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Independent labs for blood tests - yea or nay? (athletic-related)

Thomas

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Okay, I'm posting this as a quick reality check. Here's the situation - and please understand that in the interest of avoiding tl;dr I've left a lot out in summarizing the matter:

I've been running for years now but am at the tail end of a heavy training and racing cycle (2 marathons in 7 weeks) and I am really dragging. I've taken the past 10 days off, and the bounce has not returned - in fact it was gone before the second marathon but I ran it anyway (Slower than my first). Overtraining could be a culprit but the mileage didn't spike at any point, and - outside of the second marathon - I've had 17 days of rest (7 before, 10 after). I don't get a lot of sleep, but that's how it's been for years now anyway. And I still sometimes wake up before the alarm goes off.

There are other factors I've not mentioned, but after some google-fu and other readings I think it's low iron, specifically serum ferritin. I've pulled my diet back into line re: iron (I couldn't remember the last time I had red meat or dark green leafys) and added an iron supplement. But I'd like to know if that is the cause, and I don't want the hassle of a doctor telling me to rest more and pick a favorite TV show to follow, and I certainly don't want the hassle of insurance which won't cover it anyway.

There are independent labs popping up, one not far from a place I go for lunch. They seem appealing enough, but I have no idea how reliable or accurate they are. That is why this thread is here: I don't want to drop the lucre on unreliable results. I could continue with the iron, sans test - and I think it will work - but I'd like to know if, and by how much, things went sideways.

Oh, and I have a half-marathon in two weeks.
 

HORNS

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Many labs, like Labcore, Quest Diagnostic, etc are very reliable and many hospitals send some tests out to places like them for analysis. That being said, those labs are very reliable and are sometimes better than certain hospitals but hospitals are traditionally more expensive.


But brother, there can be a million things that can drag you down. An inexpensive thing you can do is take Vitamin B supplement (B6 and B12). Also, how much water are you drinking a day?
 

Pluripotent

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It would be highly unusual for a male (I'm assuming you're male) to be iron deficient without some underlying serious disease process going on. The extra iron probably won't hurt you, though (unless you are overdosing, which you probably aren't, but it's not harmless, so watch out). Why would you jump to iron deficiency when you already admit that you aren't getting a lot of sleep? Common things are common. Try sleeping more.
 
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Thomas

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Many labs, like Labcore, Quest Diagnostic, etc are very reliable and many hospitals send some tests out to places like them for analysis. That being said, those labs are very reliable and are sometimes better than certain hospitals but hospitals are traditionally more expensive.
But brother, there can be a million things that can drag you down. An inexpensive thing you can do is take Vitamin B supplement (B6 and B12). Also, how much water are you drinking a day?

I know about Quest and have one nearby, but I saw a lab with a name I'd never before heard in a strip-center and thought...HMMM. really? And my curiosity reared up and I went googling. FWIW, before lunch I switch from coffee to water and generally have 4-6 glasses of water or gatorade at work, water or lemonade (or beer) at dinner, and another glass before bedtime. But I'll try the B supplement.

It would be highly unusual for a male (I'm assuming you're male) to be iron deficient without some underlying serious disease process going on. The extra iron probably won't hurt you, though (unless you are overdosing, which you probably aren't, but it's not harmless, so watch out). Why would you jump to iron deficiency when you already admit that you aren't getting a lot of sleep? Common things are common. Try sleeping more.

I realize that iron deficiency is unusual for males. That said, during the past 17 days I've gotten more sleep per night than I did during peak training mileage (35-45 mpw, from October to Mid-Feb). During this time, two days off was enough to recharge from a rough session. When I did overtrain, a week was enough to set things right. For it to linger this long is unusual, for me at least. And when I say unusual, I mean I haven't had this sort of blah linger this long in 6 years.
 
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Pluripotent

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I realize that iron deficiency is unusual for males.
It isn't just that it's unusual. It's also that if you really are iron deficient, it's probably because of a much more serious problem than lack of iron in the diet. You can test yourself if you want to, and any lab can do an iron panel, but it's probably going to come back just fine. There are thousands of causes for fatigue (not least of which include lack of sleep and heavy exertion). It sounds like you are trying to reverse engineer a diagnosis, and have latched on to iron deficiency as a cause. If you went to a doctor with vague complaints of fatigue, they would probably run several tests (like and iron panel, thyroid function tests, vit D, CBC, CMP and maybe others), which would probably all come back fine (except maybe the D, which many people are deficient in). I'm not recommending you do this, however (or test them yourself, for that matter). The bigger question is why have you latched on to iron deficiency over all the other potential causes? What makes you want to ascribe your fatigue to a disease process? The interwebs aren't helping you here. The problem with this type of self diagnosis is that you have no way of knowing if you're right or wrong, or whether you're wasting your money or not. You think you might have iron deficiency (or B12, or celiac disease or whatever else is currently a fad self diagnosis), so you supplement, or take some herbs or do some diet -- maybe you feel better, maybe you don't. How do you know what you did helped or not? How do you know you didn't waste your time and money? It's all subjective.

(if you do decide to test yourself, you shouldn't be supplementing yourself at that time, or else you will never know if you were truly deficient and the supplements were helping, or if they were just a waste, and the test will be worthless).
 
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Thomas

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^^^ those are all good points, and worth considering, but during training I more or less operate in a narrow band of function. I eat a lot of the same foods, take the same supplements, train similar distances / speeds, keep mostly regular hours, etc. I can more or less discern between dehydration, salt depletion, and glycogen depletion - and in any case those are my first go-to fixes. When I'm exhausted, I know it, it shows on my face readily. Red meat, though, hasn't been in my diet lately. I don't know why, but no brisket, no steaks, no hamburgers. And, sometimes a big hamburger helps me bounce back. But I tend to catch it earlier, so the depletion (if in fact that's what it is and not a placebo effect) doesn't linger.

All that said, this year I've raced more mileage than before, and I was fine up to and through the January marathon and was strong until late Feb. Maybe it's burnout, perhaps it's stress, who knows? I don't really get sick often, the only hereditary disease in my family is heart disease. That's not to rule out everything, but I've been active at something for 20+ years now. This is unusual, and the diet was the only thing I can point to that's off.
 

Pluripotent

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Well then, with a family history of heart disease, you should probably see a doctor anyway and get a lipid panel. Heart disease is completely preventable, but some people have bad genes and need to be on lipid lowering drugs despite rigorous exercise. The good news is that if you do have bad lipids, you can fix it with medication. While you're there, talk to him about fatigue.
 

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