The Best Way to Replace Protein After Plasma Donation

Different kinds of nuts and raisins on table
Nuts and raisins are great sources of protein and iron. (Image: serezniy/iStock/GettyImages)

Donating the plasma component of your blood is similar to a blood donation. Whole blood is drawn from your arm, then filtered through plasmapheresis, which involves separating out the plasma. The red blood cells and other cellular components are then returned to your body along with a solution to help replace the removed plasma. It's helpful to know how to prepare your body for plasma donation and how to help replace the protein in your blood to help with recovery.

Plasma Contains Protein

Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are the components in your blood plasma. Plasma is 90 percent water and contains more than 500 proteins. There are two main types of proteins in your plasma. Albumin serves an important role as a carrier for hormones, vitamins and glucose and aids in fat metabolism and binding fatty acids. Globulin protein helps with blood clotting and other vital functions in addition to supporting the immune system.

Pack on Protein Before Donating

The day before giving plasma, eat a meal that’s high in protein, rich in iron and low in fat. For optimal health, your body requires 46 to 56 grams of protein daily, depending on your age and physical activity, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Going into your plasma donation appointment with a high protein level will make it easier to replace it afterward. Foods high in protein include:

  • Beans
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Shrimp

Pump Up the Iron

Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin. You should strive for the recommended daily intake of at least 8 to 18 milligrams of iron. Eating foods containing iron or taking iron supplements will help bring your red blood cell level to the acceptable range for plasma donation. The following foods are a good source of iron and should be included in your menu:

  • Beans
  • Beef
  • Broccoli
  • Breakfast cereals (iron-enriched)
  • Chicken
  • Collards
  • Ham
  • Raisins
  • Turkey

If you include a food containing vitamin C, you can increase your body’s ability to absorb iron. Tomatoes, citrus, broccoli, papaya and spinach are all great sources.

Avoid Fatty Foods

Foods containing excessive fat, such as French fries, pizza, potato chips, burgers or sweets, should be avoided the day before and the day of your donation. Fatty foods can cause your plasma to be cloudy due to the amount of fat inside it. If your blood test reveals plasma that is cloudy and not clean, your eligibility for donation may be sabotaged.

Keep Yourself Hydrated

Skip that glass of red wine or alcohol the day before or after donating. Drink 6 to 8 cups of water or juice the night before and the day of your donation. Hydrating your body will shorten the time it will take to replenish itself.

Eating the Day Of

Not more than three hours before you're scheduled to donate, eat a meal rich in protein and iron including the foods listed above. Do not overeat. Just consume a healthy portion of protein, such as lean meat, along with complex carbohydrates prior to your session — you'll make it easier to replace proteins after the loss associated with donating plasma.

After Donating Plasma

Don’t smoke for 30 minutes or drink alcohol or caffeine for at least four hours after donating plasma. It's also advisable to avoid hard or prolonged exercise after your plasma donation. You should drink plenty of water and consume meals rich in protein and iron to restore the plasma blood levels. If you plan to participate in plasma donation on a regular basis, be sure to eat the recommended daily amount of protein and maintain your iron levels. It takes 48 hours for your body to replace plasma. According to The Blood Connection, you need to wait 28 days before you can donate again.

Factors That May Prevent Donation

You'll be screened before your plasma donation session. Be sure to tell the hospital if you're on any drugs or medications or have any existing medical problems. Some reasons why you may not be a candidate for donating plasma include:

  • having a history of hepatitis or HIV
  • getting a tattoo or piercing within the past year
  • being under the minimum weight of 110 pounds (there is no maximum weight limit)
  • being younger than 18 or older than 65
  • having a history of cancer
  • taking certain medications, such as antiplatelet agents, anticoagulants, acne medications or insulin
  • having recently ingested drugs or alcohol
  • eating fatty foods within the past 24 hours
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