The Iron Truth

A couple of weeks ago I got my blood tested due to my fatigue level. Low and behold I was iron deficient (as well as low in vitamin D and B). To be honest, I was disgusted with myself. How could I do this yet again! [4th time is a charm?] Well, I moved to a new country this year and have kinda sorta been on vacation from my regular food intake. Reality check!!! Today, I am slowly getting back to health, bite by bite, through proper nutrition.

Yes, nutrition, aka real food, trumps all supplements when it comes to iron absorption. It may take a little longer than getting your butt injected with massive amounts of iron but it is the safest, most effective and efficient way to get your iron levels back to normal. Why, you ask? Iron is EXTREMELY toxic. If you’ve ever had a pill or liquid or injection on an empty stomach and felt like crap after (ranging from headache, stomachache, nausea, vomiting, etc) you now know the reason. It’s also horrific on your teeth. When you do actually absorb iron it is hard to excrete… black poo! I am not saying NO to iron supplements, I am just cautioning you on the implications. Iron overload can be worse than deficiency (not advocating either).

You see, when our bodies are deficient in a vitamin or mineral drug companies do their best to give you a quick fix. Cue music: PILL! When you take a supplement on its own, our bodies are not used to this massive overdose of one nutrient; and, it can potentially lead to other nutritional imbalances. It’s important to treat your deficiencies as holistically as possible. Yes, you can do supplementation; but also please change your diet to include real foods (adding the iron-rich ones too!).

Iron has an incredible job to do= it’s the oxygen transporter. Roughly 70% of your body’s iron is found in the red blood cells of your blood (hemoglobin) and your muscle cells (myoglobin). Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the tissues in your body; and, myoglobin transports oxygen through muscle tissue. Let me tell you, it’s tough to workout, let alone function on a daily basis, when your tissues and muscles aren’t properly oxygenated! The additional 30% of iron in the body is used for producing new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters. Wow! That is cool.

Low iron (equating to little oxygen) translates to exhaustion, potential brain function abnormalities, and decreased immunity for fighting off infections. One man had such low iron his doctor thought he had leukemia, turns out he was a junk food addict. Let food be thy medicine has never been so clear. Of equal importance, did you know that one of the first things psychiatrists and psychologists look at when a patient is depressed/has mood changes or is irritable? IRON. Yes, they look at your blood work.

Causes of Iron Deficiency* = FYI the most common nutritional deficiency globally

1. Inadequate intake (or you eat crap foods to allow for proper absorption= me)

2. Inability to replace blood loss

i. Heavy menstruation

ii. GI tract issues

iii. Inflammation

iv. Hemorrhoids

v. Parasitic infections in developing countries [most common reason worldwide]

Iron Killers* [What prevents you from absorbing iron]

1. Coffee and Tea (they both have tannins which essentially sucks out your iron 😉

2. Dairy products

3. Whole grains (containing phytates)

Iron rich foods*

If you are a meat eater there are plenty of meats rich in iron

If you are a plant eater, there are plenty of plants rich in iron- the only difference is I urge you to take plants foods with vitamin C. It will triple the absorption rate of iron!!!

*Information taken from Dr. Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD

I am not going to tell you to be a carnivore or a herbivore, I will just say eat well. Quotes from conversations I’ve had in the past that made me wince: “I only eat meat and potatoes, everything else is crap” or “I’m a vegan; but, I don’t eat fruits or vegetables.” Once again, EAT WELL… and, remember that absolutely no human made supplement can compare with mother natures work.

Are you a Professional Sitter?

Let’s put your sitting into perspective.

If you work 5 days a week and roughly 40 weeks/year (vacation, illness & personal days taken into account)

Here is a conservative estimate:

Sitting at meals (1 hour/day)

Sitting on the job (7 hours/day)

Transport to and from work (1 hour/day)

Watching television, relaxing, reading at night before bed (1 hour/day)

This totals 10 hours/day. I am not including the weekends either!

40 (weeks) X 5 (days/week) X 10 (hours/day)= 2000 hours/year

Congratulations!!!! Your “sitting” training is even far beyond that of any professional athlete!!!

Athlete training schedule:

800 to 1200 hours/year: Professional athletes

600-800 hours/yr: Top age grouper (nationally/internationally)

500 to 600 hours/yr: Intermediate athlete

300 to 500 hours/yr: Beginner athlete

200 to 300 hours/yr: Novice athlete

~ taken from Ed McNeely, Top Canadian Exercise Physiologist

A lot of Exercise Science research and books state that roughly 10,000 hours is required to be at the top of your game. This can take an athlete about 10 years or longer to be ranked among the best of the best. Imagine, if you have a sitting job, it will only take you HALF the time! WOW! Yet, this is not information or training of pride. It is your heath that will exponentially decrease as time rolls on 🙁

Sitting more than 6 hours/day will increase your chances of dying by 40% compared to someone who sits <3 hours/day *

Where do you rank as a Sitter? 

I understand (yes and no) if you have a job where sitting is required.

All I am asking is you get up more or get a standing desk 🙂

If you are a driver how about shaking your butt on the seat, do core exercises, wiggle and jiggle!

Keep those muscles alive and well. Let’s all get in the game of Making Movement Matter.


* KatzmarzykPT, Lee I-M. Sedentary behaviourand life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis. BMJ open. 2012;2(4).

The Underwear Study: Exercise versus Movement

Dr. James Levine (Esteemed Researcher at the Mayo Clinic) performed a study among men and women using underwear with sensors. The sensors on the underwear charted the participants movements 20 times a second for EVERY second throughout the day, recording various physiological health markers as well as calories burned. Unequivocally, it was concluded that your daily movements were far more important and superior to your overall health, wellbeing and weight loss than going to the gym for one or two hours after sitting at work all day.


Daily workouts can’t undo damage done from sitting all day* ~Dr. James Levine

Movement WINS! Movement will always win.

When you sit too long you risk not only gaining weight but also overall health costs.

Here are just a few risk factors of sitting (from several studies).

1. Weigh gain, including obesity

2. Increased blood pressure

3. Abnormal cholesterol levels

4. Excess abdominal visceral fat

5. Elevated risk of cardiovascular disease

6. Cancer risk grows

7. Injury rates skyrocket

8. Psychological factors are also involved (e.g. anxiety, depression)

9. Risk of death from any cause increases by ~50%

The impact of movement is profound. Shockingly, we have needed researchers to tell us that Making Movement-> Matters! It has come to this. In an era of technology and progress, and more specifically in first world countries (i.e. you are reading this post), we have lost the true nature of being human- to move. We were born to MOVE.

Welcome to Making Movement Matter

What role does movement play in your everyday life?

♫ Every breath you take, every move you make…♫

If you are like me, I didn’t truly connect the dots.

I took movement for granted. “I can do ANYTHING with my body”- Period.

In reality the body will do EXACTLY what you program it to do. It twists, bends, shifts & tilts, moulding and shaping its way through YOUR CHOSEN everyday movements. Your 30min/day or 1hr/day exercise regime has little impact on your overall health if you are immobile the rest of the day. Making Movement Matter 24/7 is the critical factor. What does this mean?

Put your movement under a microscope:

My hours spent sitting? [i.e. meals, transportation/driving, work/school, meetings, television, reading, relaxing]

My position/alignment while sitting?

How much do I walk/day? How do I walk?

What shoes do I wear?

How do I move within my activity or sport?

How much do I move, in general, daily?

Your health and longevity, as well as your pursuit of excellence in any endeavour you choose, is directly affected by your every day movements. It is not only the time spent moving (or lack thereof), it is also how you move. These blogs will explore the relationship of movement and wellbeing in every sense.

The next time you have body complaints (fatigue, aches, pains, injury, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, etc.), first ask yourself “What am I doing on a daily basis that could cause issues with my tissues?”; because, it is ALL about Making Movement Matter.

This blog will also explore exercise physiology, sport psychology, nutrition and overall health related topics. Please join me in the mission of ‘Making Movement Matter’ to you and your community.