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How can I increase my red blood cells in a day?

Having a healthy level of red blood cells is important for transporting oxygen throughout your body. There are several methods that may help boost your red blood cell count quickly, within 24 hours. However, it’s best to consult your doctor before attempting to increase red blood cells on your own.

What are red blood cells?

Red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, are the most common type of blood cell in the body. The main role of red blood cells is to carry oxygen from the lungs to tissues and organs. Hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein inside red blood cells, binds to oxygen allowing it to be transported.

The number of red blood cells in the body is measured by the hematocrit or the percentage of your blood volume that is made up of red blood cells. Normal levels are:

  • Male: 40-52%
  • Female: 36-48%

Having too few red blood cells is called anemia. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, and more. Anemia has many causes, including iron deficiency, vitamin deficiencies, chronic diseases, and genetics.

Why boost red blood cells quickly?

There are a few reasons why someone may want to boost their red blood cell levels quickly, such as:

  • Recovering from anemia
  • Increasing oxygen delivery for sports performance
  • Alleviating symptoms like fatigue and weakness
  • Preparing for surgery

However, drastically increasing red blood cell levels too quickly can be dangerous. It’s best to make gradual lifestyle changes to improve your red blood cell count long-term.

Methods to increase red blood cells in 24 hours

Here are some evidence-based ways to increase red blood cell production in as little as 24 hours:

1. Hydrate with water

Drinking more water may help boost red blood cell production quickly. Even mild dehydration can affect your blood volume and composition.

One study found that drinking around 17 ounces (500 ml) of water significantly increased the plasma volume within 1 hour and peaked at 1.5 hours in healthy young men.

Another study showed that when participants drank about 20 ounces (591 ml) of water, their hematocrit levels decreased by 2.9% within 1 hour, likely due to the increase in plasma volume.

Staying well hydrated allows your body to optimize the number of red blood cells circulating in your bloodstream. Aim to drink about half your weight in ounces of water daily as a goal.

2. Eat iron-rich foods

Consuming iron is essential for increasing the production of red blood cells.

Iron helps form hemoglobin, enabling red blood cells to shuttle oxygen throughout the body. Low iron levels can lead to anemia.

The recommended daily intake of iron is 8-18 mg but may be higher for those with deficiencies. The best food sources of iron are:

  • Red meat
  • Organ meat like liver
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Iron-fortified foods

Pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources, as vitamin C improves the absorption of iron. Avoid drinking coffee or tea with meals, as these can inhibit iron absorption.

3. Take vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps create red blood cells. Low levels can lead to a reduction in red blood cell size and count.

The daily recommended intake of B12 is 2.4 mcg for most adults. Foods high in vitamin B12 include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Fortified foods

You can also take a vitamin B12 supplement to help meet your needs. The upper limit is around 100 mcg per day in supplement form.

4. Try folate supplements

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is another nutrient vital for red blood cell production and function.

The recommended daily intake is 400 mcg for most adults. Foods rich in folate include:

  • Legumes
  • Beef liver
  • Leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets

Taking a folic acid supplement is another simple way to increase your folate intake. Most multi-vitamins contain 400-800 mcg of folic acid.

5. Try foods rich in vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a role in iron absorption, which enables hemoglobin production.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 75-90 mg. Citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, and leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamin C.

Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can boost the absorption of iron by up to 10 times.

6. Increase vitamin E intake

Vitamin E helps red blood cells mature and function properly. A deficiency can lead to anemia.

The recommended daily intake is 15 mg for most adults. The best food sources of vitamin E include:

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Safflower oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach

Taking a vitamin E supplement providing 100% of your daily needs may help optimize your levels.

7. Eat nitrate-rich foods

Eating foods high in nitrates may boost nitric oxide production and increase oxygen efficiency. This may translate into higher red blood cell counts.

Foods naturally high in nitrates include:

  • Beets
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Radishes
  • Celery
  • Carrots

One study found that consuming around 8 ounces (250 ml) of beetroot juice significantly improved oxygen uptake during exercise 18 hours later.

8. Try ashwagandha supplements

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb claimed to enhance red blood cell production and improve blood circulation.

One animal study showed improved red blood cell count in rats given 500 mg per kg of ashwagandha for 7 days, compared to untreated rats.

The optimal dosage for humans is unknown. Only purchase supplements from reputable brands to ensure safety and quality.

9. Get enough copper

Copper enables the body to properly use iron, which is vital for red blood cell production.

Adults should aim for around 900 mcg of copper daily from foods like:

  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Meats
  • Leafy greens
  • Avocado
  • Seeds

If deficient, you may need a supplement providing up to 3 mg of copper per day.

10. Try ginseng

Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine practices for centuries and may help increase red blood cell levels.

One study gave athletes 1 or 2 grams of ginseng extract daily for 8 weeks. Both dosages led to significant increases in hemoglobin and hematocrit compared to the placebo.

However, research is limited on ginseng and red blood cell production. Only use supplements from high quality sources.

Other tips

Here are some other tips that may help support healthy red blood cell production:

  • Avoid smoking cigarettes
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress levels
  • Treat underlying conditions like kidney disease or hypothyroidism
  • Exercise regularly

Risks of boosting red blood cells too quickly

While the strategies listed may slightly increase red blood cells counts over 24 hours, it’s best not to drastically change your levels too quickly.

Risks of boosting red blood cells too fast include:

  • Thickened blood, making circulation difficult
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack or stroke

Those with conditions like heart disease, hypertension, or a history of seizures should be especially cautious with quick red blood cell boosting strategies.

When to see a doctor

Consult your healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of anemia like fatigue, dizziness, or shortness of breath. Blood tests can confirm if you have anemia and help determine the underlying cause.

Additionally, talk to your doctor before attempting to boost your red blood cells on your own, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

Sudden changes in your red blood cell count could be a sign of an underlying problem, so it’s important to work with your doctor on a safe, effective treatment plan for you.

The bottom line

Some evidence indicates the tips listed may provide a slight boost to red blood cell levels within 24 hours. However, maintaining your red blood cells is a long-term effort requiring a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle, and proper medical care.

Rather than looking for quick fixes, focus on developing lasting habits to support healthy red blood cell production and prevent deficiencies.

With your doctor’s guidance, increasing red blood cells can help improve oxygen circulation, relieve anemia symptoms, and enhance your overall health.