Monthly Archives: September 2017

IRON for Runners by The Running Bug

Winners winners chicken dinners

This article is reproduced from the Running Bug blog and is very informative. Hard running mimics hard training this gives food for thought to serious gym trainers . 

The Running bug blog – Dietary iron is a necessity for women and men of all ages, but the vast majority are not getting their recommended daily amount. Fiona Buglar reveals what runners need to know about their iron needs.

A runner’s guide to avoiding iron deficiency

How much iron do we need?
The recommended daily requirement is 14.8mg (note taking more than 17mg iron can be dangerous and needs to be approved by your GP). Post-menopausal women and men need 8.7mg a day. But according to a Department of Health survey, the National Dietary and Nutritional Survey: adults aged 16-64. (Volume 3. London UK, 2003), over 91 percent of women aged 16 to 64 in the UK are not getting sufficient iron from their diet. And The Food Standards Agency estimates a quarter of all women aged 19 to 64 have a seriously low intake of iron.

Sports nutritionist, Lucy Ann Prideaux, says there are two main reasons women are prone to iron deficiency: “The monthly menstrual bloodloss and therefore iron/haemoglobin loss coupled with a poor diet or insufficient absorbable iron in the diet.”

Are runners prone to deficiency?

We have studies that suggest up to 50% of female runners are iron deficient. Foot strike haemolysis is caused by the red blood cells in the feet breaking down as the foot hits the ground. Heavier, muscular runners who train on hard surfaces tend to suffer more from this condition which leaves feet swollen and burning hot after a run – as well as iron-deficient.

Iron can also be lost in the faeces and as up to 85% of runners test positive for blood in their stools following a strenuous run this can be a problem too. We also have a larger blood volume, so need to have a higher level of hemoglobin and serum ferritin than non-runners to be healthy.

Are you iron deficient?

You need iron in your blood to get oxygen to your muscles. If you have the symptoms of iron deficiency listed below, you should get yourself tested having both your haemoglobin and serum ferritin levels checked out.

Warriors come out to play

Symptoms include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Poor/reduced performance
  • Easily exhausted
  • Less enthusiasm for running and feeling very tired
  • Irritability
  • Feeling the cold – especially hands and feet
  • A poor appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Unusual cravings (dirt, ice etc)
  • Restless legs syndrome

Iron maiden food

The best sources of HAEM iron (which is the most absorbable iron) include liver, beef, but also poultry (especially the darker wing meat). Eggs are also a worthwhile source.

All round health-booster oily fish is also great, for example sardines contain 5.8mg in one small tin.

Combine the above with…

Green leafy vegetables (watercress, broccoli, spinach and curly kale – sources of calcium too)

Bread and cereals fortified with iron

Beans and chickpeas

Nuts such as almonds

Seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin

Dried fruit such as figs, apricots, prunes, raisins

You can also try…

Hemp sprinkled on soups

Spirulina which has 58 times more iron than spinach

To help the body absorb iron…

Take Vitamin C to absorb the iron, try orange juice with your cereal, peppers in your salad, strawberries for dessert.

And avoid drinking tea with your meals. It contains polyphenols that can inhibit iron absorption.