Iron and Sports Nutrition

Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying component of the blood) and therefore very important for oxidative energy production. The harder you work out, the more oxygen needs to be transported from your lungs to your muscles and if you don't consume enough iron, performance will lack. The more oxygen you can supply to your working muscles, the better. Iron is even more important for female athletes because they lose some iron in their menstrual flow every month. Find more sports nutrition related topics at nutrition main.

Description: Iron and Sports Nutrition

  • There are two different types of iron: Heme iron and non-heme iron
    Heme iron is easier to absorb and is found in organ meats, lean beef, sea fruit etc. Most of the non-heme iron is provided by plant sources such as spinach, apricots etc.
  • Functions:
    • Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin
    • Metabolization process
    • Proper function of the immune system
  • Recommended iron intake:
    • Adult non-athletes: 9 mg (men) 18 mg (women)
    • For hard training athletes the PDI (performance daily intake) is between 25 to 60 milligrams (men and women).
    • Deficiency symptoms: insomnia, headaches, loss of appetite
    • Too much iron can be toxic.

Foods: Iron and Sports Nutrition

  • Meat (especially red meat)
  • Oysters
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Iron supplements
  • Spinach
  • Apricots

Advice: Iron and Sports Nutrition

  • Vegetarians are more likely to develop iron deficiency than non-vegetarians.
  • In addition, female athletes, endurance athletes, and athletes on low-calorie diets are at a higher risk of an iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is considered one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.
  • The following conditions: Hemochromatosis, hemosiderosis, polycythemia, and iron-loading anemias (such as thalassemia and sickle cell anemia) involve excessive iron storage. Therefore it can be pretty dangerous to supplement iron if you have one these diseases.
  • Some researchers have linked excess iron to the development of cancer and diabetes. High iron levels can also increase risk of infection.
  • Vitamin C can increase iron absorption a little.
  • When iron levels start to decrease, the body kinda goes into an iron absorption mode.
  • Iron deficiency diminishes the capacity of the immune system.