Iron deficiency – do you have one?
All runners should make sure their iron levels are within a healthy range. This is particularly true for female runners who tend to have more needs due to naturally higher depletion rates. If you don’t understand what iron does for your running times or how to make sure you’re getting enough, read on.
What does iron do? Iron forms a critical part of the systems that transport oxygen to your muscles. It helps form haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells, and myoglobin, the protein that sends oxygen within muscle cells to the mitochondria. It also contributes to the breakdown of glycogen and other fuel burning processes. So it’s an essential element that your body needs to keep strong and healthy.
What happens if you don’t have enough iron? An iron deficiency can manifest in different ways, and the symptoms can sometimes be misattributed to other causes. Iron deficient runners can start to notice fatigue or slower times. The fatigue can feel different from tiredness – it may effect your whole body. If iron stores are too low, anaemia can develop, which may be identified by extreme fatigue and even shortness of breath.
How can I avoid having low iron? You can manage or correct an iron deficiency through supplementation. Iron supplements may be prescribed by your doctor or recommended by a pharmacist. Different types of iron are available and some are absorbed by the body better than others. Side effects can sometimes include constipation, so be prepared to discuss this as well. Dietary iron intake can also be adjusted. Red meat, dark green leafy vegetables and lentils all have higher iron levels. Iron is best absorbed when taken with Vitamin C so consider including sources of this in your diet.
How will I know if my iron levels are increasing? Consult your doctor. They can take blood tests to measure the iron levels in your body. If you’ve begun supplementing, you may find your fatigue lessens or disappears and you may have much more energy. You may find your skin colour becomes less pale also. Your run times will return to the expected range and you’ll be right to race another day.
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Whilst Enertor has over 18 years Orthotics experience, our blog content is provided for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical advice. Enertor advises anyone with an injury to seek their own medical advice – and do not make any health or medical related decisions based solely on information found on this site