What Labs Should I be Testing if I'm Training for a Race?

What Labs Should I be Testing if I'm Training for a Race?

If you’re training for a race and going for a PR, of course you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to set yourself up for success:  wearing your lucky socks, getting the right shoes, doing speed workouts, and packing tons of gels.  But what about your biomarker levels?

If your biomarkers aren’t in range, then not even $300 carbon plated shoes or the best gels will get you that PR.  You have to make sure that the foundation is solid, which means making sure that your body is in a place to perform.  Whether it’s supplementing to correct deficiencies or adding to your diet to target certain nutrients, taking these steps early will help you get the most out of your training block, prevent injuries, and get you to the start line feeling strong.

What labs should I be testing as an athlete?

In conducting a wide-array of labs, we are looking to get a sense of a number of things:  adequacy of intake, bone health, performance capabilities, and heart health.


We track hemoglobin because it is an essential protein in your red blood cells that also carries oxygen throughout the body.  No oxygen going to your tissues means that it’s a whole lot harder to perform at your best.  If hemoglobin is low, it might mean that we need to ramp up your iron, B12, or folic acid.


Serum iron

Serum iron refers to the iron that is free and available in your blood.  Its main function is to help hemoglobin transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in our bodies.  It also helps turn food into fuel for our cells.  Believe it or not, a sport like running can increase the risk of deficiency due to the hemolysis (breakdown) of red cells as a result of foot strike.  If you are deficient in iron, you may notice a decreased power output and a decline in recovery in sport.



Ferritin is probably the number one thing that athletes are concerned about, especially if they are training at altitude (the elevation can have a negative impact on ferritin!)  This is the body’s “storage unit” for iron.  Like serum iron, when it’s low, it can negatively impact performance and cause fatigue.


Vitamin D

Essential to bone remodeling, vitamin D is crucial to track for athletes (and everyone, really!)  Especially if you are dealing with RED-S or disordered eating, we want to track your vitamin D to prevent bone injuries that result from low bone density.  Not only is vitamin D critical for bone health, but if you are deficient, it can cause intense fatigue as well.  Because the most available source of vitamin D is sunshine, it’s extra important to keep an eye on in the winter months.


Vitamin B12

The biggest complaint from someone with low B12 is that they feel like they just don’t have any energy, which can make it pretty hard to go about your daily life, let alone complete a workout.  B12 is also involved in making red blood cells and hemoglobin, which we talked about above.  So, again, B12 is yet another nutrient that support oxygen transport throughout the body.



Contrary to popular belief, testosterone should be tested for both males and females.  Low testosterone can be a marker of low energy intake or a diet that is low in carbohydrates.  Having a low T3 has been associated with an increased risk of injuries in athletes, so monitoring it can help to prevent them.


When should I be getting bloodwork done?

In a training block

It’s always a good idea to check in on your labs at the beginning of a training block (12-16 weeks out from a race).  This way, you can work with your dietitian to correct any deficiencies as you begin to ramp up your training, ensuring that you will get the most “bang for your buck” in every workout.

Additionally, I recommend re-testing any labs of concern 2-3 weeks out from your race.  It is a possibility that training can alter some of your labs, and you will want to correct them before the big day.

Check out Steady State Nutrition's performance bundles.


Returning to sport after injury

In returning to sport, you are likely ramping up our training relatively quickly, and sometimes re-building altogether.  With this, it’s important to make sure that you have a strong foundation in order to prevent repeat injuries.  That’s why I recommend getting your labs tested before jumping back into training.  This way, we can ensure that the nutrients that support bone and tissue health are within range.


Your performance is declining despite training

While this can be happening for a number of reasons, one of them could be a deficiency (say, in iron, ferritin, B12, or vitamin D).  To rule this out, get those labs tested!  This could also be due to underfueling, overtraining, or a number of other reasons, so be sure to communicate with your coach or dietitian if you are feeling your performance decrease!


How do I go about getting my labs done?

Steady State Nutrition partners with Rupa Health to order labs for clients at wholesale prices.  A test kit will be delivered to your home, which includes everything you need to get your blood tested, including a bag with a pre-paid label so that you can ship it back to the lab yourself.  You will simply use Rupa’s phlebotomy map to find a phlebotomist near you, make an appointment, and bring your test kit in to get your blood drawn!

Once your results are in, Caila will review them and provide descriptions and recommendations to address any deficiencies.  Easy as that!  If you have any questions about this process, please contact Steady State Nutrition for more information!