Should I be Blood Testing?

Tri Training Harder have partnered with Forth Edge to provide a complete package when looking into athlete performance and health. Forth Edge provide blood testing in your home. You can purchase the test you want and then get your test results sent back to you within a few days. With Tri Training Harder, your coach can look through your tests with you and ensure that training is having a positive response for you. 

For most people when we start talking about blood testing, we are immediately brought to think either about the very unhealthy people – we go to our doctor's for blood testing - or we start thinking about blood tests for anti doping! The truth, as you more than likely know, is that you can still be unhealthy even if you are fit. Athletes usually feel invincible because of their fitness levels but can be borderline unhealthy in other areas. There is a fine line to balance between pushing the boundaries of fitness and remaining healthy.


Why Blood Test?

As performance driven athletes, we tend to know a lot about metrics. We know how fast we need to run to break 25 minutes at the Park Run, we remember our best times, our best performances, the times of our competitors, power numbers needed for a triathlon event of any distance, the ridiculous FTPs that some pro athletes have relative to us mere mortals: we work off lap/pace times in the pool day in day out. Yet for some reason, you couldn't relate your health numbers off the top of your head. What is a healthy ferritin value? What is the difference between your active and inactive B12? What about optimal testosterone levels, vitamin D or creatine?

Information is Key

Information fundamentally makes the biggest difference in performance. People began to train with heart rate monitors as it gave them more information when running, then power meters came along, bringing with them more information. You can pay and have your threshold values calculated through VO2 Max testing. Understanding aerodynamics leads to faster bikes, hydrodynamics did the same to wetsuits, information on materials, composites and engineering leads to better equipment. Better understanding of the gut leads to improved nutritional plans and faster times. The biggest performance improver has been consistent increases in the levels of information. Yet most of these "nuggets" have been external to the human body.

Now with blood profiling, we can see the effect of training, diet, health etc through measurable, trackable and consistent internal sources. In other words we can forecast a bad day of training well before it happens.

It saddens me that there was a story of an American athlete who turned vegan and felt great as a result of it. She was basing her performance on her perception of how she felt when, if you (as she did) retrospectively looked at her blood testing, all metrics were pointing that she was actually unwell. Every time there was a sub-par performance, the athlete had another reason that could "explain" it. Regular blood testing can ensure that big changes like this example are made and managed appropriately. (This isn't to say you can't choose to follow the vegan principles and be an athlete it is just that testing can help you manage the conversion in a healthy manner!).

Other examples of athletes or situations where blood testing may be particularly relevant are:

  • Unexplained repeated injury, illness or underperformance
  • High overall load athletes (Training, Life, Work Stress all count)
  • Female athletes looking to check iron levels
  • Athletes working with a nutritionalist
  • Periodic Health MOTs

Don't get us wrong, perception of how you feel: training to feel, feeling good etc are all very important for an athlete, but often we find that "feelings cloud the fact" and in these cases blood testing can help make informed and correct decisions. 

What about my Doctor?

Frequent blood testing lets us insure we stay on the right side of healthy, improve fitness, and generally improve your performance - not through enhancing it as is usually the case, rather by reducing the chance of losing it. You can certainly pick up blood tests with your GP if you are concerned about any areas, and fundamentally, these tests are the same. However, using a paid-for service like Forth Edge allows us to break down the information into a lot more detail than your average GP tests and focus on athletic normal, not just national normal – we all know that athletes aren't normal! The timescales are also significantly faster with a private test than a GP test and you can specifically look at the tests you want.

Give it a Go!

If you would like to trial blood testing, we offer a pre-Training Holiday Blood test and a post Camp blood test with Forth Edge. The Endurance test looks into oxygen carrying capacity, immune function, fatigue, recovery and over training. Pre Training Camp, it will mean you can address any concerning results before arriving with us through diet or recovery changes. Then after your time with us, you can see the changes as well as make sure you have recovered adequately before you do some more hard training. For more information about it, follow this link.


Philip HatzisComment