Iron for Athletes: How Does It Improve Performance?

Iron is a necessary nutrient for the body to function properly.  It transports oxygen to cells, and carries carbon dioxide away from cells. Athletes are at particular risk of developing iron deficiency, which can negatively impact performance.  Keep reading to learn how to maintain iron levels to reach your performance goals.

Iron for athletes: how does it improve performance?

How does iron deficiency impact athletic performance?

Athletes are more prone to developing iron deficiency than most other people.  This is because intense training stimulates red blood cell and blood vessel production, and increases iron turnover.  Athletes are also more likely to incur high iron loss due to:

  • Heavy sweating– We lose iron when we sweat, so athletes who train regularly naturally lose more iron through sweating
  • Injury resulting in blood loss – Losing blood due to injury reduces iron levels
  • Wear and tear– Endurance athletes commonly experience damage to red blood cells in the feet resulting from running on hard surfaces known as “foot strike” damage, which can lead to iron loss.

It should be noted that athletes who experience menstruation are at even further risk of iron deficiency.

The symptoms of iron deficiency can prove especially problematic for athletes trying to achieve performance goals.  These include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Frequent injury 
  • High heart rate during exercise
  • Loss of endurance
  • Recurring/more frequent illness with longer duration
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in exercise
  • Poor appetite

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the symptoms of iron deficiency is that they are often mistaken as symptoms of overtraining.  The only way to confirm iron deficiency is to get a blood test from a licensed and trained healthcare professional.  If it is confirmed that you are iron deficient, your healthcare provider can help you determine strategies to increase your iron intake.


What is iron infusion?

Iron infusion is a method of supplementing iron to the body through the use of intravenous (IV) therapy.  Although most people associate IV therapy with hospitalization or severe illness, IV therapy offers many general wellness benefits as it delivers treatments directly to the bloodstream.  

Traditional oral supplements must pass through the digestive system before the iron can be absorbed and used by the body, which can result in up to 50% of the supplemented iron being lost, as well as delaying the bioavailability of the supplemented iron.  Delivering iron directly to the bloodstream ensures maximum possible absorption and makes iron available for use right away.  IV fluids also help you stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte levels, making it an even more attractive option for athletes.

Many athletes experience the benefits and convenience of iron IV therapy.  Consider booking an appointment for an Iron Infusion in Los Angeles.  Concierge healthcare providers will come to your home, hotel room, or training facility to administer an iron infusion, allowing you to get the care you need in the places where you feel most comfortable.

Incorporating more iron into your diet

Iron for athletes: how does it improve performance?

As an athlete, you need to combat iron deficiency in multiple ways.  This means it is important to eat more iron-rich foods.  Iron in food exists in two forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found mostly in meat, seafood, and poultry. Nonheme iron is more widespread and can be found in various plants and plant-based dishes fortified with iron. Heme and nonheme iron are equally useful for the body, but heme is easier for the body to absorb.  Examples of high-iron foods include:

  • Leafy greens such as:
    • Spinach
    • Kale
    • collard greens
    • Swiss chard
  • Meats such as
    • Lean red meats
    • Turkey
    • Pork Loin
    • Organ meats
  • Seafood (canned or fresh)
    • Bivalve mollusks (clams, mussels, and oysters
    • Salmon
    • Fresh perch
    • Tuna
  • Other plant-based iron sources
    • Legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas
    • Broccoli
    • Quinoa
    • Tofu

What foods to avoid during iron deficiency?

Some foods can worsen iron deficiency for a number of reasons.  It’s important to know what to avoid when you are experiencing iron deficiency so that they don’t interfere with your efforts to supplement more iron.

Tannins

Tannins are compounds found in a variety of edible plants.  Studies have shown that tannins interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron.  It’s also worth noting that some of the most common sources of tannins also generally contain caffeine, which also inhibits iron absorption.  Tannin sources you should avoid include:

  • Tea
  • Coffee 
  • Wine
  • Chocolate 

Time calcium consumption carefully

Recent research has indicated that calcium can inhibit the short-term absorption of iron.  Avoid eating calcium-rich foods at the same time as high-iron foods you are eating to boost iron absorption.

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