrying component that I will temporarily be depleted of. I was also told to drink plenty of fluids, as water is crucial to overall metabolism/anabolism/catabolism, and that’s no problem, as I always stay well-hydrated.

    A couple of days later, I tried to go on my usual run, and I could barely get through the first mile without feeling totally exhausted and as if I couldn’t either expand my chest enough to take in air or that my body couldn’t process and utilize the oxygen coming in. I also had a mild headache after I started my run. The exact same thing happened to me today, 3 days later, and I ended up just walking the five miles, trying desperately to run again, but I just couldn’t. I still felt exhausted and as if I just couldn’t get enough oxygen to see me through.

    Now, I am not trying to put blood donation in a negative light, as Pradeep seems to think we are. Rather, I want folks to be aware of what can occur so that we can prepare accordingly. And, as Pradeep seems to think we are being selfish about holding off or re-configuring our blood donation options, let me leave a quick note as the healthcare provider I am (instead of the soapbox I could really get into). If I, as a donor, cannot participate in activites that keep me healthy in all respects, my health will decline. Looking at this in the long run, if enough folks allow themselves to decline in health, we will ultimately place greater impact upon the health system due to the fact that we neglected primary illness prevention and will then have to tax health resources by way of secondary and tertiary prevention. Joggers cannot “inspire people about good health and helping people if required” if they themselves fall prey to their own good intentions. As with patient care, we cannot care for our patients if we allow ourselves to become ill.

    I think, Pradeep, you focused too much on a couple of comments rather than noticing that most of the people give high regard to blood donation by promoting it and giving suggestions as to how to accomodate the donations into their lives. There are many great contributions we as individuals can make to our society, blood donation being just one of them. However, one must also be aware of what could potentially happen, not to scare anyone, deny anyone, or to find reason to be selfish and walk away, for the consequences of some procedure may significantly affect a person. Those who cannot or decide not to give blood may provide other societal contributions. I bet you drive a car. Now, if you were to stop (every little bit helps), you would help to deplete our very polluted air of toxins that contribute a great deal to respiratory problems (definitely life-threatening!). You looked into and stayed in the vacuum of a handful of comments and put your bias on it and didn’t realize how hypocritical your comments are. What else do you do that ultimately contributes to diminishing the quality of life of all, and ultimately causes for increased illness and mortality?

  44. rose says:

    I’m 37, 5’1″, 108 lbs, in good mental and physical health, and I’ve run all my life, anywhere between 2-4 times a week for ~4-5 miles.

    I donated blood for the first time last week because I finally meet the weight criteria. It was a great experience, as everyone was so nice, and the process was incredibly easy/simple. Afterwards, I was told not to participate in any activities for the rest of the day that would raise my heart rate. I understood this because I know that the blood they took needs to to be replenished within my system, and furthermore the heme in my blood is the oxygen-carrying component that I will temporarily be depleted of. I was also told to drink plenty of fluids, as water is crucial to overall metabolism/anabolism/catabolism, and that’s no problem, as I always stay well-hydrated.

    A couple of days later, I tried to go on my usual run, and I could barely get through the first mile without feeling totally exhausted and as if I couldn’t either expand my chest enough to take in air or that my body couldn’t process and utilize the oxygen coming in. I also had a mild headache after I started my run. The exact same thing happened to me today, 3 days later, and I ended up just walking the five miles, trying desperately to run again, but I just couldn’t. I still felt exhausted and as if I just couldn’t get enough oxygen to see me through.

    Now, I am not trying to put blood donation in a negative light, as Pradeep seems to think we are. Rather, I want folks to be aware of what can occur so that we can prepare accordingly. And, as Pradeep seems to think we are being selfish about holding off or re-configuring our blood donation options, let me leave a quick note as the healthcare provider I am (instead of the soapbox I could really get into). If I, as a donor, cannot participate in activites that keep me healthy in all respects, my health will decline. Looking at this in the long run, if enough folks allow themselves to decline in health, we will ultimately place greater impact upon the health system due to the fact that we neglected primary illness prevention and will then have to tax health resources by way of secondary and tertiary prevention. Joggers cannot “inspire people about good health and helping people if required” if they themselves fall prey to their own good intentions. As with patient care, we cannot care for our patients if we allow ourselves to become ill.

    I think, Pradeep, you focused too much on a couple of comments rather than noticing that most of the people give high regard to blood donation by promoting it and giving suggestions as to how to accomodate the donations into their lives. There are many great contributions we as individuals can make to our society, blood donation being just one of them. However, one must also be aware of what could potentially happen, not to scare anyone, deny anyone, or to find reason to be selfish and walk away, for the consequences of some procedure may significantly affect a person. Those who cannot or decide not to give blood may provide other societal contributions. I bet you drive a car. Now, if you were to stop (every little bit helps), you would help to deplete our very polluted air of toxins that contribute a great deal to respiratory problems (definitely life-threatening!). You looked into and stayed in the vacuum of a handful of comments and put your bias on it and didn’t realize how hypocritical your comments are. What else do you do that ultimately contributes to diminishing the quality of life of all, and ultimately causes for increased illness and mortality?

  45. Jessica Pigg says:

    I don’t think anyone has anything bad to say about blood donation. It is a very important contribution to the field of medicine, and health in general. I would never suggest that. I am just glad that there is a site like this for athletes to use as a source of information. Many people make a good point. If you are not a serious athlete and your running is just for health benefits, by all means give blood. If your college scholarships that you have worked for years to obtain are on the line, it might be better to donate a few weeks prior to or after your event. I believe that the information on this site is an important resource for people. How can you adequately prepare for something, or make an informed decision without information? I also do not believe that it is selfish to put your own health first by preparing and not over exerting yourself right after blood donation.

  46. Jessica Pigg says:

    I don’t think anyone has anything bad to say about blood donation. It is a very important contribution to the field of medicine, and health in general. I would never suggest that. I am just glad that there is a site like this for athletes to use as a source of information. Many people make a good point. If you are not a serious athlete and your running is just for health benefits, by all means give blood. If your college scholarships that you have worked for years to obtain are on the line, it might be better to donate a few weeks prior to or after your event. I believe that the information on this site is an important resource for people. How can you adequately prepare for something, or make an informed decision without information? I also do not believe that it is selfish to put your own health first by preparing and not over exerting yourself right after blood donation.

  47. Mike H. says:

    I experienced a similar problem with a double-red donation this week. While I have given blood in the past, I had never given double-red before. On Monday, I went for a 2-mile run in the morning, then gave blood in the afternoon. Wednesday morning, I did a weight work-out, followed by a workout on a stationary bike. While my weight work-out was almost normal (some of the repetitions were fairly difficult, but I had not done this specific workout in a while), the bike whipped me pretty badly. I usually run rather than bike, but excessively high temperatures in the region convinced me to go for the bike instead.

    Not to be outdone, I decided to try to conquer the bike again on Thursday evening – and the bike won again. I had to take some breaks twice and drop the level in order to complete the workout. I was fairly disappointed in my performance at the time.

    I took a break Friday, then went for a two-mile run again this morning, followed by a longer weight session. I didn’t notice any drop off at all today, but I didn’t time my two-mile run (which I normally do), so there may have been a drop. It didn’t seem noticeably different. (My two-mile times are typically in the 13:30 range – certainly not up there with the more elite athletes that have posted previously).

    The biggest problem I have been having – and the reason I was searching for a correlation – is that I have been extremely fatigued since Monday. I am typically a person who is energetic most of the day and have been doing graduate-degree work (on top of my regular job) most evenings. The fatigue factor has had me going to bed earlier and totally exhausted every night, which is not normal. I didn’t even think about relating the stationary bike’s triumphs over me as something tied to the double-red donation. I am concerned, since I am part of a “study group” where I will get my VO2 levels checked in about two weeks and it will be compared to the levels I had last year. Prior to giving the double red, I think I would have done better. Now – after reading this site and some of the links posted – it may take 2-4 months to get my VO2 back to normal. One of the articles mentioned that the VO2 levels dropped 10% from a regular blood donation, and were still 7% down after one week. My understanding is the double red replenished fluids quickly (by adding saline with your returned plasma), but takes out twice the number of red blood cells – meaning your VO2 rate is probably closer to 20% low after donation! This could have a major impact.

    I will be sure to mention the double red donation when I get my VO2 checked again. From reading most of the information above (and from my own experience), I don’t think that a standard blood donation (or most of the other special donation – like platelets, etc) has as long of an impact – particularly with my own experience with standard donations. The fatigue I am experiencing after the Double Red, however, is probably due to the significant loss of red blood cells. This certainly should be a consideration – and should be highlighted by the Red Cross (or United Blood Services, who I used) as a potential side effect so we can all make informed decisions about the type of blood donation to make when giving blood.

  48. justin says:

    ahh this is great! i gave blood using ALYX on monday and i went for a 2 mile run today and it was WAY harder than usual.

    i finished but the whole time i was thinking i should quit, especially after realizing (about halfway through the run) that it was probably because of giving blood that i was so tired.

    anyways all your comments have definitely given me peace about not being a total wuss. thanks!

    (btw, i was part of the American Red Cross club at Cal and i think donating blood GREAT! I think the stat they post on their website is “IF ALL DONORS DONATED BLOOD ONCE MORE EACH YEAR, THERE WOULD BE NO BLOOD SHORTAGES”, crazy!)

  49. Ken Evans says:

    Some results for you & without the PC / majority comments. BTW, we are all donators here – preaching to the chior!

    Also, such information is critical to those like me who were considering going the doctors only to face a determination / prescription that would have only made matters worse. An athlete takes hours and hours to manipulate a few seconds over their time. Considering what a doctor considers criteria for a visit certainly would involve a change in heart rate / BP / performance times that we see with blood donation – specifically:

    (How important is this blog / website for advancing (informing the medical community) – thus putting others to work for an antedote.)

    I log my heart rate and times for all runs / bike rides / swims. I also log the effect of temperatures, wind, allergies, stress, sleep loss, sex, previous workouts, shoes, tire pressure, etc for each workout. Aim small, miss small (I sound like a typical engineer, no?).

    Nothing other than a sudden onset of the flue could explain the impact of giving double red last week.

    On my off days, I can expect a heart rate increase of 2-3 bpm when combining variables for any given work out. My heart rate the next couple of days after giving double red was up 10 bpm! Now, you assumed to maintain my pace – no, there is no maintaining my pace – I had to slow down in addition to an increased heart rate. I wanted to sleep after the workout instead of experiencing the adrenaline rush. I gave 8/30 pm, awful 8 miles the next day (same results as nearly 1 year ago – after a year of 5 – 6 days a week training) then 2 days off (I’ve only take 2 days off for sickness.. 3 times in the last year). Ran, still not good, then biked my difficult route the next day. I bike and run near most other’s race pace, and I had to check my bike twice on the ride to see if there was something wrong with the bike.

    In the end: Day 6 after giving double red, unlike day 5, I feel improved such that I’m enjoying the workout & if careful, I can complete it without going anaerobic. I’m about where I was 4 months ago.

    This has been an awful week for me, but now knowing why, everything is changed. I will continue reading for any insights (backed by experience) that other’s can offer in mitigating the effect of giving blood on exercise – oh and to see if the medical community is going to take note of what the blog / website has now brought to light.

  50. Ken Evans says:

    Day 7 after giving double red:

    (My only other entry was the last one, 9/4/07, where I neglected to type “moral” for moral majority regarding other’s input about whether we should still give blood.

    Day 7: Maybe off a bit, but may not be noticed if all other conditions are good. More than anything else, heart rate is back where it should be.. still seems a bit O2 short in larger muscles – but no more than what you can expect from soreness from the day before.

    All and all, Day 6 was a marked improvement over the slow recovery & Day 7 is almost 100%. Prior to this, expect to have to alter your plans to reduce the intensity & certainly the length of your workouts. Up to & including day 6 was iffy with heart rate, but not day 7.

    Drink fluids, take iron & supplements for 2 weeks after giving double red, I can’t speak for single-unit giving.

  51. Dave Torick says:

    Double Red experience…

    Like everyone else I was surprised by the impact of the donation on my performance. I have a lot of hills in my bikes and run and really had to slow the pace down. However, I don’t see this as a problem.

    I trained through, listening to my body and decreasing my effort when appropriate for weeks. It was the beginning of August when I gave my donation. By the end of August, I was swimming like I never had since HS, and doing fine on the bike and run. I went to a half-ironman and dropped 32 minutes from my previous PR. Yes I am lighter, about 8 pounds, yes I have had more hill training, but could my body have adapted to the decrease in red-blood cells and become more efficient?

    I plan to do another double red when my time comes at the end of Nov., it will be after a few races I am training for, and I will be planning on just training for a few months. I will probably have the same concept of just going out and accepting that I will not perform as well, and then hopefully I will see marked improvement again as my body “compensates. Just an opinion but I will give it a try again.

    Regardless it is good to donate no matter what or how much you give, we are lucky to have the health we do!

  52. Rick Nixon says:

    I’m a jerk, I’m a jerk, I’m a jerk. There, I said it three times, and now I know that I just didn’t get old overnight. OK, I am old, 53-M, but I was putting up respectable times and training fairly hard. I donated blood on Sept 27th and expected the effects to only last about a week. I rested on the 28th and ran an easy 3-mile jog on the 29th with no apparent effect. On Sept. 30th the bottom fell out! Running a 10K race, I was close to normal as I approached the 4-mile mark. Just over 4M I started breathing a little faster and harder with the legs starting to get heavy. Running on flat terrain, I felt like I was climbing hills. Suddenly at 4 1/4 miles my calf cramped up forcing me to walk for nearly a half mile. I forced myself to jog the last mile.

    I rested; cross trained, and rehabbed my calf for the next week and went for some short easy runs of 2 to 3 miles the following week. The calf felt good, but my lungs felt like I was recovering from a bad cold. As I picked up my mileage, trying to get back to my regular 35 miles/week, I felt like I was running with a weight vest on my back. I felt like I had not run in years and was just starting out again. There was no spring in my legs. I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. I felt OLD! So I called the blood center where I had made my donation. They assured me that what I was feeling had nothing to do with my donation and that I must have picked up some bug that was wearing me down. It was only when they reminded me that I could make another donation in “56 days after my last donation” that the light bulb in my head lit up. 56 days? What was with the “56”, it seemed like an odd number. I mean, 50 or 60, they are nice round numbers. Well they told me it takes 56 days for you to fully recover from a single whole blood (RBC) donation and 112 days for a double red donation. I have no idea what was said after that, because I just stared at the calendar and the “Philadelphia 26.2” penciled in for November 18th. What a jerk!

    I haven’t been able to get in the miles I had planned on running and I have not been able to get in the 20 plus mile runs that I promised myself I would run before this marathon. After reading everyone’s comments, now I know why, and that I am not alone. Will I donate blood again? Sure, I just won’t shoot myself in the foot and do it when I am trying to train for a big race. What a Jerk! Why am I a jerk? I’m a jerk, because I didn’t ask all the questions I should have asked BEFORE I made the donation.

  53. Pingback: Re: My Red Blood Cells « Christopher Colaninno

  54. Miranda says:

    Thanks for all your comments this has really helped – tried to do cross country today after donating on Thursday and felt tired and lethargic. Blood doning is really important and I won’t stop – slowing down a bit for a limited time is a small inconveniance compared to me or a loved one bleeding to death because there are not enough donations – I’ll just take care when I do it.

  55. Shana says:

    I’ve always been a recreational runner and decided last August to start training for my first marathon. Everything has been going really well and the last couple weeks of training have been great.
    Then I donated whole blood last Friday (1/4). I took that day off and tried (the next day) to start with my “easy” runs that are called for in my week-before-race schedule. Well, easy had my wanting to cry at 1.5 miles. I felt like I weighed 500 pounds and smoked 5 packs a day. I let it go and attempted the same thing on 1/7. And it was EXACTLY the same thing. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I’m at 3 liters of water a day and have been eating really well. I called my brother this morning (long-time runner and blood donor) and he explained the problems of donating and running. I started searching the internet and found this site, among others. I’ve never been more upset at myself. I guess I learned a lesson, but I am so unbelievably scared for the race this Sunday.
    Thanks, though, to all of you for letting me know I’m not alone.

  56. Brendan says:

    I just donated blood and used the ALYX system; donating double red blood cells. The last two times I have been running, I am completely wiped out after a mile or two and I usually run 3-5 miles on the treadmill. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I came to this site. Now I am convinced that donating extra this time is effecting my running. It is quite frustrating. Next time I plan just to donate a single pint without the ALYX system.

  57. Greg says:

    Been running 3-4 miles a day in about 30 mins. Finally getting back to a decent run time after dedicating a few months to bulking up with weights. Donated red blood cells saturday the 19th with the ALYX machine, rested saturday and sunday. Ran 1.5 miles on monday and was finished. Thought I was getting sick or something. After further reading (online references and such)I realized it will take a week or more to reach the same time goals again. I remember Donating the double RBC last year around the same time but don’t recall being so drained afterwards.
    I also read that the ocassional donation has a accelerating affect on the cardio vascular. system. Thanks to the wonders of the human body, the red cell production is accelerated when large losses are seen, that is if you are eating and resting properly. Quite frankly I think My joints need a little rest anyway.

  58. Dave says:

    I donated blood a week ago and have definitely seen (and felt!) a loss of performance in high intensity cycling. I do 3 times a week a 10km cycle on stationary bike set at random and level 18 and ALWAYS get under 20 mins. Two days after donating felt tired after just 5 mins and only managed 9kms absolutely gasping. Sub maximal cycling is not so affected – a cycle route I do fairly fast over mixed terrain usually takes an even hour. Yesterday it took one hour 5 minutes. I hope I will regain my usual fitness in another week or so as I am training to cycle round the Isle of Wight for charity in 6 weeks time which is 65 miles over very hilly terrain. I will definitely continue to donate blood but will be more careful re timing i.e. I will donate after the event not in the training lead up to it!

  59. Dennis says:

    I am 61 years old, have been running for 40 years and have donated whole blood many times without noticing any effect on my running. I currently run 3.5 miles three days a week, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. I always run as hard as I can, especially the final mile (about 7:30), with my heart rate reaching the high 160’s. Recently I donated on Wednesday morning after running and felt fine until Saturday. On Saturday, I labored the entire 3.5 miles and my time was over a minute slower than expected, the final mile alone about 35 seconds slower. Sunday was only slightly better. I could not figure out why, so I was naturally worried. Finally, I wondered whether it could be attributable to donating blood and was relieved when I discovered these postings. My hematocrit is always borderline (high 30’s) and my red blood count is always slightly low when (3.8 – 3.95) when I have blood work done. I agree that the mass of reading materials the Red Cross gives you to read prior to donating should include a warning that it can be expected to seriously affect your athletic performance for a period of time, if only for peace of mind.

  60. Tom Ruen says:

    In December I did an experiment on performance on a 5k before and after giving blood. Basically I had a near identical performance from predonation (2 days before) to 10 hours after, in similar subfreezing outdoor conditions. On 36 hours after donation, I held my pace for 2 miles and felt winded on the third mile and slowed by 20 seconds. After 4.5 days I did a good pace on the first mile, then felt winded and slowed by 40 seconds on the second and third mile. After that I was sort of psyched out and did two runs 7.5 and 10.5 days later, with similar results, starting the first mile nearly a minute slower, and finishing the last mile the fastest, but still finished 10 seconds below my average predonation pace.

    On the good side I found my heart rate similar to my predonation rate (for the slower paces), so it seems like something in me holds back when I don’t feel a comfortable equilibrium, and perhaps lower oxygen levels and heavier breathing was sending “panic” signals to my brain which I wasn’t used to. So I’m not sure how much slowing was necessary and how much was just feeling out of balance and not willing to test my limits like usual.

    I also did some experimenting after giving blood in early October, actually almost failed to give blood, being exactly at the lower limit (13.5). I ran a 1/2 marathon just over 3 weeks later. I figured a longer race doesn’t need as much oxygen so wouldn’t affect me as much as shorter races where I have to breath harder to do well. I ended up 3 minutes slower than 2 months earlier, and intentionally held back more for the first half race, and pushed strong and steady in the finish. I generally think I was still affected from the donating after 3 weeks.

    So the “same day” equal-performance is the most interesting result, and I conclude waiting 3 weeks is a good minimum before a race I want to do well in, BUT at easier paces, running was no problem.

  61. Mike B says:

    I’m a hard-core amateur athlete with a dedication to donating double. Here’s how I do it…

    I donate once at the end of my season, late summer to mid-fall (September) depending on my events and once again in January. Technically I can do about three a year, but I skip the summer donation.

    Recovery – I eat lots of red meat, drink loads of liquids, take the appropriate supplements, AND take a mandatory week off. I think of it as a great excuse to eat steak and go snowboarding!

    About seven years ago my 15 month old son caught the flu, that turned into pneumonia, and that led to more and more complications. We spent four weeks in ICU. It was touch and go for awhile. He noticeably turned around after a red (think oxygen) blood transfusion. After that, I committed to donating regularly.

    Every year during the winter months thousand of small children get sick. Every year blood donations make the difference. So I take a week off from my all-out athlete status. No big deal. We’re the lucky ones.

  62. mike BT says:

    i give blood regularly. 2 years ago i gave at 7:30 am and felt great. did a hard “spin” class at noon with no ill effects. had one glass of red wine with dinner at 6 pm, made it 20 steps and did a face plant onto the bedroom floor. never had anything like that happen before so went to see the doc. she said “you’re not 30 anymore—give your body time to recover. i am a distance cycler. like mike b above, i’m not going to stop giving blood, especially as the list of qualified donors gets smaller with travel advisories, mad cow etc…but i notice a fall-off in endurance for at least 2 weeks after a donation. it gives my friends an excuse to kick my butt…and also gives me an excuse to eat a little more and not feel guilty about the larger steak and the occasional piece of pie…

  63. Monish says:

    i run 6.40 miles/30 minute interval on the tread-mill and then some benchpress all week long. age about 34. donated blood and felt really light headed that day ( which was a friday). the next day was rest day too ,except an hour of tennis in the morning. on sunday , i hit for 2 hours well under my strength, then ran the hill ( 6 miles ). and on monday i was so weak , that i hit the bed at 2100 hrs. i don’t have any energy to work even with the extra pie.i will hold off donation if i am competing for sure.

  64. Steve says:

    I gave on Thursday night and raced a 5K this morning (Saturday). It was a flat course and I felt beat at 1.5m. Had to walk a couple of times between 2mi and 3mi. Funny part was that I didn’t think about giving blood and racing until I was sitting in the chair with the tube in my arm. I asked the nurse and she assured me that I “should be fine” as long as I hydrated properly. I think I could have consumed the office water cooler yesterday and not been hydrated enough. But, it was for a good cause and I still had fun today. It’s a lesson learned. I’m doing another 5K next week. I’ll take it easy on my runs this week and see how it goes.

  65. Aaron Miller says:

    I donate and run frequently and have (until recently) never noticed any side effects. However, after my last double red donation on June 3rd, I’m still feeling weak on my runs and unable to keep up with my normal running partners. It’s odd, I’ve given double red in the past with little noticeable effects, so I’m attributing it to getting older (I’m almost 41) and an effect of accumulated donations. So glad to have found this site and hear people’s stories and gather their data. It helps me explain to myself and my concerned running partners that it’s the temporary shortage of RBCs and not something more serious.

    I’m with those who feel that the benefits (life for others) far outweigh the drawbacks (me running slowly for a few weeks) and won’t stop either activity, but being informed is vital.

    I’ll take the info and time my donations around personally important athletic events. I’m also going to try some iron supplements and will post again once I start running back at pre-ALYX levels.

  66. rosieplichta says:

    Thank you all for this site. I am not a runner but I swim laps 3x a week. I donated blood and found that I stuggled with my heartrate and breathing the next day. It will take me a week to get back to normal, but someone here said we are the lucky ones–and that is the truth. I think though it does seriously affect performance. I agree that it is the gift of life, and so I think I will continue. I can work back up to where I was before, but the people who need the donations don’t have that option.

  67. Dave says:

    Very helpful site, I was struggling with my running and now am better informed on the side effects of blood donation and running.
    Like Dennis, #60, I too am an older runner, 65, and have run for 30 years, and donate R2 regularly. I have had minimal side effects until this last time. I donated 6 days before a hilly 5k and really felt awful. I had run the course 2 weeks before and felt fine. The comments above have helped me understand better. I will continue to donate, but maybe less frequent and I will avoid a time period when I am competing.
    I am assuming from your comments and my experience, that most of us mortals need about 16 weeks after donating to be 100%.
    I also agree with earlier comments that the Red Cross should publish some official finings or advisories on donating and running.

  68. Neil says:

    Add me to the list. I did my first double-red donation four days ago, Wednesday. Now also keep in mind that I did a weeklong cycling tour the week before, 500 miles in a week, then did a sprint triathlon, then had a couple more days off during which I rode 160 miles. I naturally had to slow my pace anyway with the mileage.

    Then after the donation, I did my usual daily 20 miles on the bike Thursday and Friday. My pace was slower, I figure owing to tired legs — fine. I really took it slower Friday. On Saturday, I did 27 and could push it just a little bit. Then today, Sunday, I planned a typical long ride, at first 60 miles; then I thought let’s keep it to 50. Went out, and I really struggled just to get 45 done, with no big change in weather.

    This came after I felt woozie after just three drinks at a barbecue Saturday — like I had to go and sit down. I had eaten well and everything.

    So especially after reading all this, I feel the double red donation combined with general fatigue to really knock me out today. I hope I can at keep up decent mileage the rest of this month. I’ll certainly keep in mind the timing of my donations, but there was a blood drive at work, and it’s sure hard to pass up that convenient opportunity to help people.

  69. Elliot says:

    I’m going to cry! I’m running the NY marathon in 2 weeks, and donated blood today. I had no idea! I thought i’d be fine in 24 hours, and now I’m so worried. I’m not super fast or an elite runner or anything (10 min. miles is what I do), but I worked so hard to get here! :(

  70. Lafe says:

    Hi Elliot. Don’t fret! If you didn’t do a double-red, you should be ok in two weeks. Make sure to drink lots of fluids!

  71. Kathy says:

    Came accross your blog when researching info for an article encouraging people to give blood for my running club newsletter.
    I live in the UK and give blood regularly through the National Blood Service (NBS). It seems that some of the problems arise with a high frequency of donations e.g 8 weeks between donations. The NBS do not allow another donation within 16 weeks, allowing time for the red blood cell count to recover. They also advise no strenuous exercise ( including hard physical work)in the day after giving blood – further info on
    The info I got from a Physician at NBS is that you will lose up to 10% of red blood cells, so in the first few days it will reduce exercise capacity up to 10%. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to replace the red blood cells, assuming a plentiful supply of iron. Allow at least 24 hours to replace the blood volume, with a plentiful supply of fluids, before running again.

    I agree that there has not been much info specifically aimed at runners, and as runners are mostly fit and healthy, as well as being altruistic, more runners would give blood if they were clearer about the affect on performance and what they could do help recovery. I agree that it is a good reason to get some good quality red meat into my diet to boost iron consumption.

    I hadn’t heard of double red donation before reading your blog

  72. Rich says:

    I just found this blog. I’ve suspected that whole blood doantions can, for a short while impede running and swimming performance. However, I usually talk myself back into donating as the donation is good for society. It’s so Zen like, you don’t know who gets it or what the circumstances are.

    I just did a double red donation not more than 2 hours ago. I’ve been training for a long distance open water swim that will take place in June of 2009 and have been swimming up to 10 miles per week. Hopefully, somewhere in January 2009 I will be back up to distance and speed. I wish I had seen the blog earlier. Oh well…. I guess my “…experiment of one…” continues.

  73. Tom L says:

    Similar story. I am a 45 year old male – 6’1″ and 200 lbs. I’ve kept a running log for years and have always noted a substantial loss of endurance and slowing of times in the weeks after blood donation. My typical recovery to pre-donation performance is about 4 weeks (not that I am into performane – 8-9 minute miles / 20 miles per week). Never have I been able to validate others issues with this until now, so I am thankful for this forum. I will continue to donate, but truly feel the Red Cross is negligent in not warning potential donors of this in the pre-read literature.

  74. Ace says:

    I’m 55 and finished a 10K (with an uphill finish) by passing four people. Then, the following Monday, I made a donation of whole blood. The next Saturday I seriously considered walking halfway into a 5K on a flat course. I managed to finish in 25:42, which is okay for me, but I had no passing ability at the finish. I give blood four or five times a year, but until I saw this site, I never knew this was impacting my endurance.

  75. JP says:

    I’m all for donating blood, but the Red Cross needs to provide info on this. I donate double red twice a year. I did a donation on March 26, and took the day off from working out. Then I did a cardio workout on the evening of March 27 and I felt terrible. I just couldn’t sustain my normal intensity. Then I went for a run today (March 28) and got my butt kicked. I was hoping to do five miles, but I only did four, and was much slower than usual. A week ago, I ran 6.5 miles without any problem. I’m trying to get ready for a half marathon in mid-May, so if I don’t bounce back fairly quickly, this could be a real problem. If I had known, I would have held off on my donation until after the half marathon. Or I might have just done a normal donation that wouldn’t have taken so many red blood cells. I’m fairly angry about this. The Red Cross did not give me enough information to make an informed decision, and – frankly – it makes me wonder what else I’m not being told.

  76. Oblivion says:

    Here’s a chart of pace and heart rate from two recent runs – before and after donating. It’s not scientifically rigorous, but it makes you go, “Hmmmm.” (See the description for more details/explanation).

  77. Brett says:

    Wow I am so glad I found this blog, as it confirms my suspicions. I have been training for months, running and lifting weights, to prepare for the Marine Corps Officer Candidate’s School, which I will be attending in May. My performance in running has been increasingly steadily, and last week I was able to run 6 miles at 7:05/mile pace.

    Yesterday I decided it would be a good idea to donate a “Double Red Cell” unit. I asked the Red Cross people very specifically whether this would affect my athletic performance over the next few days and was assured that it would not.

    Today, though, I went out for a 5 mile boots run, and after about 2 miles felt like I was going to die. I wouldn’t let myself stop out of principle and finished the course, but my time was abysmal and I was hardly moving fast enough to call it running when I finished 39 minutes later (7:48 pace). Stunned, I began wondering if it had something to do with donating, and came across this blog. Now I’m very concerned that it will have effects on my training, as I leave for OCS in four weeks!
    The Red Cross need to do a better job of explaining the devastating short-term effects on performance for endurance athletes donating, especially with the double unit.

  78. Erick Senkmajer says:

    I am not a “high performance athlete,” but I do run 20-25 miles per week and can keep up a sub 8:20 pace for up to 10 miles. I donated blood on Friday morning, took the day off and ran 5.5 on Saturday and 6.5 today. Saturday found me limping through 8:50 miles and Sunday was at 8:30s–and struggling to stay there. The Bloodbank of Alaska website states that it could take up to 4-5 weeks to replenish all the RBC. I’ve come to the conclusion that if performance is important to me, I will not donate in the few weeks prior to an important event. In the long run, I wonder if it might help my training similar to high altitude training. Any thoughts?

  79. Brenda says:

    In my experience, I also believe that it is OH SO IMPORTANT to hydrate VERY well the day before giving blood, as well as the day of. I had a terrible experience about 6 months ago when I gave. I’m not a competitive runner, but I run 2 miles a day 5 days a week, and some trail runs on weekends. I gave blood on a Saturday, felt deathly tired all weekend, and could barely make it up to the second floor at work on Monday and Tuesday. I am anemic and take iron supplements, but as always, was right at the cut off for donating. Thinking back, I believe that I was quite dehydrated. I gave blood again this past Saturday making sure to be very well hydrated, and the only ill effect has been a bit of shortness of breath. I’ve still been able to run my two miles each day, but I am a bit slower. My 9:10 mile has turned into about a 9:40… I truly think hydration is key…

  80. Chet says:

    Unlike most of you, I’m a novice jogger (training for my first run, 15k, this July!). However, I am a veteran blood donor. I made a whole blood (pint) donation today so I’m curious to see how my recovery compares with the reports in this list. Fortunately, I’m slow (10min/mile over 3 miles) so there’s no risk to podium status! :-)

    In addition to the impact to aerobic performance, the Double Red Cell (DRC) donation can also have an adverse effect upon blood donation performance. For hardcore blood donors who seek to maximize the number of times they donate blood, the DRC can mess up your donation schedule as it actually takes slightly more volume of red blood cells than two whole blood units.

    From everyone’s messages, I’ve learned
    – Stick to whole blood donations in season, stay away from double reds
    – Go slower for 1-4 weeks after a blood donation to accommodate lower aerobic capacity
    – Eat steak (after a donation)
    – Pay extra attention to hydration

    Run, cycle, and swim well!
    And, give blood.

  81. ARM says:

    Gave DRC on Friday, took Saturday off. My Sunday run turned into a long slow walk.

    I initially declined the blood center’s request to donate DRC but relented after repeated requests. My questions about after-effects were met by assurances that it would be no different than a regular donation.

    I’ll have to think twice about ever donating RBC again.

  82. Prasad says:

    I have been running 3 miles every alternate day since the last 3 months. I have donated 450 ml today afternoon and want to run tomorrow as today was a rest day. I hope I do fine (BTW I am a new runner with a heavy frame – 3 miles in 30 min). Thanks for the info on this website.

  83. Chet says:

    Here is more information on blood donation (whole blood and DRC) from the American Red Cross:

    A whole blood donation collects 215 ml of red cells

    A DRC donation collects 485 ml of red cells [note: this is greater than twice the amount of red cells as a whole blood, and it is taken all at once!]

    A Plasma donation collects 55 ml of red cells

    A Platelet donation collects 24 ml of red cells

    Donors can mix any combination of those four procedures as long as they do not exceed 1540 ml within 12 calendar months.


    My $0.02:

    As red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, it would be prudent to schedule blood donations around races.
    DRC donations will have a greater impact upon athletic performance than whole blood donations in the short term.
    Regular whole blood donations are more beneficial to the blood supply since blood has a limited shelf life.

    Keep running and continue giving blood!

    [ran 8 miles for the first time yesterday, heading to the Boilermaker 15k on Sunday!]

  84. Steven says:

    It makes sense that we notice a drop in performance/breathing/recovery since red blood cells carry oxygen. Like many who have posted before, I believe it is more valuable for those who need my blood than my running times.

    I donated double reds a week and a half ago, took a week off, and now have run twice since. The first run went well, I took it easy for 3 miles, didn’t even time myself, knowing it would be slower. Noted that my legs were quite sore for the next few days. Ran a day later (one day inbetween) and the run was very difficult. Really felt harder to breath and more fatigues. I expect my next few runs to feel this way, but it gets better.

    By the time I’m in peak shape again, it’ll be time to donate double reds again! But I don’t compete much or try to be a top athelete. Good luck to you all.

  85. megan fox says:

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  86. Michelle B says:

    I wish I would have seen this page before yesterday. I’ve been training for a half marathon and doing really well with my distances and endurance. I did a DRC donation yesterday. Didn’t run yesterday as suggested, lots of fluid, felt fine before donating. I hit the trail this morning and thought I was going to die. I was so cramped up and tired at a mile that I turned around and walked back. I’m seriously concerned about being able to run this thing in October. I’m definitely not a elite athlete but I’m really surprised how much this has taken out of me. I even took a 3 hour nap this afternoon because I couldn’t function. Any input on how long its going to take for me to snap out of this?

  87. Mike G says:

    Michelle B; I usually snap out of it w/in 2 weeks, but I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. When I started it felt like 3 weeks before I was 100%.

    The good news is that I usually get a performance boost after I’ve recovered – if I can stick to my training plan. I have no idea why this should be, but have running/cycling logs to back it up. I’m guessing that this is a similar effect to altitude training and has to do with training at a lowered anaerobic threshold, but I’d love to do a V02 max comparison before-during-after recovery to get some hard evidence on what the effect is.

    I’ve also noticed that double-red donations have had less of an impact on my performance over time. For example I donated last Wednesday, and was able to keep pace on my Thursday night 5K training run (although my HR was about 5 BPM higher than it was for that same run last week).

    Hope you do well with your half!

  88. Jerome says:

    Another victim here. Donated double red blood cells 12 days before the Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon, and finished with my worse time ever-twenty one minutes slower than previous. After 6.5 miles, my legs had no energy, no spark, yet I ran 12 miles at 9:00 pace easily the day before donation.

    I have donated whole blood all of my life, and am proud to do so. Most of the blood centers are “for profit” organizations, and if they can get you to donate double, they may not share all of the information an athlete might need. If you have a race coming up, say no to the double.

  89. Peter Z says:

    I donate Whole Blood regularly, and am a dedicated martial artist. I go on training runs (3-5 miles) on a sporadic basis to keep up my overall conditioning and practice fairly intense Aikido 2-3 times a week for 2 hours a session. I supplement my iron daily, too, which helps with both the iron levels for donating and the Restless Leg Syndrome I used to suffer from. I always notice endurance and stamina issues after my blood donation, and for the subsequent 2-6 weeks, depending on the intensity of the training: I get winded where previously I wouldn’t even be breathing heavily. As a result, I schedule my donations for AFTER major events (races, tests, weekend seminars, summer camp) and not before. As poofed as I get from WB, I’ll never donate by ALYX – I like to train hard, and dbl-platelet donations would wipe me out worse than getting the flu.

  90. Michael says:

    I wish I had found this link before my double red blood cell donation 21 days ago….. I have been a high performance athlete for many years. Lately, i have been focusing on career, family and stand up paddle surfing / yoga. I am above average health and conditioning but not like where I was a few years ago. I have donated over 20 + times a single pint of blood proudly and understood the impact on how I would feel for a few days while I recovered.

    I am 0- and received an urgent blood donation call from a for profit blood center. I agreed despite the fact that I was feeling a bit run down. (* Hindsight NOte I was not 100% but I thought that I had done this in the past and no worries) Upon arrival, I was told that instead of giving the usual pint, I was eligible to give a double red blood cell donation. It was be easier on my body since they were giving me back my non “red blood Cells’. The donation went fine as normal.

    The next morning, I awoke and clearly had that normal short of breathe feeling. I went to work and while at work, i had to lie down. As I lied down, i had a massive muscle cramp in my upper left back. It was almost like a potassium cramp in your calf or foot and the most excruciating pain i can ever remember. I left work in a blur, headed home and dosed up on an motrin and was in bed all day. The next day,I went to my acupuncturist to no avail. The back pain would get better but I could not regain my breath. 50 hours after the donation, I went to see my DR and diagnosed with Pneumonia and sent home with antibiotics. Three days later, I went back to see my DR and still not getting better, was admitted to the hospital and spent six days before being released.

    I would never have gotten sick to this degree, if I had not given a double red blood cell donation. My body likely had some sickness in it when I made the donation and without the red blood cells to fight it, i went downhill fast. I was extremely sick and it very scary experience not just for me but for my family.

    I do not feel that I was made fully aware of the impact of a double red blood cell donation Vs. single pint. I am convinced, if I had a made a single pint donation, I would not have ended up in the hospital. They have an incentive to get the most blood out of you and I would not be fooled into thinking the blood donation company is you advocate. You have to be your own.

    I will gladly give my pint of blood in the future but ONLY ONLY when I am in 100% health. Give blood but remember you are giving up red blood cells which not only give you energy but fight infections and sickness.

  91. Its great that obtaining V02max figures is so much easier these days, before there was always a difficulty to work them out exactly

  92. Rick says:

    Good comments. I donated whole blood one week ago (Tuesday). Noted some fatigue during a 2hr run Thursday, same during a 5hr run Saturday, same during a 1 hr run Sunday and again during a 2hr run this morning (Tuesday). Was wondering what the problem might be and can only contribute the fatigue to the blood-letting. I anticipate the fatigue will pass when the iron is replenished. Should be chipper in a few weeks. Not a bad price to pay for giving the gift of life.

  93. NedRunner says:

    Pretty interesting that five years later–five years–this blog post is still getting comments. 93. All from a simple inquiry.

    Actually, they’re all the same comment. Fatigue, heaviness, slowness, higher HR, all attributable to lower O2 carrying capacity; huge relief to have personal experience validated; donation is an important contribution to the common good, we simply need to be aware of its implications and plan accordingly; a word of caution in advance would be helpful/important.

    Oh yeah, almost forgot. My story’s the same.

  94. Erica says:

    I am amazed that this blog is still going, and very grateful. It has helped a lot. When I started reading, I had to check the date because my story started out the same way. I’m a Navy reservist and we had a blood drive on Sunday. Last time I gave blood, I was given the green light on everything and it was all fine. The next day I worked out just like normal and didn’t really notice much of a difference. This time, however, I was borderline with my hemoglobin and they actually had to prick my fingers twice to get a good number. I also had a slight fever, but still within the donating range. After donating, I felt fine. That night I was a little more tired than usual, but that is to be expected with my reserve weekends. Mondays are rough for me with 5 back to back classes, an hour break (which I use to run 3 miles) and then an aerobics class. I was feeling pretty tired all day, but figured it was mostly due to my giving up soda and energy drinks that same day. I went ahead with my normal workout, but was only able to run just over a mile before having to walk. I kept trying to jog, but couldn’t get very far before having to walk again. I finally gave up around 1.5 miles and decided to walk the rest of the way home. I still went to my aerobics class and had to do the low impact modifications the entire class (normally I’m the one bouncing off the walls). Then yesterday, I decided to forgo the workout and go to bed early. Still hasn’t helped. I woke up this morning with a massive headache, feeling like I didn’t even sleep last night (which brought me to this website). I know the headache is probably due to my drastic change of caffeine intake, but the sluggishness I may be able to contribute to low iron. I’m going to try increasing my iron intake and hopefully that will help.

    Thanks for all the useful information! And good luck to all you future readers.

  95. Jean says:

    I have been using a heart rate monitor for the past six months while doing P90X. I have been very athletic all of my life; I’m now 54 and going strong.

    The day after an ordinary blood donation, ten days ago, I strapped on my monitor and discovered my resting pulse rate was almost 20 bpm over what I have become used to. I stopped the P90X halfway through workout (granted, it’s very strenuous) and then did not exercise for a full week.

    I’m now two days into working out again and still feeling the effects: resting heart rate is up 10 bpm, and I have to pause during the workouts to let my heart rate come back down off peaks at 180, whereas formerly it rarely climbed out of the 160’s under max exertion.

    Perhaps this always happened (I have given blood regularly over the years and never noticed any effects), and it’s just the heart rate monitor display that is freaking me out? Like when the rate of Cesarean sections rose dramatically in the 1970’s, coincidental with the widespread introduction of fetal monitoring? Or, perhaps it’s just “old age”?

    I want to continue giving blood, but this is giving me second thoughts.

    Thanks to everyone for your interesting contributions above.

  96. Crystal says:

    So glad I read all these posts and confirmed what I suspected. My last blood donation wrecked my running performance. Like many of you, my HR was nearly 190, up nearly 20 BPM’s. I had to walk a handful of times and couldn’t even finish my 2 mile run (I typically run 2 – 4 miles on each run). I’ll hold off on my next blood donation until after the racing season is over.

  97. Dave says:

    These are great comments & serve to confirm my recent suspicions regarding blood donation. I am a 68 year old male. Been running since 1971 – 4 marathons & hundreds of road races. I started donating blood in the ’80s but with O-neg (CMV neg) I get a call from the local blood bank every 2 months (actually 56 days!). Recently I had an annual physical about 10 days after donating blood. The blood work resulting from the physical indicated anemia. This prompted a review of my hematocrit values for the past 25 donations & the gradual decrease in HCT during the past 8 years is right there in black & white. My doctor says no more donating till the numbers come up & I am now taking OTC B12, folate, iron & multiple vitamins. Feeling better by the week.

  98. Kevin says:

    As everyone’s experience here confirms, red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. If you reduce the number of rbc’s in your blood (as will happen with a whole blood or double-red donation, though not a plasma donation), your heart will have to work harder/faster to get the same amount of oxygen to your muscles. Thus, it will take more effort to cover the same distance in the same time. This is just biology.

    But, despite what Michael says above, it will not give you pneumonia. Regardless of his conviction, if he had given a regular whole blood donation, or no donation at all, he would have still had pneumonia. Red blood cells do not play a significant role in fighting infection – he’s thinking of white blood cells, which were returned to his body during his donation. So he actually had more of those than he would have if he had given a “single pint” whole blood donation.

    He is, however, exactly right when he says he should only donate in the future when he is in 100% health. That is precisely what the organization that took his donation requires – for the sake of the recipient, not the donor. You should never donate if you have any cold/flu (pneumonia!) symptoms. Hopefully he contacted the blood bank when he got sick – if his pneumonia was caused by a virus it could be potentially dangerous to an already-ill recipient of his blood.

    When I did a double-red donation two days ago, they were very clear with me that I would feel increased fatigue with strenuous exercise, that it would take any where from 3-8 weeks for my rbc count to return to normal, and that eating iron-rich foods would speed that process up. You do need to read the materials they give you. Of course I felt like crap on what was supposed to be an easy 5-miler yesterday, but no harm was done.

    My advice, based on my experience running and donating: if you’re able, donate blood regularly. It is desperately needed and is a life-saving gift. If you’re training for a race, don’t donate whole blood within 4 weeks, or double-red within 8-weeks. Don’t worry about needing to run more slowly while you recover from your donation. Focus on the amount of time spent at your target heart rate, not on mileage, and your body will respond. Your cardio-vascular system is still being stressed, challenged, and trained. That’s the important thing. It doesn’t recognize miles anyway.

  99. Andy says:

    What a cool thing — a 5-year-long discussion?! I wonder how long this can keep going… Anyways, I’m a 39yo trail runner a week+ from the first race of the season (“12 steep, rocky miles” sound familiar to anyone?), and 24-hours post giving my first pint in a number of years (often disqualified by my wife’s travel-adventurous ways). I’m coming to the topic from a slightly different perspective– mine was a “directed” donation for my 14-year-old daughter who is having spinal fusion surgery in a few weeks. She was on a donation table across the room from me giving her first pint, for herself. She’s “bummed” to be missing a bunch of track practices and meets this Spring, and is hoping to be rehab’ed by the time cross-country season starts in late-August. Keep giving, all you lovely people. This is such an interesting combination of activities/hobbies, there needs to be a facebook group.

  100. Lucky says:

    As with so many posts, here, I’m thrilled to see I’m not crazy. I had a persistent stitch in my side, and had to keep stopping on Sunday’s 13 mile run, and even had to catch my breath at the top of a hill on today’s little three miler! As someone else was saying, my legs weren’t the issue–it was just an endurance thing, a cardio thing.

    And then it occurred to me that I’d given double-red for the first time last Wednesday. A couple of days off is clearly not enough for the double-red donation. Alyx literally sucks it out of you.

    Guess I’ll go back to whole blood, as that never seemed to bother me much, and I’ll focus on iron-rich foods for awhile.

    Thanks to all who’ve contributed!

  101. Jean says:

    Following up on my post above (#96) all returned to normal about a month after my donation.

    My naive conclusion (“Dammit, Jim, I’m a computer programmer not a physician!”) is that this probably always happened, but I didn’t notice it because I had so much excess energy in my youth; and I didn’t have a heart rate monitor to quantify things…

    I’m definitely going to continue donating blood and will just schedule the same with breaks from heavy workouts.

    Cheers to all and thanks for contributing to this long-running comment thread!

  102. John Goodhart Sr says:

    I am a 73 year old male who gave a double red ,for the first time, 2 weeks ago. It has interfered with my sleep and even sleeping pills help little. My legs and arms feel weak.Much releaved to fing that athletes have problems sometimes with this type of donation.

  103. David says:

    I’m a 63 year old cyclist. I’ve been riding 100+ miles a week. I foolishly consented to a double red donation. 48 hours after the donation I went on a short mountain bike ride. On the first hill I hit the wall. No energy, as in a classic bonk. On the next hill I became seriously dizzy. Three days later on my regular Saturday ride. I simply could not keep up with the slowest riders. Normally I’m a middle of the pack rider. I cut the ride short and went home. I’m very disappointed with my decision to donate blood via the ALYX double red met

    I also feel that the red cross staff were unable to communicate the effects of this type of donation on athletic performance. I do take responsibility for my decision, and I will be more informed in the future. No more double red donations for me.

  104. Joe says:

    It’s amusing to read the six years of comments that are all virtually identical, as @94 pointed out.

    I had been a blood donor, but when I started marathoning I switched to donating platelets every other week due to this very reason. However, I still do a regular blood donation 8 weeks before the marathon … specifically because I condition my body to running with a lower amount of RBCs, which are then replenished normally and I’m back at my peak on race day. “Poor man’s doping”, I call it. :-)

  105. Becky K says:

    I love that this blog post is still getting comments. I found this post this morning and have been hugely relieved that I wasn’t losing my mind. Friday I couldn’t get through the 5 miler I had planned, 2 days after donating blood for the first time in a decade. I had wondered if blood donation would affect my run. I didn’t put the two together until this morning, and then this blog has confirmed my suspicions. I plan to donate again when I am able, but am glad to know that I should factor it when races are coming up. Yay for the internet!

  106. Richard S says:

    Like so many others, I was excited to find this website, and would like to add my story to the growing number of testimonials.

    I am 55 years old, and have been an avid runner (3 to 4 times per week) and a regular blood donor (4 to 6 times per year) for all of my adult life. I recognized early on the correlation between blood donations and the subsequent decrease in running performance, and it’s gratifying to find that I am not alone in this realization.

    About 5 years ago I began participating in charity-sponsored road races, as well as running track events at the Senior Olympics. Based on my previous experience, I knew that it generally took about 3 weeks for me to feel fully recovered after donating blood, so I was careful not to schedule any donations in the weeks prior to a race.

    On one visit to the blood center, I was informed about the infamous “double red cell” donation and decided to give it a try. The time-saving potential was compelling: instead of making 4 to 6 trips to the blood center each year, I could do the same amount of good with only 2 to 3 trips per year. However, because they would be taking twice as many red blood cells, I suspected that the effect on my running would be even more noticeable and that the recovery time would be longer. I was absolutely right — it now took about 6 weeks before I felt fully recovered. However, I didn’t let that dissuade me from double red cell donations; it just meant that I had to be even more diligent about the timing of my donations relative to my race schedule.

    After I had been doing double red cell donations for a couple years, the blood center staff asked if I would be interested in doing platelet donations. Although the platelet donation procedure takes considerably longer than a double red cell donation (thereby frustrating my desire to minimize my time commitment), the overriding advantage for me was obvious: by retaining my red blood cells, I would experience little, if any, reduction in aerobic performance. So, for the past couple of years I have been happily donating platelets.

    When I arrived for my most recent donation, I was told that I would be unable to do a platelet donation that day because my file had been borrowed by one of the other blood centers. It seemed like a rather lame excuse to me, since my appointment to donate platelets had been made a couple weeks in advance. Anyway, I was told that if I wanted to donate platelets, I would have to reschedule to a later date. Alternatively, if I still wanted to donate that day, I could instead do a double red cell donation. Not wanting to reschedule and make another trip to the blood center, I did a quick mental calculation, and determined that my next race (a half marathon) was 14 weeks away. So, even though I knew the consequences, I agreed to do the double red cell donation.

    A few days after the donation, as I was struggling through a long training run (running some and walking much), I had ample time to ponder the wisdom of my decision. I began to wonder if any of the information put out by the blood collection agencies discusses the adverse effect that blood donations (in particular double red cell donations) have on athletic performance. After searching dozens of websites for blood collection centers all over the country, I found absolutely no mention of adverse effects. Conversely, I did find numerous statements about how a person doing a double red cell donation would actually feel “better” after their donation because the returned fluids would leave them more hydrated than a typical whole blood donor. I was simultaneously amused and annoyed by this ubiquitous statement.

    I totally agree with comments made in previous posts: the blood collection centers need to at least make potential donors aware of the effect that it might have on them. Of course, for most people it’s no big deal, since the decreased stamina is barely noticeable as we go about our normal, low-intensity activities. But for those of us who routinely engage in demanding aerobic activities (running, cycling, swimming, etc.), the effect on our workouts can be devastating.

    I cringed when I read the posts from those individuals who had just finished donating, had not been informed about the significant effect that it might have on their physical performance, and were just weeks or even days away from running a marathon or half-marathon. I felt incredible sympathy for them, knowing what they were up against, and knowing that there was really nothing that they could do about it. It’s not like you can go back to the blood center a few days later and say that you’ve changed your mind, and could you please have your red blood cells back. Once you’ve completed the blood donation, the only antidote is time – the one thing that these unfortunate people had very little of.

    So, in conclusion, I’m hoping that all of us will continue running and donating for as long as we are able. The two activities can peacefully coexist, but only if we are informed about the effects on performance and time our donations accordingly. My personal rule of thumb: avoid scheduling a whole blood donation within 4 weeks of a race, and avoid scheduling a double red cell donation within 8 weeks of a race. Aside from that, keep running and keep donating!

  107. Mo says:

    I’m a vegan female of about 112 lbs. My hemoglobin value before my first blood donation was borderline 12.9 gm/dl (you need to be above 12.5 to be accepted for donation). I gave 450 ml (about one pint) of blood this Wednesday. I was advised not to perform any strenuous exercise until 24 hours later, so I decided to try some light exercise the next morning. The result was nausea and light-headedness, and I never think I felt so weak in my life as it took some time to wear off. It felt like I was anemic.

    Today (Friday), about 41 hours after the donation, I had a jog up some pretty steep and snowy hiking trail slopes, fearing for the first time in my life that my body might collapse and that I might pass out. I’ve never felt scared about this before – never felt what real weakness is like. Fortunately the jog went well and I managed to run the whole way, so I’m hoping for a quick recovery, aided by iron supplements and by pulling myself together and eating an iron-rich diet to boost my hemoglobin.

    Has anyone else experienced this new fear of suddenly losing some amount of control over your own body – a body that used to be always strong and sturdy?

    Another thing I noticed is that my pulse seems to be higher. I’m afraid that this might compromise my health. There doesn’t seem to be much information out there about certain after-effects of blood donation. I worry that all the considerate donors out there are starting to become more of a commodity and less of a fellow creature.

  108. Don S. says:

    Whenever I give double red blood cell donations my running performance drops dramtically for the next 2-3 weeks. Be aware of this before major races or trainging sessions. I was in great shape before my last donation but felt totally out of shape the next few runs. I take an iron supplement each day for about a week or two to help recovery. Not much else you can do. I just look on the bright side. My teen age daughter who was anemic received 3 blood transfusions and told me she felt much better after each. It probably saved her life. So my pain is anothers gain. It is my way of giving back to society.

  109. Hank H. says:

    I wanted to chime in on this topic. I have been an avid runner (notice I did not say fast) for about the past 5 to 6 years and I am a 33 y/o 180lbs male. I have been donating double reds for about the past 1 1/2 years and just gave my 4th or 5th donation this past Monday. Needless to say, without beating a dead horse, you will experience some weakness and tiredness after this type of donation. However, with that being said I use the motto ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and continue with my training plan in the exact same way as normal. I feel like it makes me mentally stronger and therefore allows me to push harder come race day. I also know that if I am hitting my times and mileage in this shape I will be more than prepared to hit my mark. I have noticed that usually within 3 to 4 weeks I am no longer feeling any different (at least that I can notice) and it seems that I have actually made great strides in my times over the course of the past 1 1/2 in my times and my endurance. I have been setting PRs for the 5K (3 out of 4 of my last races) and for the half-marathon. One thing that I do notice is that by not slowing down and resting like I probably should I do get headaches for about 1 week afterwards, but a little Aleve or Advil will take care of it. I have another half marathon coming up in 6 weeks from this Sunday done in Little Rock and I plan on hopefully setting a PR of 1:55:00. I will revisit and post if it happened; or not. Keep running and keep donating!

  110. Melissa Dale says:

    So happy I found this!

    I hadn’t donated blood for some time and decided to make a donation January 20th. My runs had been pretty consistent up to that point – 2 short runs during the week 3-6 miles, then one long run on the weekend around 7-10 miles. After that donation I noticed I felt a little funny 2 days later when I attempted a run. I was only able to do about 1.5 miles. It seemed to take me a lot more to complete a run for the next couple weeks.

    Fast forward to this past weekend – I was feeling much better and completed an 8K with an acceptable time – about 8:30 per mile. That’s good for me.

    I donated blood again on Monday of this week as I was eligible again. I noticed the Hematocrit reading was 42 – lower than it was the last time @46. My BP was 104 over 62, good, a little lower than normal for me. I gave blood, felt so-so afterward and polished off 2 cookies to raise my (usually low) blood sugar. Went home then went out to eat with my boyfriend. The food helped somewhat but after dinner we returned home and I felt BLAH. Zero energy, a little sick to my stomach. I promptly went to bed at 9 PM. I’ve felt very tired ever since. This isn’t normal for me. I tried to do my usual 4.5 mile run yesterday and got 1.75 miles then had to walk the rest of the way home. I felt lightheaded on my walk and almost had to call to get a ride home. Ugh. I went to bed early again last night after falling asleep on the couch quite early in the evening. I’m scheduled to run a half marathon on 4/3 and I’m seriously concerned I may not be able to do it because of all this. Good to hear I’m not alone!

    (For reference, I am a petite female, weigh 132 and am in good health. A blood donation, for me, definitely represents a fairly large loss of blood, I suppose.)

  111. Hank H. says:

    Just wanted to come back with an update from the Little Rock Half Marathon. I ended up with a PR of 1:50:42 and had a negative split the second half of the run. I did not miss any of my scheduled training runs (even though I wanted to at times) and the double red did not seem to have any effect on my race after a 6 to 7 weeks. With this being said I would not recommend that you donate a week before a big race, however, if you want to donate 6 to 7 weeks out it shouldn’t have too much of an effect. Hope that this information is informative and helpful. Happy Running!!!

  112. Kristin says:

    Happy to keep this blog commentary going after 6+ years and reassured by so many postings of an experience similar to my recent blood donation. Prior to my donation I had been running 17ish miles per week (two 6 mile runs, 3 mile run, 2 mile run followed by a weight circuit). While I’ve never been fast, I was feeling good on these runs and had been slowly ramping up my distance and speed.

    I gave blood on Thursday 1 week ago. On Friday I tried to do a 3 miler and felt awful. Needed to slow my pace and stop multiple times to walk. It really felt like I was running through wet cement. I assumed at the time it was due to the blood donation but figured I’d be fine by the next day. On Saturday I tried to do a 2 miler followed by the weight circuit. I made it through the 2 miler but it wasn’t pretty – slower pace and probably stopped once or twice. But couldn’t finish the weight circuit and felt lightheaded, dizzy and nauseous after. I was very surprised to still be feeling this way 2 days later. I skipped my normal Sunday 6 miler and figured by Tuesday all would be right with the world again but no such luck. Tried to do a 3 miler and had to stop 3 times. Tomorrow I’ll try another 3 miler but am now resigned to the fact that it may take a few weeks to get myself back to the level of performance I had.

    I haven’t given blood for a number of years and actually probably wasn’t running like this the last time I did. Sadly, this experience will make me think twice about donating again. But I would definitely consider the platelet donation since it does seem that most if not all folks who have done that have not suffered the same after-effects as the red blood cell donation.

  113. Nick says:

    I just got back from a hiking trip in Yosemite a week after donating double red cells. I do not recommend hiking at altitude after doing so! I had an unbelievably hard time, not to mention the embarrassment of being passed on the trail by people much older than myself. I only figured out the reason about halfway up. At least now I know I have a good excuse for having been such a wimp at the time!

  114. Andrew Hartley says:

    Like so many others here, I’m benefiting from the experiences of those who have gone before, & am amazed at how this blog is continuing for >6 years now. I hope your stories & mine are backed up on a reliable server, & never get lost.

    Here’s my story: For years up until Spring 2010 I had been donating whole-blood pints; it never seemed to affect my running race times much, even within a month before racing. In Summer 2010 I gave my first double-red, though, & 30 days later I raced 1.5 miles. My time shot up from 8:50 to 9:26 & I felt like stopping the entire time. My experience may be somewhat of an anomaly since before donating my hemoglobin was slightly low (13.8; normal range for middle-aged males like me starts at 14); however, it seems to confirm the experiences of other commenters above.

    Small price to pay, though, for helping save lives by donating.

  115. Halle says:

    Hey everyone –

    I’m a regular blood donor and have always been able to recover with no problem. I was actually able to go to the gym right after donating – no problem.

    I donated double reds last Wednesday and when my iron cleared for double reds I decided I should give. I was told the recover would be the same as for whole blood, and in fact, I would probably feel better because they replace the lost fluids, unlike with whole blood donation.

    I have a race this coming Saturday and was concerned that I suddenly couldn’t run much more than a mile without struggling. He explained to me that giving double reds takes more red blood cells from your body than a whole blood donation. The red blood cells are the oxygen carrying capacity for your body, so with fewer of these available to you, endurance exercise becomes strained because you need more oxygen than your body can physically provide. He further explained that a lot of professional endurance athletes siphon off their own red bloods cells and train their bodies to perform with a lower level of red bloods cells, only to return the red blood cells to themselves before a competition to artificially provide a greater oxygen capacity. By donating double reds, you’re doing the “siphoning” these athletes do without the mental or physical nohow to force your body to perform at that level.

    This makes sense to me in hindsight, but when I was told the day of donation that I would “recover normally” I didn’t expect to have such problems. It has now been more than a week since I donated and I’m still not recovered, or even close.

    I was told by my doctor to double my usual iron supplement intake. Take it with OJ to speed up the iron breakdown process into my body, eat more iron rich foods and to run a mile or two if I was able a couple times a week to force my body to recognize it needed to make more red blood cells to accommodate for the oxygen I was demanding of it.

    I hope this advice helps others. If you are reading this blog before considering donating red blood cells – don’t do it. If you’re training for a race – definitely don’t do it. I’ve had no problem donating whole blood, so if you want to donate, stick to whole blood donation.

    I would also encourage those that have had this experience to talk to the blood bank/donation center that they donated to and make them aware of your recovery problems. I talked to the university blood bank in Cincinnati and they agreed that they needed to make double red donors aware of the additional endurance recovery time.

    Good luck!

  116. ollie says:

    blood donation: whole blood donation affects my running adversely for about 3-4 weeks; I found out the hard way after trying to run a half marathon a week after blood donation (roughly 6-7 minutes slower than anticipated).

    Giving double red blood cells just kills my running for 5-6 weeks; even a warm up jog is a struggle for a couple of weeks afterward.

    BUT, my swimming (even intervals) is far less affected and my weight lifting isn’t affected at all.

    My solution: I donate after goal events (twice a year) when I’d be recovering anyway. I still hate it though. :)

  117. Onewp says:

    Short and Sweet – 59 yo male. Don’t do a double red donation and expect to perform like you did the day before. I did a double red cell donation on Monday and had an H&H of 13.5 and 42.7. Evidently they do a CBC before you donate as a standard procedure. I used to be in the 16+ & 48+ range but I never thought about consequences of going from regularly donating whole blood to double red with a normal, but low for me, H&H. Like just about everybody above, no issues with donating whole blood and doing regular workouts including Intervals and Tempo runs. I won’t do another double red until off season because I didn’t complete my Intervals w/o this week and a 3 mile tempo run felt horrible. Can’t wait to see how much walking I’ll do on my long run Saturday. I’ve already sent a note to INOVA asking them to put another question and answer in their FAQ’s. Thanks to all above for sharing their experiences, now I know it wasn’t just me.

  118. Ed says:

    Pretty much the same experiences as most on this blog. 65 yr old male who has been running & giving blood for 25 years. As I aged I noticed a gradual increase in recovery time from standard blood donations. I ran an 8hr run in August and recovered well enough to go back to some track workouts by mid September, but decided to wait until after a 25k trail run. Last year I gave whole blood a week before, and didn’t feel any significant problems with endurance (although about 10-15 secs a mile slower). This year I did a DRS donation the day before. I was gassed from about mile 2. Plenty of strength but no way to get the O2 to use it. Ended up about 2 mins a mile slower for the run.

    I wasn’t particularly surprised by the results, just disappointed by the severity. I hope my recovery time isn’t too long.

    It looks like the track workouts are on hold for awhile.

  119. Bren says:

    Can strenuous exercise after donating blood cause heart problems? Young person, perfect medical history – Donates blood & is forced to do physical exercise less than two hours afterwards. Never fainted before in their life, after donating blood & doing exercise, appears that there is now a heart condition… It is still being investigated… The person is small and previously had been rejected from donation centers due to low iron… Is there a chance that there is a connection between donating blood, being forced to do physical training (military) – then having frequent episodes of fainting and now having a heart murmur that was not there before and more serious heart/problems? Individual is 19, now has pain in their legs and showing spider veins… Donated blood in June, on and off fainting episodes til now (October), doctors suspect a heart condition, no family history of any heart problems, but now has a murmur and Dr. said has Right Bundle Branch Block…. Any thoughts?

  120. Steve says:

    Gotta say I’m so glad I found this. I’m 52. Been running and training for triathlons for the last 4 years or so and donating blood one to three times per year, depending on availability and donation type. I am also an engineer, so I love numbers. I give double-reds almost usually and I keep religious records with respect to distance, pace and, most important, heart rate. For me, the critical number is HR, and after giving double reds it’s a full 60 days before I can maintain the same HR, distance and pace on a run as I did before. My typical distance is a little over 6 miles, almost always outside. I find whole blood donation is a much shorter recovery time (like barely any at all).

  121. Michelle says:

    wow did double red donation usually do around 6.25 miles in an hour now 3 miles is hard dont think i will do another double red donation! Have donated one unit and have run after with no problems.

  122. Heather Wehmeyer says:

    I was glad to find this information too. I did a double-red cell donation Tuesday evening, went to run my usual 3 miles Wednesday morning and was dying, felt like I could not breathe. taught my aerobics class in the evening and had to take the “low-options” throughout, definitely feeling less energy and muscle fatigue quicker. It stand to reason that if red cells deliver oxygen to the blood that losing a number of them would impact strenuous activity. Not a big deal if I was sitting at a desk or even if I had to hop off the treadmill early but not good at all if racing or teaching a class.

    The donor information given before says that for a regular blood donation it takes your body about 6 weeks to regenerate the red cells, it must take longer then after a double. I’ve exercised strenuously after normal donation without any noticeable ill-effect so I’ll probably go back to that next time.

  123. Bill says:

    I`m glad I found this site . I thought I was wrong because a doctor said I was but there is a definite connection between donation and performance . I am 60 and train for full marathons . One week after the most recent donation I nearly fainted on my long run , the first time it`s been that bad although it was very hot and humid . I noticed before because I keep very accurate records, that my endurance drops off a cliff. . It takes at least a month to recover , maybe more . After reading this site I think I will do my donation immediately after the marathon and take it easy for a month. Thanks for all your comments and please keep giving the gift of life.

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  126. Marlene Vromans says:

    Well add me to the list. Last week when I attempted a 4 mile run two days after donating I was worried I was going to have a heart attack. After two miles I did not understand why I was having such difficulty until I actually had to sit down and thought and realized, oh it was the blood donation. 8 days after I still had a challenging run. 1st attempt again since the original donation. I did boot camp all week without much difficulty but there was not actual distance running. Today I attempted a 6 k run and after 2 k still found it very challenging. Ended up run/waling for the next 4 k. I didn’t think I would still feel this way but now , thanks to this blog, I realize I should take it easy and keep training but maybe at a little less intensity.

  127. Tiffany says:

    I’ll tack myself onto the list as well. I’m not much of an athlete, but I did the double reds yesterday – oh my god. The machine they used keeps the blood and saline at room temperature (68F) and there is no warming of the liquids they pump back into you. I’m in Arizona, in the desert. I’m used to the 100F days, 68F saline running through my veins made me feeling like I was going to go hypothermic. I was huddled all of yesterday on a pile of cushions and under blankets after the donation just to warm up, and today I feel horrid. Just climbing the stairs to my room is tiring. I’ve had most of yesterday and today as down days. I’m not looking forward to my daily commute of a two mile walk to the bus stop tomorrow.

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