Putting in the long hours of training over the winter can be grueling, and this heavy load is a lot for my body to handle. But, if I’m healthy and sleep, eat, and recover appropriately this training stimulus will help me perform better come race season. As an elite athlete, I want to be doing everything I can to make sure that I’m achieving peak performance and staying on top of my health.
One component of that attention to my health, involves checking on the levels of various nutrients and hormones in my body to make sure that they are adequate to support the rigorous training I’m doing. Before I joined the Blueprint for Athletes Ambassador team, I had to bug my primary care doctor about conducting these tests for me, but now I have the means to control that myself.
Blueprint for Athletes is a service run by Quest Diagnostics (a well known medical testing company) that allows athletes to test their blood for biomarkers that effect athletic performance. There are different packages that an athlete can order depending on his or her specific sport and needs. For me, as an endurance athlete and a medical student at Columbia, who has studied these molecules in class, the biomarkers that I pay particular attention to our hemoglobin, ferritin, and vitamin D.
Hemoglobin is a measure of your iron-carrying capacity, so higher levels allow more oxygen to be delivered to an athlete’s working muscle groups, so the importance of this one is obvious. Ferritin is related– it’s the marker of iron stores. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin. Vitamin D is involved in Calcium absorption, but also immune function and many other processes, and low levels have been shown to decrease athletic performance.
So if you haven’t had a blood test in a while and are training intensely, it could be a good idea to get it checked.