Monday, 16 March 2009

Iron for Exercisers - Are You Getting Enough?

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ironYou may be an ironman or ironwoman in the gym, but how are your iron stores? I was cluelessly iron-deficient one winter, and it was no fun. I'd try and eat perfectly, but after only a few hours of cross-country skiing or cardio anything, I felt like I was lacing up iron boots. Chronically zapped for weeks, I finally took a blood test and was diagnosed with iron-deficient anemia.

Repeated, intense training can compromise your iron levels to the point of iron-deficient anemia, as athletes can use and/or lose more iron than they're consuming. Here's an interesting tidbit: Even with a solid supply, iron absorption is lower in athletes than non-athletes -- possibly due to food passing faster through an athlete's digestive tract. Strenuous, daily exercisers can lose iron through sweat, lower intestinal absorption and even by taking aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce the body's ability to soak up this essential mineral.

Iron-deficient or anemic athletes ultimately receive less oxygen to their muscles and generate more lactic acid during a workout. Other signs include muscle burning, shortness of breath during workouts, nausea, frequent infections, respiratory illness and a pale complexion. The National Anemia Action Council (NAAC) identifies these athletes as most at risk:

  • Female athletes
  • Male endurance athletes
  • Runners

Vegetarian athletes are also at risk since iron is absorbed poorly from veggies.

Continue reading Iron for Exercisers - Are You Getting Enough?

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