When two friends posted almost in the same week about finding out they were “iron deficient” and I also knew they were both big time runners – I decided to do a little google search and see if there was any connection.
“iron deficiency running” produced over half a million results – all first page results were from running blogs, magazines, articles etc. Yup – there’s a connection. So what is it??
Cliffs Notes version: (ie: sentences I pulled out that I thought were important)
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Iron is needed for production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. Anything that decreases blood hemoglobin, such as inadequate iron absorption through the diet, or excessive blood loss through the menses, can predispose you to anemia — the end result being fatigue and the inability to train easily at previously easy paces. Runners and especially females tend to have lower iron due to many reasons. Pre-menopausal women are at greatest risk. We tend to take in less iron and lose more than our non-runner friends. Runners have more blood volume than sedentary folks. Due to the increased volume, the iron in our blood is more diluted which tends to keep our hemoglobin measure on the lower normal end.
Pre-menopausal women need about 15 mg of iron per day. Iron supplementation should be 1mg/kg of body weight/day and usually brings increased peppiness and energy in two to three weeks. The practical dynamics of iron supplementation include taking it with orange juice or some other form of vitamin C to enhance absorption. Take it in the evening so it will not affect training as some get gut cramps if they train after taking it in the morning. Do not overdose as it will not absorb. Have routine blood chemistry and if your ferritin is greater than 60, switch to every other day supplementation. Take the cheapest iron you can find in tablet or liquid form. Read the label and look for the milligrams of elemental iron in determining how much iron your source provides.