The Most Important Blood Levels ​​for Sports & Bodybuilding

The Most Important Blood Levels ​​for Sports & Bodybuilding

Your blood values haven an important influence on your performance. But it's not always easy to understand what all these values mean or to know which impact they have. In this article, CARE carefully explains important values for you in order for you to know how to improve your performance.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in Activity
13 min read · Mar 11, 2024

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Why Are Blood Values Important?

In many senses, our blood is the fuel that keeps us going. Before the introduction of modern science, ancient cultures believed that blood was the essence of life itself. The ancient Greeks were the ones to develop the humoral theory of medicine, which proposed that the body's health depended on the balance of four bodily fluids or humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. The humoral theory influenced medical thought and practice in various cultures for over two millennia. By the 18th century, it had largely fallen out of favor in the medical community and was supplanted by the evidence-approached medicinal beliefs and principles that we mostly know and believe today. Rest assured, there is no black or yellow bile in your body that influences your temperament. What a relief, right?

We now know that blood is a bodily fluid that is vital for several functions in our body. The Ancient Greeks were right about blood in the sense that it is fundamental for our survival.

Therefore, getting our blood work done to get an insight into our different blood levels and our health is a fundamental component of modern medicine. Even though you might get your blood work done once a year by your physician or when you are sick, CARE takes blood analysis to another level. We provide insight into your overall well-being and can assist you in optimizing your health and performance. With thorough and regular blood tests, we can detect changes in your body at an early stage.

People who engage in bodybuilding or exercise regularly often know the impact of our blood on our performance, health, and fitness. Therefore, getting an insight into your blood levels for sports or bodybuilding can be enlightening.

We have all seen the sheet of a blood analysis once or twice in our lives, and most of you probably couldn't make much out of the cryptic numbers and abbreviations.

So, what exactly are blood values, and what do they tell us?

What Are Blood Values?

Blood values, also known as blood levels, blood test results, blood components, or blood parameters, refer to the specific measurements and values obtained from analyzing a blood sample. You might now ask yourself how many blood values there are. The answer is that hundreds of different blood values can be tested to assess various aspects of your health, including blood cell counts, organ function, hormonal levels, mineral intake, infection markers, nutritional values, and many more.

There are so many blood values that it is hard to put a specific number or amount to them since science keeps developing more and more blood values that can be ascertained.

What do these blood values tell us?

Our individual blood values provide various information about our overall health and well-being. By getting a blood test done with CARE, our health coaches and doctors can assess your health status, fitness, nutritional absorption, and inflammation levels.

The results of your blood work are reported in units such as “mg/dL," which stands for milligrams per deciliter. This unit is used to express the concentration of different substances in your blood, such as glucose, cholesterol, and other biomarkers that might interest you.

What Are the Most Important Blood Values ​​for Sport and Bodybuilding?

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Certain blood levels are indispensable to monitor for athletes, including bodybuilders, to optimize your performance, recovery, and overall health.

While individual needs and goals can vary depending on the person, these are some blood levels you should pay special attention to as a professional athlete or sports enthusiast:

Erythrocytes – Oxygen Transport

Our red blood cells (RBCs) are scientifically known as erythrocytes. They are a crucial component of our blood and vital to maintaining our overall health and athletic performance. Red blood cells are our body's most abundant type of blood cell. They are designed to transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and organs in our body and to transport carbon dioxide, a waste product of our metabolism, from the tissues back to our lungs for exhalation. You might remember looking at erythrocytes under the microscope during a biology lesson.

From your biology lessons, you might remember that erythrocytes get their red color from a protein called hemoglobin, which binds and carries oxygen. The Hemoglobin, found within the erythrocytes, binds to oxygen in the lungs and releases it to the body's tissues. Hemoglobin levels are a key indicator of our blood's oxygen-carrying capacity, which is important for athletes.

Many people who get their RBCs tested will also see the blood value “Hematocrit” on their blood work tests. Hematocrit measures the volume of red blood cells in your blood. This provides information about the proportion of blood volume occupied by erythrocytes. Low hematocrit levels may indicate anemia, leading to fatigue and reduced exercise capacity.

Since the ability of our blood to carry and deliver oxygen is a crucial and limiting factor for endurance athletes, it is advisable to monitor your erythrocyte levels to optimize your aerobic capacity and endurance.

Leukocytes – Warriors of the Immune System

Leukocytes, commonly known as white blood cells (WBCs), are another crucial component of blood since they play a vital role in our immune system. Unlike red blood cells, which primarily carry oxygen, white blood cells are responsible for defending our body against infections and foreign invaders.

Your white blood cells are a key component of your body's immune system, which defends you against infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens. An elevated white blood cell count can indicate an ongoing infection or immune response. White blood cells are involved in our inflammatory response, the body's natural reaction to injury or infection. Intense physical training and competition can temporarily weaken the immune system or lead to micro-tears in our muscles, making athletes at intensive training more susceptible to a high blood cell count.

An increase in white blood cell count (leukocytosis) can also indicate inflammation or an infectious disease like the flu. Therefore, we recommend that our clients monitor their white blood cell count to help identify potential immune system challenges.

Athletes, including bodybuilders, who engage in strenuous training regimens are at risk of overtraining syndrome, which can lead to weakened immunity. Changes in white blood cell counts can also be an early warning sign of overtraining.

Iron Levels – Oxygen Transport During Exercise

Iron levels in your blood work are typically assessed through several specific blood tests that provide insights into your iron status. Serum iron (Fe) measures the amount of iron circulating in your bloodstream. It represents the iron bound to transferrin (a protein that transports iron) and the iron stored as ferritin.

Total Iron-Binding Capacity (TIBC), on the other hand, measures the total capacity of transferrin to bind with iron. It indicates how much iron your blood can carry. A high TIBC may suggest iron deficiency, as the body tries to compensate by increasing transferrin production.

Adequate iron levels are critical for optimizing oxygen transport during your exercise. This is particularly important for aerobic activities, such as running, cycling, and endurance sports, where oxygen demand is high.

Testosterone – Muscle Mass & Strength

Testosterone is a sex hormone primarily produced in the testes in males and, in lesser amounts, in the ovaries in females. It belongs to a group of hormones known as androgens.

Testosterone contributes to muscle growth and helps maintain muscle mass and strength. It also stimulates protein synthesis in muscle tissue.

Testosterone also plays a role in your bone density and maintaining strong and healthy bones. Higher testosterone levels can provide a competitive advantage in some sports, particularly in strength and power sports.

Thrombocytes – Forming Blood Clots

Thrombocytes, commonly known as platelets, are a crucial component of blood that play a vital role in the body's ability to form blood clots and prevent excessive bleeding.

Since athletes and bodybuilders often engage in intense physical training, increasing their risk of injuries such as muscle strains, joint sprains, or cuts, platelets are crucial for hemostasis. Hemostasis is the ability to create blood clots to stop bleeding. Rapid and effective clotting is vital for minimizing blood loss and facilitating the healing process after injuries during sports.

Glucose (Blood sugar) – Source of Energy

Glucose is an essential blood value for athletes and bodybuilders because it is the primary energy source for muscles during exercise. Maintaining stable blood glucose levels is crucial to sustain your energy levels and optimize your performance.

Athletes need to manage their carbohydrate intake and blood glucose levels carefully. This ensures they have the energy required for training and competition while preventing the negative effects of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) on their performance and overall health.

Monitoring glucose levels can help you fine-tune your nutrition strategies to support and achieve your training goals and maintain consistent energy levels throughout your workouts.

Cortisol – Stress in a Nutshell

Did you know that teachers have higher cortisol levels than CEOs? Cortisol is a stress hormone that can increase during intense training, physical or mental activity or stress.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels may indicate overtraining or excessive stress, negatively affecting performance and recovery.

Electrolytes – Muscle Function, Nerve Impulses & Hydration

Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are minerals. Those are essential for muscle function, nerve impulses, and hydration. Imbalances can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, and reduced exercise performance.

Electrolytes help regulate the balance of fluids in your body. Sweating during exercise can lead to the loss of electrolytes, primarily sodium and potassium. Since sodium and potassium ions are critical for muscle contraction and nerve signaling, maintaining adequate electrolyte levels helps you prevent muscle cramps and ensures smooth muscle function during your exercise.

Creatine Kinase (CK)

Creatine Kinase is an enzyme found primarily in muscle cells, including skeletal muscles and the heart muscle (myocardium). It plays a crucial role in cellular energy metabolism, particularly in converting creatine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into phosphocreatine, which is a readily available energy source for muscle contractions.

Creatine Kinase values can be elevated after strenuous exercise or muscle injury. Monitoring these levels can help assess muscle recovery and potential overtraining.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for various physiological functions in the body. It is unique among vitamins because the body can produce it when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

Adequate vitamin D levels are important for bone health, immunity, and overall well-being. Low vitamin D levels can impact muscle function and recovery.

Cholesterol: HDL, and LDL Cholesterol

Monitoring cholesterol levels is important for heart health and overall cardiovascular fitness. Maintaining a healthy lipid profile is essential for long-term health. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often called “bad” cholesterol, are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Monitoring cholesterol levels helps athletes and bodybuilders assess their cardiovascular health and take steps to reduce the risk of heart-related complications.

C-reactive protein (CRP)

CRP is a marker of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can negatively impact recovery and increase the risk of injury.

In our opinion, these blood levels are among the most indispensable blood levels athletes and bodybuilders might want to pay attention to.

Why Should You Have Your Blood Values ​​Tested for Sports and Bodybuilding?

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In the pursuit of peak performance and optimal health, athletes and bodybuilders understand the importance of leaving no stone unturned. That's why CARE’s comprehensive blood analysis has become an invaluable resource for those who aim to excel in their fitness and health journey.

By delving into the intricate details of your blood levels and having extensive knowledge about the blood count for competitive athletes, CARE empowers you to fine-tune your training, nutrition, and recovery strategies like never before.

Discovering your unique biomarkers with us allows you to tailor your approach to your body's specific needs and optimize your nutrient supply. A CARE blood analysis can also help you balance your hormone levels and mitigate potential health risks hindering your progress.

Your blood holds the secrets to your fitness success – let us help you unlock it.

How Often Should Your Blood Values Be ​​Checked for Competitive Sports and Bodybuilding?

The frequency at which you should check your blood as a competitive athlete or bodybuilder can vary depending on several factors, including your individual goals, training intensity, and overall health.

However, a general guideline for most people and hobby athletes is to undergo comprehensive blood analysis at least once or twice a year. These annual check-ups provide an essential snapshot of your overall health and allow you to track long-term trends in your blood values.

More frequent blood assessments, such as every three months, may be beneficial for those engaged in high-intensity or competitive training regimens. This interval enables you to closely monitor changes in response to your training, nutrition adjustments, and recovery strategies. It also helps you identify any potential imbalances or deficiencies that may arise due to increased physical demands.

How Does Exercise Change Blood Values?

Exercise can significantly influence various blood values, both in the short-term and long-term. Understanding these changes is crucial for people who aim to optimize their performance and health.

In the immediate aftermath of an endurance training session, blood values often exhibit temporary fluctuations. These include an increase in lactate levels, which can lead to temporary acidosis, and a rise in markers of muscle damage, such as creatine kinase (CK). These changes reflect the metabolic demands of exercise and typically return to baseline within hours or days as the body recovers.

Long-term endurance training, on the other hand, can produce more enduring adaptations. Regular physical activity, especially endurance training, can increase red blood cell production and hemoglobin levels, a phenomenon known as erythropoiesis. This is the body's way of improving oxygen transport to working muscles, ultimately enhancing endurance and performance. These changes can lead to blood values outside the normal range but within reference areas for athletes, highlighting the unique physiological adaptations of the trained body.

However, it's essential to note that excessive endurance training without adequate recovery can adversely impact blood values. Overtraining can lead to elevated stress hormones like cortisol, which may negatively impact your immune function and overall health.

Ensuring you have a balanced training regimen, a proper diet, and sufficient rest is crucial for maintaining favorable blood values while pursuing your athletic goals.

Increased Blood Values ​​in Athletes

At CARE, we recognize that athletes are unique people with specific health needs. That's why our comprehensive blood analysis services cater to those who demand peak performance and a profound understanding of their body's inner workings.

Athletes often exhibit distinctive blood value profiles that reflect their rigorous training and fitness dedication. For example, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels tend to be elevated due to the body's adaptation to endurance training, increasing oxygen-carrying capacity.

You might also notice that your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol regularly show favorable profiles, thanks to the positive impact of exercise on your cardiovascular health.

Moreover, heightened red blood cell counts enhance oxygen delivery to muscles, contributing to improved endurance, which can be observed in athletes' blood work. While the temporary elevation of creatine kinase (CK) and lactate levels during intense training sessions is normal, our comprehensive blood analysis helps athletes monitor these values, providing insights into their training adaptation, recovery needs, and overall health.

Reduced Blood Values in Athletes

Our comprehensive blood analysis allows us to shed light on various transformations in your blood, including those that often lead to decreased blood values if you exercise regularly.

While we just highlighted the blood values that might be increased in athletes, such as hemoglobin and hematocrit, due to enhanced oxygen transport, others may experience reductions.

For example, iron levels tend to be lower in athletes, particularly female athletes, due to increased iron expenditure during exercise and inadequate dietary intake. Additionally, athletes engaged in intensive training may temporarily exhibit lower testosterone levels, as strenuous exercise can influence hormone fluctuations.

Monitoring these changes through our advanced blood analysis empowers you to adjust your nutrition, training, and recovery strategies, ensuring your journey to ideal performance is successful and sustainable.

What Do Blood Levels ​​Say About Your Fitness?

Comprehensive blood analysis goes beyond mere numbers; it offers profound insights into your unique physiology, allowing you to tailor your fitness and health journey to perfection like never before.

Blood values directly reflect your body's responses to exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle choices. They reveal essential information about cardiovascular health, metabolic efficiency, muscle recovery, and hormonal balance. By delving into these laboratory values with CARE, you better understand how your body adapts to your fitness and health regimen. This enables you to make data-driven decisions with your health coach to optimize your athletic training, enhance your endurance, build lean muscle, and achieve peak performance.

What Consequences Can Blood Values Have for Athletes If They Are too High or too Low in the Long Term?

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You may face potential risks when your blood values stray too high or too low over time. Elevated markers, such as cholesterol or blood pressure, can lead to cardiovascular complications if left unaddressed, jeopardizing your long-term performance and overall well-being.

Conversely, too-low values, like iron or testosterone, can result in decreased endurance, muscle weakness, and even compromised immune function, affecting your ability to train and compete at your best.

By closely monitoring your blood values for sports and bodybuilding with CARE and making informed adjustments, you can mitigate long-term risks, ensuring a sustainable and successful athletic career.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!