Blood test data were traditionally confined to the clinic for diagnostic purposes, but are now becoming more routinely used in many professional and elite high-performance settings as a physiological profiling and monitoring tool. A wealth of information based on robust research evidence can be gleaned from blood tests, including: the identification of iron, vitamin or energy deficiency; the identification of oxidative stress and inflammation; and the status of red blood cell populations. Serial blood test data can be used to monitor athletes and make inferences about the efficacy of training interventions, nutritional strategies or indeed the capacity to tolerate training load. Via a profiling and monitoring approach, blood biomarker measurement combined with contextual data has the potential to help athletes avoid injury and illness via adjustments to diet, training load and recovery strategies. Since wide inter-individual variability exists in many biomarkers, clinical population-based reference data can be of limited value in athletes, and statistical methods for longitudinal data are required to identify meaningful changes within an athlete. Data quality is often compromised by poor pre-analytic controls in sport settings. The biotechnology industry is rapidly evolving, providing new technologies and methods, some of which may be well suited to athlete applications in the future. This review provides current perspectives, limitations and recommendations for sports science and sports medicine practitioners using blood profiling and monitoring for nutrition and performance purposes.
Sports Med (2019( 49(Suppl 2):185-198.