Iron Deficiency: Are Your Workouts Putting You At Risk?


Iron deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies throughout the entire world. An enormous percentage of the population are deficient in iron stores to some degree and many may not even realise. If you’re a fitness fanatic, you are particularly at risk. So what is iron deficiency and how do you fix the issue? Read on to find out.

“Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Seriously low levels of iron can lead to extreme illness and is something you should try to rectify immediately. I personally experienced severe iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy and it can become very nasty. Constant fatigue, headaches, sickness and even lightheadedness and fainting.

Are you at risk? In honesty the only way to be sure is to be tested, however, if you are working out hard on a regular basis and in particular a woman, you are likely to be at higher risk of becoming iron deficient.

What is Iron and Who Needs It?

Everyone needs iron. It is one of our essential nutrients, meaning your body can’t produce enough on its own and we must consume it in our daily diets.

Iron is needed for a number of bodily functions, most prominently as a key component in hemoglobin (found in the blood). But iron also ensures that your muscular and skeletal systems grow and form properly.


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How Much Iron Do We Need?

Women need more iron on a daily basis than men. This is because women are more prone to iron loss because of their menstrual cycle. Therefore, women are at higher risk of iron deficiency. Men need about 8 milligrams of iron daily and women need around 18 milligrams daily. This is the recommended daily value (RDV).

Regardless of whether you’re male or female, if you are an athlete, a bodybuilder or just general fitness fanatic, you are at risk of low iron stores due to loss of iron through sweat. Moreover, runners have a higher risk of low iron stores. There is a phenomenon where the repetitive action of your foot hitting the floor causes your red blood cells to break down faster and increase the loss of iron. This is called footstrike hemolysis.

How To Boost Your Iron Stores

Eat an Iron Rich Diet

The ultimate way to get optimal levels of iron is by consuming an iron rich diet. There are two types of iron:

Heme Iron

Which is derived from hemoglobin in meat sources. Our body utilises this type of iron much better and can be found in a number of sources:

Great Sources:

  • Shellfish

  • Liver

  • Oysters

Good Sources:

  • Sardines

  • Turkey

  • Beef

  • Lamb

Okay Sources:

  • Chicken

  • Fish

  • Pork

Non-Heme Iron

Is found in plant sources. Although this is another good source of iron, it is not used as efficiently by the body. There are many sources including:

Great Sources:

  • Tofu

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Sesame Seeds

  • Spinach

  • Iron enriched cereals

Good Sources:

  • Beans

  • Broccoli

  • Potatoes

Okay Sources:

  • Nuts

  • Dried Fruit

  • Leafy Greens


Eat Iron With Vitamin C

Vitamin C aids absorption of iron, so while eating a juicy steak, have a glass of fresh orange juice to wash it down.

Avoid Mixing Iron Rich Foods With Caffeine or Dairy

Both caffeine and dairy can decrease your iron absorption by up to 62%. Therefore, if you have iron rich cereal for for breakfast, try having your cup of tea before you eat.

Try Supplementation

If you feel your iron stores are at risk of being depleted, then supplementation could be an excellent way of boosting your levels.

You can try a multivitamin supplement for overall, optimum health. A traditional women’s multivitamin will provide you with the RDV of 18mg of iron. However, if you are deficient in iron, you could benefit more from an individual iron supplement with up to 30mg per serving.

It is important to note, that too much iron can also be a bad thing, so if you feel you could be at risk of low stores, speak to your doctor and have your levels tested before choosing an iron supplements with a high level of iron.

Also, try choosing an iron supplement that ends in “ate” such as ferrous sulfate, gluconate, and fumarate as these are more easily absorbed by the body.


Source by Jenny Abouobaia