How do I get my blood back?
September 3, 2012 7:13 PM   Subscribe

I gave double red-blood-cells at the blood bank two and a half weeks ago and I've been having trouble running ever since then. I'm no one's elite runner but I was easily able to keep a 9.5 to 10 minute pace going for three miles and now I can't do that for a mile. How do I recover as quickly as possible?

I'm signed up for a 10K with a lot of hills on September 30 and I'm really having trouble training. If I were doing the couch-to-5k, I'd be barely off the couch. I feel like I've lost five years of (very slow) progress.

I started taking Centrum with Iron a week ago and that seemed to help a little but I'm still not moving too fast on the trail. Is there anything else, that's safe and legal, that I can take to help me recover my red blood cells? Or barring that, is there any specific training that I can do to mitigate the problem?

Oh, I should mention that I feel fine otherwise and haven't felt any adverse effects other than when I'm running (or trying to run).
posted by octothorpe to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How much sleep are you getting?
posted by Nomyte at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2012

This is something I struggle with, too. Try to eat extra red meat and LOTS of spinach, that is what makes the difference to me.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:38 PM on September 3, 2012

I sleep seven or eight hours a night.
posted by octothorpe at 8:04 PM on September 3, 2012

I always read that vitamin C helps you absorb iron from supplements. Maybe there's C in your Centrum, but if not, consider taking it with OJ or something.

Sometimes I feel more tired when I'm a little dehydrated, so you could try drinking more. But I have experienced this after giving blood too, and not even double red cells. Thanks for being a blood donor and I hope you feel better before the race.
posted by lakeroon at 8:10 PM on September 3, 2012

Most iron supplements are pretty shitty and the iron is not delivered in a bioavailable form. Or even worse, they're part of a multivitamin where some of the vitamins impairs the iron's uptake. I have always had a fantastic experience with Hema-Plex, it took me from borderline anemia to healthy levels within a week.

Otherwise, spinach, red meat, and liver will help you out.
posted by schroedinger at 9:00 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some ideas on working in more spinach, kale, chard, etc in your diet:

Sauté some onions in a ton of butter or olive oil until light brown. Add rinsed, wet baby spinach leaves, or chard or kale that's been cleaned (deribbed) and chopped but is also kind of wet. Cook, tossing it around in the pan, until wilted, only 1-2 min for spinach and longer for kale. This is my go-to "holy fuck I'm eating an entire meal of fat, protein, and carbs, must make vegetables super fast" dish, really easy to throw together.

Stir defrosted chopped spinach leaves/cooked fresh greens into mashed potatoes.

Stir a ton of clean deribbed chopped kale (or other leaves, but it works super good with kale) into a rice dish that's pretty much cooked until it wilts down and blends in.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:03 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't give blood any more, ever since my doctor discovered that my iron stores recover extremely slowly. We discovered this when I was found to be frighteningly anemic 10 days after donating. My doc told me to eat red meat every meal, every day, for four or five days; she said that absorbing iron from hemoglobin is much easier than from other sources. Could be coincidence, but after 2 days of that, my iron was MUCH higher.

My mother had an anemia spell while she was pregnant with me that she dispelled similarly by eating blood sausage all the time for a while.
posted by KathrynT at 11:15 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This doesn't really answer your question, but I have read that it can take 8 weeks to replenish the iron in your blood to normal levels after giving blood.

Can you buy Floradix where you are? It comes in tablet or liquid form and I've found this to be helpful when I've had symptoms of anaemia (although, I should say that I wasn't properly diagnosed). Caffeine has a negative effect on the absorption of iron, so try not to have tea or coffee soon before or after eating iron-rich food or taking supplements. As already mentioned, vitamin C aids the absorption of iron and is included in some supplements, like Floradix.

Good luck with the 10k!
posted by lizabeth at 2:43 AM on September 4, 2012

Please have your iron levels checked professionally. I am a premenopausal woman who followed the common sense and basic GP advice after my running was affected by red cell donation, and other "probably low iron" factors.

I had a lowered hematocrit, not low iron. It turns out that I have hereditary hemochromatosis (iron overloading disorder). The physiological links between "increase your iron intake" and "make new RBCs" are not simple and linear. I especially encourage men to check iron levels before supplementing iron.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 4:30 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Caffeine has a negative effect on the absorption of iron, so try not to have tea or coffee soon before or after eating iron-rich food or taking supplements.

Oh, duh. I've been washing them down with a cup of coffee.
posted by octothorpe at 4:42 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Calcium also inhibits iron absorption, so don't wash your vitamins down with dairy products. If your multivitamin has both calcium and iron, you'd probably get better results by adding a separate iron supplement that you take well away from any milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. Orange juice is about the best thing you can use to wash down iron supplements, as the vitamin C will help your body absorb more of it.
posted by vytae at 6:25 AM on September 4, 2012

When I was on the local plasmapherisis panel decades ago I yielded red cells every Wednesday and was given back the previous week's plasma. I never suffered any ill-effects. Had I done so I would have sought advice from the transfusion service doctor.
posted by CuriousJohn at 1:21 PM on September 4, 2012

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