Iron Woman (The Mineral Not The Event!!)
Iron is important for a runner primarily for providing energy, however it has many functions in the body. Without adequate levels of iron running performance could deteriorate, recovery may be slow and the risk of injury could increase.
Iron is classed as an ESSENTIAL trace mineral because the body is unable to produce its own supply. This means requirements MUST be provided from our food. Also, iron balance in the body is regulated by absorption only, because humans don't have an internal physiological mechanism within the body to monitor its excretion.
So, in this episode we delve into the potential causes of iron insufficiency/deficiency, the effects of iron status on running performance then highlight nutritional factors to support OPTIMAL iron status.
Defining iron and its importance in providing energy but also acknowledging its other functions within the body. Also explaining the differences between haemoglobin and myoglobin, both of which are key to running performance.
Describing the 3 key phases of iron depletion from iron insufficiency to iron deficiency anaemia and emphasising their effects on running performance.
Thinking about the potential causes of iron insufficiency with a focus on the physiological effects of endurance running. For example haemolysis, gastric bleeding, increased hepcidin levels. We also discuss the effects of natural “antinutrients” known to inhibit the absorption of iron.
Considering the Female Factors for iron deficiency
Looking at how iron intake and its absorption could be optimised with a focus on key iron rich foods and how to overcome the restrictions of “antinutrients” naturally found in many plant-based foods.
- Iron is a key nutrient in the transport of oxygen to tissue and in the production of energy so is crucial for a runner
- Hemoglobin levels could be normal whilst ferritin (stored iron) levels could be greatly depleted so it is important to get both tested for a more accurate assessment.
- There are many risk factors associated with iron insufficiency/deficiency and it is most likely to be a combination of several rather than one specific element causing diminished iron levels
- We can potentially absorb as little as 3% of non-haem iron up to a maximum of 30% of haem iron, so a regular intake of iron is essential to maintain optimal iron status.
- There are several nutrient inhibitors associated with iron status. Consider different ways to avoid their effects to help maintain iron status.
- There are also nutrient enhancers for iron absorption so ensure you include these in your meal plan when eating iron rich foods.
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and
advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact
your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell met at as nutrition students (Institute for Optimum Nutrition, London) and became lifelong friends and nutritional buddies! Both have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living.
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