Are you getting enough iron?

Hello athlete: Are you getting enough IRON?

The answer to this question is NO.
Almost every single athlete has low iron.
It is 100% IRRELEVANT if you are an athlete in an endurance sport or intermittent sport or power/speed/sprint sport.

WHY? Because ALLLLLL sports involve training. LOL! Gotcha there didn’t I?

What does training involve? Inflammation of the tissues.

Training= Tearing the c*&p out of your body
Recovery= Repairing your body

I don’t get it???

Inflammation reduces the bodies intake of iron into your tissues, no matter how you got the inflammation in the first place. You can be ANY athlete: power lifter, crossfitter, basketball player, badminton player, runner, waterpolo, tennis, volleyball, cricket, soccer, rugby, squash, swimming, cycling, sprinter, rower, dancer, gymnast, diver, fencer, hockey, lacrosse, football, ping pong….. do you get my point?

I went to a phenomenal talk by Claire Badenhorst, PhD(candidate) at the University of Western Australia, yesterday. She discussed the importance of iron in athletes.

If you are serious about your sport. Please get your serum ferritin checked. If it’s below 60

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.