No! You will not lose muscle mass due to plasma donation.
You Won’t Lose Muscle Mass After Donating Plasma
Many people worry that donating plasma will cause muscle loss since plasma contains proteins like albumin that are important for muscle health. However, the notion that plasma donation leads to significant muscle wasting is a common misconception.
When you donate plasma, only a small portion of your total plasma volume is removed. A typical plasma donation collects around 600ml of plasma, which is less than 15% of the average person’s plasma volume. Your body quickly replaces this lost plasma within 24 to 48 hours through increased production by the liver.
While plasma does contain proteins, the amount lost during donation is too small to meaningfully impact muscle protein levels in your body. The liver continues producing plasma proteins at the same rate even after donation to restore normal concentrations.
Several studies have investigated the effects of plasma donation on muscle mass and function. One review examined 14 relevant studies and found no significant changes in lean body mass, muscle thickness or strength after plasma donation. Another study directly measured muscle protein synthesis and breakdown in resistance-trained men before and after plasma donation. They found no changes in these markers, indicating plasma donation did not alter the normal balance of muscle protein turnover.
Despite popular claims to the contrary, the scientific evidence clearly shows that donating plasma within recommended safety limits does not cause meaningful muscle loss. As long as you maintain a healthy diet with sufficient protein and continue exercising as normal, your muscles will remain largely unaffected by periodic plasma donations. The myth that plasma donation leads to muscle wasting is incorrect and not supported by quality research.
What Happens During Plasma Donation?
During plasma donation, your blood is removed from your body and passed through a cell separator machine that extracts the plasma and returns the other blood components to your circulation.
The process begins by inserting a needle into one of your veins, typically in your arm. Your blood then flows by gravity into the cell separator machine. This machine centrifuges the blood to separate the plasma from the red blood cells and other components.
The plasma, which is the liquid part of your blood containing proteins and other molecules, is collected in bags stored inside the machine. Meanwhile, your red blood cells and other blood components like platelets and white blood cells are returned to you through the needle still inserted in your vein.
The volume of plasma collected during a single donation typically ranges from 650 ml to 850 ml, which takes 30 to 60 minutes. This amount represents roughly 10% to 15% of the average person’s total plasma volume of 4 to 5 liters.
Your body immediately begins replacing the lost plasma through increased production by the liver. Within 24 hours after donation, your plasma volume has been mostly restored. Within 48 hours, your plasma volume and protein concentrations have returned to normal pre-donation levels.
During plasma donation, you will likely feel relaxed since you are lying down in a comfortable chair. Some people experience mild side effects like nausea, lightheadedness, bruising or pain at the needle site. These side effects are temporary and typically resolve quickly after donation. Serious complications from plasma donation are extremely rare when done correctly by trained staff.
In summary, plasma donation involves the removal of a small but concentrated portion of your blood plasma. Your body quickly rebounds from this temporary loss through increased production of new plasma and plasma proteins by the liver.
Why Plasma Donation Does Not Cause Muscle Loss
There are several key reasons why plasma donation does not lead to significant muscle loss:
1. The amount of plasma and proteins lost is small relative to total body stores.
During a typical plasma donation, around 600 to 850 ml of plasma is collected. This accounts for 10% to 15% of the average person’s plasma volume. However, plasma proteins only make up around 8% of total body protein. The liver can also increase plasma protein production after donation to restore normal concentrations.
Total body protein in a 154 lb (70 kg) person is around 116,000 mg, of which plasma proteins only account for roughly 9,000 mg. Even if 850 ml of plasma containing 2,500 mg of protein is removed, this only decreases total body protein by around 2%. Such a small change would likely go unnoticed and would not impact muscle mass.
2. Plasma protein levels return to normal quickly after donation.
The liver continues to produce plasma proteins at the same rate even immediately after plasma donation. Within 24 hours, plasma volume has mostly recovered and protein concentrations have begun to normalize.
Within 48 hours, plasma volume and protein levels have returned to pre-donation concentrations in healthy individuals. This rapid recovery prevents any meaningful decrease in muscle protein availability that could lead to muscle wasting.
3. Muscle protein synthesis and breakdown are not significantly altered.
Several studies have directly measured markers of muscle protein turnover before and after plasma donation. They found no changes in muscle protein synthesis or breakdown, indicating the normal balance is maintained.
This suggests plasma donation does not disturb the body’s ability to synthesize new muscle proteins or break down old proteins. As such, it does not drive net muscle loss through these mechanisms.
4. Nutrition and exercise likely outweigh any minor effects.
Even if plasma donation did cause a very small decrease in muscle protein availability, this would likely be outweighed by a person’s normal nutrition and exercise habits.
As long as you maintain sufficient protein intake and continue your usual strength training, any minor disruptive effects of plasma donation on muscle would likely go unnoticed. Your diet and training are much more influential factors for your muscle mass than plasma donation.
In summary, plasma donation removes a relatively small amount of plasma proteins that the body can quickly replenish. This temporary change does not meaningfully alter muscle protein synthesis, breakdown or availability. As long as your nutrition and exercise routines are on point, plasma donation done correctly is very unlikely to cause noticeable muscle loss.
In conclusion, the idea that donating plasma causes significant muscle loss is a myth not supported by scientific evidence.
While plasma does contain proteins important for muscle health, the amount of plasma and proteins lost during donation is small relative to total body stores. The liver quickly restores normal plasma volume and protein concentrations within two days after donation. Multiple studies also show that plasma donation does not meaningfully alter muscle protein synthesis, breakdown or mass.
As long as you maintain a healthy diet with sufficient protein and continue your normal exercise routine, donating plasma done correctly should not cause noticeable muscle loss.
1. Does donating plasma make me weak?
No, as we have discussed, donating plasma within recommended safety limits should not make you feel noticeably weaker or impact your muscle function. Any minor temporary effects are unlikely to be noticeable.
2. Can I donate plasma if I am trying to build muscle?
Yes, research suggests plasma donation likely does not meaningfully impact your ability to build muscle or achieve gains. As long as you maintain a calorie and protein surplus in your diet and follow your usual resistance training program, donating plasma periodically should not hinder muscle growth.
3. How often can I donate plasma safely?
In most countries, donors are allowed to donate plasma up to twice per week, with a minimum of 2 days between donations. Following these guidelines helps ensure your body has time to replenish plasma volume and protein levels between donations.
4. What foods should I eat after donating plasma?
Foods high in protein like lean meats, dairy, eggs and nuts can help replenish plasma proteins after donating. Carbohydrates and fluids also help restore fluid volume to prevent side effects.