Iron and Blood Donation

It's been over a year that I've been a regular donor at Blood Centers of the Pacific. The first time was on my birthday last year. I'm grateful for my health and glad I can help others in some way. This also motivates me to stay healthy and eat right so I can continue to do so.

My Hemoglobin Levels
Since I became a monthly blood donor, I've been able to monitor my iron levels through the bloodheroes.org website. Iron is important to me as a female endurance athlete because I noticed when it's low I feel more tired. I didn't realize how much running can zap my iron stores, and how effective iron supplementation was until recently when I started taking the supplement. Normally I donate platelets so I'm not losing that many red blood cells through my donation.


I try to eat a varied healthy diet of lots of leafy greens, lentils, an apple a day, whole grains (50% carb diet) and 3 servings of red meat a week, in addition to liver and shellfish and organic tofu. I have six eggs a week (cholesterol is under 150). You know I'm a big fan of green juice! I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs or medications (except caffeine!), and never take NSAIDs. But, last fall I was not able to donate blood because my iron levels were on the border, so I waited almost 4 months. I started taking a slow-release 45mg iron supplement at bedtime for 60 days before my next donation and hemoglobin went up almost two points in January (3rd bar from right). Then I stopped taking the supplement because I thought the levels were sufficient, and my hemoglobin went down again to the lowest ever in February. I resumed supplementation and one month later I'm back up almost one point! It's a quick way to build iron.
Dailymile Running Log
Dailymile All Activities (running, cycling, swimming, fitness)
Lately I have not been running that much, less than 20 miles per week. I've been training for short distance races at high intensity in minimal shoes. I was wondering if switching to barefoot shoes increased my iron loss due to "foot-strike hemolysis", but then I learned it's not just runners who experience exercise-related iron loss, it's all endurance athletes. The correct term is "exertional hemolysis". The second dailymile chart shows all activities and totally corresponds to the drop in iron levels, as activities increased in January and February, and last July when all activities peaked to 153. I also noticed it corresponds to fatigue I had been feeling years ago and reported to my doctor after another high mileage month. I have had blood work done last July to rule out anemia and then recently learned there is another condition called athletic psuedoanemia, which can account for the fatigued feeling. Runners and endurance athletes may need more iron than the average person to maintain a balance to perform. Very informative links below. Over the years, I have become so much more aware about the direct correlation between nutrition, health and performance, and now I realize the importance of recovery. Stay healthy!

Ironing Out the Details

Hemoglobin and Function of Iron

Donors Deferred for Low Hemoglobin 

Take a Closer Look at Your Lab Results


 Ryan's Story
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