Live like an Olympian: Blood tests

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Phlebotomy

What it measures: Blood profile

Why have it? Blood testing is routinely used for diagnostics, screening and monitoring in athletes. ‘Elite athletes would normally have blood tests two to four times per year,’ says Dr John Rogers, endurance medical officer to British Athletics. ‘These look at specific biomarkers to help identify problems that can affect health and performance. For example, iron deficiency is associated with reduced aerobic capacity, while a lack of vitamin D can have an impact on bone health, immune function and performance. Blood biochemistry can also flag up signs of overtraining or under-recovery.’

Rogers believes that keen amateur runners can benefit from blood testing as much as elites do. ‘Sometimes more so, thanks to follow-up advice which they may not normally have access to,’ he says. ‘If a problem is identified, recommendations may include modified training, recovery strategies, sports nutrition input and supplementation.’

What’s it like? I took the LiveSmart Health Check, which assesses 34 different biomarkers, from specific vitamins and minerals to red and white blood cell status, CRP (a marker of inflammation), liver and kidney function, blood glucose and cholesterol. You can perform a finger-prick blood test yourself using the kit provided and post it back, or pay an additional £25 to have your blood taken at an affiliated clinic. You access your results online, displayed using clear graphics, depicting each reading in the context of what’s ‘normal’, with comments and recommendations from a doctor who has reviewed your results and medical questionnaire.

‘Once you know how your training is affecting performance and health, you can target problem areas before getting a repeat check to measure improvement,’ says LiveSmart manager Alex Heaton. Since learning my red blood cells aren’t in optimal shape, I’ve upped my dietary iron intake. It will be interesting to see how that impacts on performance and fatigue levels over time.

Details: LiveSmart Plus health check, £99