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Exercise after Giving Blood: The Ultimate Guide (2019)

Knowing when and how to exercise after giving blood is very important to athletes, fitness fanatics, and personal trainers. But not to worry; we’re about to cover it all!

We’ll talk you through the risks and the benefits of donating blood, whether athletes should donate blood, supplements to combat iron deficiency, and much more in our ultimate guide to exercise after giving blood.

Benefits of donating blood

If you’re a healthy person and you’re doing something that involves your body, you’re naturally going to wonder about the benefits (and the risks, of course). Don’t panic; here’s everything you need to know about the benefits of donating blood!

Benefits of donating blood:

exercise after giving blood: the benefits of giving blood

When looking at the benefits of donating blood, it’s clear that some will be more important to you than others (depending on your outlook).

That’s fine! It’s not compulsory, but you’re here to find out if you can exercise after giving blood. Assuming you’re interested in fitness, the benefits of donating blood tie into this directly.

It’s true that you will burn around 650 calories when donating one pint of blood.

This may or may not work for you, but for those who it does work for; you’ll be pleased to know that giving blood regularly is an option (along with this regular calorie deficit).

It certainly shouldn’t be seen as a singular way to lose weight, but the benefits are harmless alongside a nutritious diet and exercise routine. Your fitness recovery after giving blood won’t be hindered too much as long as you stick to a healthy lifestyle.

These benefits of donating blood are also good for those who are obese, as regular donation will allow them to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and other health issues as well as losing weight (as long as they follow a healthier lifestyle alongside this).

exercise after giving blood: regular blood donation benefits

Should athletes donate blood?

Should athletes donate blood? This is a question that solely depends on the individual and their needs. They CAN donate blood if they want to; being so healthy and nutritious, they’re essentially the perfect donors!

However, it’s a good idea not to donate during competition season, as it can affect performance endurance and also be detrimental to health if you don’t wait long enough to exercise after giving blood.

The reason that there is a drop in endurance after giving blood is quite simple. Oxygen is carried around the body within the blood, and is what makes our muscles work.

Red blood cells are what carries the oxygen around within the bloodstream, and iron is responsible for their production.

If athletes experience an iron deficiency (which giving blood can cause), then their performance is affected; less oxygen makes it to their muscles.

When answering the question ‘should athletes donate blood?’, it’s clearly a big decision as it can make a difference!

There are obvious pros and cons, and it’s down to the athlete as an individual to decide what is best for themselves and their routine of exercise after giving blood.

exercise after giving blood: pros and cons of athletes donating blood

Performance can be down for up to a month after donation due to this loss of red blood cells, as it takes a while for the body to generate more (especially with the drop in iron).

In a nutshell, waiting around three months between blood donation and competition can mean that the athlete can donate without hindering their performance or fitness recovery after giving blood.

If they’re okay with endurance dropping a little for a couple of months when they exercise after giving blood, then it’s a win win! If not then they might want to re-think, or decide to donate less often.

Exercise after giving blood: Supplements and Haemoglobin

So, if you’re an athlete or a regular gym goer who wants to exercise after giving blood, there are steps that you can take to minimize the effects that blood donation has on your power endurance.

If you don’t know what haemoglobin is then don’t worry, it’s very simple. Haemoglobin is simply a protein within your red blood cells that helps to carry oxygen throughout your body.

Having iron deficiency and a low haemoglobin count are closely linked, as iron is what produces the red blood cells, which contain haemoglobin.

exercise after giving blood: stats for iron deficiency

Now you know that developing iron deficiency is somewhat common when giving blood, we’re going to cover exactly how you can combat it, along with how you can ensure that your fitness recovery after giving blood is maximised.

Before you think about taking supplements, it’s a great idea to get your diet in check. Why not take a look at our Personal Trainer Meal Plan article for ideas on foods rich in iron, as well as foods that help you to absorb it.

exercise after giving blood: sources of iron

It’s also very important to consume a good amount of Vitamin C when restoring iron/maintaining a healthy iron intake, especially when you exercise after giving blood. This is especially true for vegetarians and vegans; they should take a source of Vitamin C when consuming iron from plant/nut sources.

Get on the fresh orange juice and clementine hype!

Now, let’s talk supplements.

Before taking iron supplements, it’s definitely a good idea to talk to your GP beforehand as it may not be the right option for you and your health. If you’re a regular donor, then this is definitely a good idea. You’re less likely to need an iron supplement if you don’t donate very often.

Once you’ve spoken to your GP and been given the green light, here’s some options available for you to try. Your doctor will likely recommend one of the following, so here’s some quick-fire info on each.

exercise after giving blood: multivitamins

To boost iron levels, your GP may recommend that you take a multivitamin that contains 18mg of iron.

This is around the daily amount, meaning that combined with the iron that you receive from iron rich foods, it will give you the boost that you need to recover from lost iron.

To get the most out of multivitamins containing iron, you should take them around 2 hours apart from the foods containing iron, but with a source of vitamin C (to help with absorption).

exercise after giving blood: ferrous iron supplements

If your iron deficiency is a little more severe, then you may require a stronger iron supplement.

Ferrous iron supplements usually come in doses of 18-38mg of ferrous iron, and are available as capsules, tablets, liquids, etc.

You should definitely speak to your doctor before taking a ferrous iron supplement to aid your fitness recovery after giving blood.

exercise after giving blood: ferric iron supplements

This is recommended less often than ferrous iron, as the body does not absorb it as well. It also has a lower toleration rate, so definitely keep this in mind when making a choice on which iron supplement to take when you want to exercise after giving blood.

exercise after giving blood: carbonyl iron

In comparison to ferrous and ferric iron, carbonyl iron is absorbed at a much slower rate. This can mean it’s better suited for those willing to up their iron gradually, and in a less intense way.

Carbonyl iron is also said to be less toxic than ferrous iron, even when it is taken at high doses. This is something to keep in mind when choosing an iron supplement.

The dosage is usually 45-66mg in tablet form, and 15mg in chewable tablet form.

As with other iron supplements, you should still check with your GP before taking it; it’s better to be safe than sorry.

exercise after giving blood: iron amino acid

Iron amino acid supplements are praised in various studies for having similar if not the same effects as ferrous iron supplements when it comes to maintaining healthy levels of iron.

They also reportedly cause much less side effects in comparison, which means that they’re a great backup if ferrous iron supplements happen to have a bad effect on you.

Aside from their benefits, it is actually reported that they’re more effective in preventing deficiency than curing it, so do keep this in mind.

If you’re looking to prevent iron deficiency in the first place, then iron amino acid supplements are your first port of call! As always though, do double check with your doctor before self-prescribing, especially when you want to exercise after giving blood.

Common side effects of iron supplements:

  • Nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation, diarrhea
  • Upset stomach, indigestion, stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Passing dark-coloured urine or stools

If you experience any of these symptoms when taking iron supplements, then stop taking the treatment and seek medical attention ASAP.

What happens when you donate blood?

This is a common question, and it’s very understandable. If you’re about to donate your blood for the first time, then you want to know how it’s going to happen, how long it’s going to take, etc.

Here’s some quick-fire info to refer back to when making your decision:

exercise after giving blood: what happens when you give blood?

Women can give blood every 16 weeks, men can give blood every 12 weeks.

It’s recommended that you don’t lift anything heavy with the donation arm on the day of donation, and that you don’t have a hot bath or shower.

If you feel unwell after donating (anything that isn’t a cold), you can contact the donor helpline on 0300 123 23 23. You might want to note that down just incase!

When can you exercise after giving blood?

This is perhaps one of the most asked questions when it comes to exercise after giving blood… it’s good that you’re this eager!

The answer depends on a few different factors. It sounds simple, but the main one is how you feel after donating. This is because it has more to do with health and overall wellbeing, rather than endurance in sports/exercise.

Uncommon but possible side effects of blood donation can include things like feeling faint, nauseous, or dizzy after drinking or eating in the days after the donation. If you experience any of these symptoms then you should contact the donor helpline, and definitely refrain from exercise!

If all is well then you can actually exercise the day after the blood donation. Health professionals give the guideline to avoid exercise after giving blood for 24 hours, and to avoid heavy exercise such as marathons or triathlons for at least 2 weeks.

Health professionals also say that athletes should avoid giving blood during competition season, as it can greatly affect endurance (and keep you from hitting that personal best).

exercise after giving blood: when to exercise after giving blood

If you’ve got a marathon or a big weight lifting comp coming up, then it’s probably not a good idea to donate anytime soon.

Health professionals say that submaximal performance isn’t affected much in exercise after giving blood, but maximal on the other hand can be affected for around 2 weeks after donation.

This means that as long as you’re feeling okay in yourself 24 hours later, you can do moderate exercise after giving blood. Just be sure to eat enough and stay hydrated!

You don’t want to be doing any strenuous exercise after giving blood, as this can increase your risk of dizziness or fainting.

If you’re okay with submaximal performance for a little while until your body has recovered it’s iron, then you’ll be absolutely fine and your workout regime shouldn’t be disturbed too much. If you want to boost your recovery, definitely take a look at our section on iron-rich foods.

exercise after giving blood: tips for exercise after giving blood

What about other donations?

The advice on exercise after giving blood that we’ve given so far relates mostly to whole donations. Yes, there is more than just one way to give blood!

Whole donations are the most common/popular type of donation, but it is possible to donate in other ways (and these can affect exercise after giving blood differently to whole donations).

  • Double red cell donation - this is when you donate more blood cells than usual, and you may be given different advice for exercise after giving blood because of this
  • Platelet donation - this is where the platelets (used by the body to clot the blood) are taken from your blood, but red blood cells are not - your exercise endurance shouldn’t be affected by this at all

Exercise after giving blood FAQs

#1 What happens when you donate blood?

Not much! You get a quick health screening, spend around 10 minutes actually donating blood, and then you have a drink and a snack afterwards to replenish. The whole process should last around an hour.

#2 What are the benefits of donating blood?

For you, the benefits of donating blood are pretty decent; you’ll have a health check, lower your risk of certain cancers, and burn around 650 calories…

Also, you could save up to 3 people’s lives!

#3 What happens if you exercise after giving blood?

As long as you don’t complete any strenuous exercise after giving blood for at least 24 hours and stay away from competitions for around 2-3 months, mostly likely nothing! If you do experience any dizziness or feel faint, cease exercising and contact your blood donation helpline.

#4 Running after giving blood - when can I do it?

Running after giving blood is basically the same as general exercise or lifting weights. As long as you’re not trying to beat your personal best and you adopt a moderate pace, you will be fine. Remember to wait at least 24 hours before running after giving blood.

Before you go!

We hope you’ve got a good idea of when and how to exercise after giving blood, as well as having enough information to make the right decision for you when it comes to donation.  

Is there anything we’ve missed out about exercise after giving blood? If so, let us know in the comments below!

Send your questions on Twitter or Facebook, and remember to keep an eye on the OriGym Blog for more great content.

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