Recovering from blood donation

I’ve been a regular blood donor for years, but this spring I noticed a precipitous drop in my ftp after donating double red cells. It was ~8 weeks before I felt like I was back to where I was before the donation.
In light of that, I haven’t given blood at all during my race season. My last “A” race was last Saturday and I’m going to give again over the winter. I’m curious what others have done to help your ftp rebound after blood donations whether it’s diet or training related.

Increased Iron in the way of more spinach, red meat, etc. seem to help some. Any other ideas?


I have a condition where my body retains iron and it can build to harmful levels. I have to donate whole blood 3 times per year (about every 17 to 20 weeks) and avoid iron rich foods to some degree.

Base on that, I avoid red meat other than special occasions. Otherwise, I tend to follow the typical recovery recommendations with hearty meal and normal drinks the first few meals after.

I haven’t done a bunch of food testing to optimize. I just count on being down for at least 2 weeks and work to get back to where I was in 6ish weeks (if I’m lucky).

Edit to add a link to the Blood Donation coverage on the podcast.


Likewise noticed a drop in performance for 4 weeks or so after my most recent donation. I am thinking about donating plasma or platelets next time, rather than whole blood.


Whoa, a double packed cell donation! That’ll definitely affect your training. I think even a unit of whole blood donation will have a measurable affect for a few weeks let alone a double RBC donation.

Unfortunately red cells take time to mature and all you can do is make sure your body has all that it needs to feed the ramped up RBC production. Sounds like you have the Iron part covered. Make sure to have a healthy dose of good fats and adequate cholesterol in your diet as those are some major components of the cell membrane. Make sure to have enough folic acid. A small portion of the population will have a double hit of the MTHFR mutation and if you have that, then supplementing with methylfolate would be highly recommended.

Like the other person said, it may be better to do a plasma or platelet donation if you want to donate without affecting your performance.


Thanks, guys! We’ll see what happens. I originally started doing double reds since there is less plasma loss, but not really accounting for the fact that the red cells are where the “money” is at. I may go back to whole blood and see if my recovery comes faster with less red cell loss.

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@heypoolboy78 The average quantity of blood that is taken during a donation is around a pint (for simple math let’s just say 500ml. The total circulating volume of blood for an average human(depends on body size) is about 6.5L so they take between 5-8% of your blood volume. With proper rehydration it may only take a day or two to get your actual volume status back. However, it takes 90-120 days for blood cells to mature so your hemoglobin won’t be back up to pre donation levels until then. Of course you are taking measly percentage or fractions of a percentage point (that most people never feel the affects of) but of course as an endurance athlete this may most certainly affect you.


Lying here donating whole blood right now…VO2max scheduled tomorrow (Mills).

I searched the podcasts and Coach Chad covered this on 1st Dec 2017. I listened in horror on my way here! For regaining ‘normal’ levels: 24hrs for plasma; 72 for platelets; ~6-8lwks for haemoglobin capacity.

I may substitute or reduce the workout intensity tomorrow! Hey, my brilliant NHS needs my blood so what am I going to do?!


I would avoid anything close to threshold for a few days at least.

I donated whole blood one week ago. I dropped my FTP 10% to start. I then did a few Endurance level workouts over the weekend. Last night I did a Sweet Spot 3x 10 mins at 85% and felt OK.

I have a few more workouts planned this weekend. Then I move into a Ramp test next Tuesday to start my SSB1 for the next season.

Overall point, consider FTP reduction and plan some easy rides for a week or so to bounce back.


Just noticed this thread, though I did hear Coach Chad address it last year, very honestly. Like OP a regular donor for years – um, until I started obsessing about fitness. Dropped to once this last year, and accompanying secret guilt. The thread lets me know I’m not the only one, and it’s a great day to rethink priorities. Wish I had the other Chad’s problem, sigh!


I understand the desire to drop donations to focus on racing. I had donated for many years and then decided to drop them to “get faster”.

This accidentally lead me to the discovery of my Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HH) condition, during an annual blood test screen. Turned out that I had inadvertently been treating my condition via my regular whole blood donations prior to “getting serious”.

So I decided to recognize the fact that my health and the benefits of donating to others far outweigh the non-professional pursuits of my cycling life.

I can’t lie, it still stings a bit to take the drop in fitness each time, but when I look at the big picture, it’s all good. And it becomes a small challenge to get back to my prior level.


Thanks for the advice @mcneese.chad. I’ll be doing 90min of Baxter tomorrow to earn my Friday night pizza, and then pushing week 3 of SSB Low Vol II back a bit.

Now I’m going back over my donation history to see how it affected me in the past…

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Baxter should be good. Pay attention to your RPE and adjust Intensity down as needed if you leave FTP at the pre-donation level.

Good luck bouncing back to form :smiley:

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Last time I gave blood my running VO2Max (as measured by Garmin) dropped 10% and took 4 weeks to get back to the original value.


Hahaha I cant beleive this came up. Last week I donated whole blood for the first time last week, and the nurse said “Dont do exercise for up to 24hrs after”. I wanted to see what would happen if I did a brick 1.45hr workout, 2hrs after donation.

On the bike, way more percieved effort, and HR was about 10BPM higher. The 30min run, same thing, pace was down, HR was high, plus the addition of ice cold chills. I stopped after 15mins and walked the rest.

1 week later, still got some light effects, but nothing to really slow me down.


Blood donations were a topic in one of this/last years podcasts - look it up on youtube.

I used to donate plasma and blood ( currently not allowed to since I have lived on a different continent in the past year ) and I found that plasma is not necessarily easier on your body. Just the stress of draining so much more fluid out of you to separate the plasma from the rest and putting that back into you is hard n the system. + you actually loose a lot more of liquids and at least for me I get sick quite easily.
The plus side is that if you want to loose weight , repleneshing your blood stores takes a considerable amount of energy ( just a joke , its like trying to loose weight when you have broken bones ) just ask @Nate_Pearson about that one

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This is the episode, near the end.


Count yourself lucky that you didn’t pass out.
Please, for your own sake, don’t try that again.

Thanks for donating, but make sure to follow the good advice next time. :slight_smile:


After my donation I did a week of workouts @ 45-55% workouts. Since my season is actually over I just started back into ss base and left my ftp alone. The first week was tough, but they feel pretty good now. Although, after my mtb ride today I’d say I don’t have a whole lot of vo2 efforts to offer yet. The punchy little climbs killed me. :wink:

I supplemented with iron after donating based upon the information in this study:
NIH Study