The Athletes' Guide To Donating Blood

The Athletes' Guide To Donating Blood


The Athletes' Guide To Donating Blood


Over 5 million people in the United States alone need life-saving blood transfusions every year. That means help is needed from people all across the country. As an athlete, you may have hesitated from donating blood in the past because you didn’t quite understand how it would affect your training. The good news is that you absolutely can. You just have to time things properly.

A part of an elite athlete’s job is to stay in peak condition for physical performance. Since athletes keep their bodies in such great shape, they are more likely to meet the rigid requirements for blood donation.  For this reason, such individuals are in great demand as blood donors. 

Blood And Impact to Physical Endurance

Your body contains almost 5.5 liters of blood. Every time you donate about 10 to 15% of your blood is given away. The components of your blood that are depleted by donation are primarily plasma, platelets, and red blood cells (RBC). Plasma is the clear liquid that contains water, electrolytes, and proteins that help with blood clotting and fighting diseases. Platelets are small cells that also help with blood clotting.  Then there is the RBC which is an oxygen transporter from the lungs to tissues throughout the body, such as the heart and muscles.  

Once you donate blood your body goes into recovery mode and begins to regenerate and replace the blood that was lost. The first thing that will recover and return is your plasma level. Within about 24 hours, your plasma levels should return to pre-donation standards. Platelets will then be restored to normal levels within three days after donating. However, it is the RBCs that can most impact your performance, as normalization of RBCs can take weeks for a full recovery. 

Researchers have shown variable results with athletes who donated blood, with no impact whatsoever to decreased exercise tolerance that results in early fatigue setting in.   For this reason, it may be of benefit for the athlete to donate after the competitive season is over. If the individual is not training seriously, then possibly waiting for as little as 24 hours, with appropriate hydration and nutrition supplementation, after the donation before resuming exercise activities is all that is needed.

Improve Recovery Time after Donation

Now that you’ve made the decision to donate, there are things you can do to ensure that your recovery is swift. As an athlete, it is important that you follow these guidelines so you can get back to training without skipping a beat. 

  • Eat iron-rich foods such as beans, fish, red meat and leafy greens
  • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated (leading up to the donation as well as after)
  • Make sure to prioritize getting good sleep

Donation Process

So how can an athlete go about donating blood? 

Step 1: Visit the Red Cross Blood website to find a blood drive near you. 

Step 2: Register to give blood by filling out a form and answering some questions. Everything is confidential. This process is in place to determine eligibility and to make sure that blood donation is right for you.  

Step 3: Your vitals will be tested (temperature, blood pressure, and pulse). 

Step 4: Your arm will be cleaned and prepped for collection.

Step 5: Blood will be drawn to fill the collection bag.

Step 6: Your arm will be bandaged, and you’ll receive an “I donated blood” badge along with a cookie and some juice. You’ll rest for 10 minutes, and be on your way. 

Step 7: You’re done. Feel good about donating!

As an athlete, donating blood can take a little consideration for timing, but with a bit of planning, there’s no reason to keep you from helping those who need it the most. Fans often see athletes as superheroes. Donating is a great chance to really be one!

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