Iron Woman (the mineral not the event!!) - She Runs Eats Performs

Episode 25

Published on:

24th Sep 2020

Iron Woman (the mineral not the event!!)

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.  

Show Notes


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. 


Key Takeaways

  • 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. 

Related Episodes:

Episode 7: Vitamins and Minerals for Female Runners

Episode 4: Plant-based Eating for Runners


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.

Together they host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.

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Aileen and Karen 

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About the Podcast

She Runs Eats Performs
for mid-life female runners of all abilities
Are you confused about the science around nutrition for runners? Listen in to learn about the WHY, HOW, WHAT, and WHEN of eating to fuel your running performance.

We are here to help you translate sports nutritional science, into easy to apply tips and plans, helping you enjoy peak running performance. We focus on the FEMALE FACTORS every mid-life woman needs to know to be a healthy runner.

About your host

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Aileen Smith

Nutritionists, Educators, Podcasters, Runners and Friends

We have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living. She Runs Eats Performs for female runners of all abilities who are looking for simple ways to improve their running performance and their health with nutrition and lifestyle.
We enjoy sharing our nutritional expertise, reviewing the latest sports science and most of all helping you to take easy action so you can enjoy your running life to the full.
We are here to help you achieve great health and good shape whilst staying injury-free with easy-to-understand sports nutritional concepts and easy-to-implement tips and plans.

Aileen and Karen are BANT and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapists.