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How Anemic Athletes Should Train for High-Altitude Performance

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It is common for athletes to train at high altitudes if they are preparing for a big race or simply trying to boost their overall strength and endurance.

High altitudes can definitely take a toll on the human body, so training in these types of conditions should only be attempted with care and a complete understanding of the risks and benefits.

Athletes who are anemic or who have low iron levels need to be particularly cautious about high-altitude training so that they do not become injured or ill.

Here is some information about how high altitudes can affect the performance of anemic athletes and best practices for high-altitude training.

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High Altitudes and Anemic Athletes

When an athlete trains at high altitudes, less oxygen reaches the muscles. This is because conditions with low atmospheric pressure and thin air make an athlete’s oxygen demands increase.

It is often more difficult for individuals with anemia to acclimate to high altitudes than those without iron deficiencies. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Since anemic athletes already have low red blood cell levels, high elevations can be especially problematic for training.

Risks and Benefits of High-Attitude Training

When not properly prepared, high altitudes can cause pulmonary and cerebral edema in athletes, which is a condition that involves excess fluid collecting around the brain and in the lungs. Common symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, nausea, vomiting, swelling, dehydration, and coughing.

But once an athlete understands the best practices for high-altitude training, there are many health benefits to be gained. Once an athlete adapts to higher elevation levels, oxygen transport function may improve with time. The effects are greatest at elevations greater than 8,000 feet, but is often noticeable at just 5,000 as well. Research suggests that high altitude training actually increases red blood cells and therefore oxygen transport, which can give athletes the long-term endurance they crave.

Preparing for High-Altitude Conditions

Fortunately, there are some proven ways that athletes, including ones who are anemic, can prepare for outings far above sea level. It is a wise idea to take it easy in the beginning and work up to faster speeds and longer distances. Since high altitudes are dehydrating, it’s important to drink lots of water before traveling to a high-altitude destination. Meanwhile, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided. Pasta and other carb-heavy dishes are beneficial for endurance athletes, and these foods also produce carbon dioxide that can aid the body’s natural breathing response.

Anemic athletes should ask their doctors whether iron supplements like Fergon can help assist their performance while training and competing at high altitudes. Sometimes a simple boost in iron levels can make the difference between finishing a race successfully or struggling every step of the way.

Strength & Endurance While in High Altitudes

Advance training is essential for any type of high-altitude athletic endeavor, but it’s also important to practice healthy habits during high-altitude exercise as well.

Even after getting acclimated to a high-altitude destination, athletes should continue to drink more water than usual to prevent dehydration. In addition to supplementation, it is advised to eat iron-rich foods while engaging in high-altitude exercise, such as red meat and dark leafy greens. It is important to accept the fact that high-altitude workouts will be slower than usual, depending on the elevation, so athletes shouldn’t get discouraged and adjust their workout goals accordingly.

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