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International marathon and cross country champion, Louise Damen, took our Endurance Check Plus to make sure she's race-ready.
Is blood testing for performance something you’ve done in the past?
I have done some blood testing for performance previously but certainly not as often as I should have done, mainly due to accessibility. Understandably, it can be difficult to access blood testing for performance through the NHS as it’s costly and is obviously not a priority for those who are normally fit and well.
The Medichecks testing process was super easy. I chose to have a venous sample as I had the Endurance Check Plus. I simply popped along to my local clinic and I was in and out within 5 minutes! I posted the samples immediately afterwards and received the results within a few days.
Did you gain any insights from your results?
My coach and I are going to carefully monitor markers such as creatine kinase, cortisol, CRP and testosterone as they will give us the biggest indicator as to how I am recovering and if I am absorbing the training load. We are also interested to look at the impact of female hormones on training and performance and monitor the fluctuations in a monthly cycle.
Was there anything unexpected in your results?
There were no real surprises in my results as pretty much all my scores were within normal range. I was reassured to know that my Vitamin D and Magnesium scores were normal as these are two things that I have been low on in the past.
Will you be making any changes to your diet or training as a result of what you’ve learned?
I will continue to supplement with Vitamin D (during the winter months) to ensure that I keep my levels topped up. I am definitely keen to do more regular tests now to ensure that I keep everything on track.
What do you think are the benefits of blood testing for athletes?
When you are training hard towards a target race you want to ensure that your training, nutritional and recovery strategies are effective. You certainly want to make every mile count and don’t want any aspects of your training, diet or lifestyle to be counterproductive to achieving your goal. Monitoring your blood markers enables you to gain a valuable insight into your individual physiological profile and the aspects of your health that are not visible from the outside.
Here's what our medical director Dr Sam Rodgers has to say about Louise's results:
"Louise’s results look really good. Iron deficiency is common in long-distance runners, and particularly in women. Her ferritin is a healthy 80 which is perfect. She’s also one of the few people to have a really healthy vitamin D level at this time of year so clearly her supplements are working.
There are several important things to look at when training. Firstly, does the body have sufficiently high levels of minerals and vitamins to meet the increased needs of intense training? Hydration is also important, this can show up on the kidney function tests. Also, our tests can pick up on whether an athlete is overtraining. When an athlete is training hard their body may go into self-preservation mode, making incremental performance gains harder or impossible to achieve. It's also important to keep an eye on the reproductive hormones. Intense physical exercise can suppress a woman’s oestradiol levels, this can cause short-term problems with fertility or absent periods, and may, in the long run, increase the risk of osteoporosis.
The micronutrients that have been shown to influence athletic performance include iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12. Muscle inflammation markers (e.g. creatine kinase), cortisol and general inflammatory markers such as CRP will all tend to increase if someone is training too hard, so they can be used to gauge the intensity of your training program."
Louise will be doing another Endurance Check in the upcoming months to continue to monitor her progress.