Over recent years the issue of health within bodybuilding has been brought to our attention more and more. With the availability of online blood and health checks nowadays there are many more of us paying attention to what is going on within our bodies.
It’s fairly well known that over the years I’ve had my own fair share of health issues where I’ve learnt the hard way to take proper care of myself and my health so that I live a good healthy life for as long as possible. After my kidney transplant in 2018 I have had blood tests done on a regular basis, at least every 3 months without fail. By doing this I’m able to view and keep an eye on certain levels and readings within my blood which my training may be affecting.
So what are the main things that I loom for?
The first thing I always check are my creatinine levels. Creatinine is a waste product within the blood that is caused by muscle breakdown and then removed from the blood by the kidneys. As athletes and bodybuilders we will always have naturally higher levels of this due to the amount that we train and the intensity but what we want to be looking for is a gradual increase over time. If this is happening, then it means that our kidneys and our body are not removing this waste product and could indicate that there could be an underlying problem somewhere that needs to be looked at by a professional. If creatinine levels build too much over a period of time then it could be an indication of some form of kidney damage and also make us start to feel quite unwell if levels build up too much.
Linked directly to this is our eGFR which is the next reading that I look out for. eGFR is short for estimated glomular filtration rate which in simple terms basically means how well your kidneys are filtering your blood. A good healthy kidney will filter 100ml of blood every minute so the blood results then convert this to a percentage rating to evaluate performance. For example, now that I have only one transplanted kidney that works in my body, my latest eGFR reading was 42% meaning that my new kidney filters 42ml of blood per minute. Which to be honest is pretty good considering it’s doing the job on it’s own and has all of my training to contend with! But if these two readings mentioned are ever compromised then I pause everything and take a step back to analyse what could be causing any issues.
Two important ones for are also my white and red blood cell count. The white ones are important for me as these need to kept extremely low. This is mainly helped by the anti rejection drugs that I have to take for my kidney. I take these every 12 hours and will for the rest of my life. White blood cells are the ones that fight off infection within our bodies and mine have to be kept low so that they don’t attack my new kidney. Because it is a transplanted organ, my body recognises it as something that that shouldn’t really be there so the white blood cells will try to do what they are meant to and fight it off but obviously we don’t want that.
Red blood cells also have to kept in check and within range as if the count gets too high then our blood can thicken too much which can lead to blood clots. If I get a blood clot in my new kidney then it’s game over for kidney.
The final reading that I pay particular attention to is cholesterol. Cholesterol can be high in bodybuilders due to the amount of food we eat but also due to the supplements that some us choose to use. Over time cholesterol plays the main role in the thickening of the arteries and in later life can lead to heart attacks and heart disease, so don’t ignore it now as it will catch up with us in later life.
So guys, please take advise from my own experience. I wouldn’t want any of you to go through what I have over recent years. Yes, I have been successful but it wasn’t always like this and I will have to be careful for the rest of my life. My simple message is to learn about your body, be kind to it and be safe.