A drop in performance and an onslaught of fatigue? Don’t just sit back and watch as your training takes a nose-dive and there seems to be no ‘logical’ reason as to why. Iron depletion is one of those conditions that can disguise itself as being over-trained or under-rested. As a competitive athlete asking your body to perform at one hundred percent, even a ten percent drop in how one feels is a lot and can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Importance of Iron
Iron is the fourth most common element on the planet and it’s essential to life. A healthy adult has approximately 3.5-5g of iron in the body. 65-70% of the iron in the body is referred to as ‘transport iron’ that is the iron as part of the haemoglobin (the pigment of the red blood cells), 25% is stored within the liver, spleen, bone-marrow and muscles (storage iron) and approximately 4% is used within myoglobin and iron-containing enzymes (functional iron).
The ‘transport iron’ within your body is necessary for production of haemoglobin in red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. If iron stores are low, normal haemoglobin production slows down, which means the transport of oxygen around the body decreases which can result in symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, lowered immunity, making it hard for you to keep up with your training programme.
Iron for Athletes
Research has shown that many men and women who take part in competitive running, swimming, and cycling have marginal or inadequate iron status. Possible explanations for this include increased gastrointestinal blood loss after running and a greater turnover of red blood cells. Also, red blood cells within the foot can rupture while running (foot-strike haemolysis). For these reasons, the need for iron may be 30% greater in those who engage in regular intense exercisei.
Particular groups of athletes are at greater risk of iron depletion than others; these include female athletes, distance runners, and vegetarian athletes. Vigilance of iron levels is particularly important for these athlete groups who should ensure include enough iron in their diet. Vegetarians who exclude all animal products from their diet may need almost twice as much dietary iron each day as non-vegetarians because of the lower absorption of non-heme (plant based) iron in your body.
Your Iron Intake
Do you eat the best sources of iron? The first place to start when looking to ensure you get enough iron in your diet is to seek out iron-rich foods such as broccoli and other deep green vegetables, soya beans, lentils, red meats, clams, oysters, and liver. Try to make sure you eat a Vitamin C source (tomatoes, strawberries or citrus) with any non-meat iron sources to enhance the iron absorption.
That said, it is important for competitive athletes to realise that with the rigors you put your bodies through in training, diet alone might not be enough to reach adequate iron levels and you may want to include an iron supplement such as Spatone Sport as part of their training regime.
Top up your iron the natural and effective way with Spatone Sports Pack. Spatone is iron rich water sourced from the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia National Park – which has been shown to help top up your iron levels whilst causing fewer of the unpleasant side effects often experienced with conventional iron supplementsii
. One sachet of Spatone has your daily absorbed requirements of iron in it – the equivalent of eating 8lbs 13oz of broccoli!
Generally, iron is a very difficult mineral for the body to absorb. However, the iron naturally present in Spatone has been shown to be easily absorbed, with an average of 40% bioavailabilityiii
, compared to 5- 20%iv
from food and other iron supplements. The additional Vitamin C in Spatone Sports Pack can increase iron absorption to help ensure sufficient dietary intake of iron for active people.
i Ods.od.nih.gov. 2013. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron — Health Professional Fact Sheet. [online] Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/ [Accessed: 22 Oct 2013].
ii McKenna D, Spence D, Haggan SE, McCrum E, Dornan JC, Lappin TR. (2003) A randomized trial investigating an iron-rich neutral mineral water as a prophylaxis against iron deficiency in pregnancy. 25; 99-103
iii Worwood M, Evans WD, Villis RJ and Burnett AK. (1996) Iron absorption from a natural mineral water (Spatone Iron-Plus). Clin Lab Haem 18; 23-27.
iv Webster-Gandy J, Madden A, Holdsworth M Ed’s (2006) Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics. Oxford University Press, Oxford.