What Is Ferritin and What a Ferritin Test Involves

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Endurance athletes, such as runners and swimmers, often pay attention to their ferritin levels to determine how iron is being stored in their bodies. This is important because, with that information, they can adjust their diets accordingly and begin taking iron supplements like Fergon, if necessary, to fuel their hard-working bodies. Ferritin is often confused with being the same as iron, but these terms are not synonymous with one another.

So, this article will describe exactly what ferritin is, why it’s important, and what a ferritin test involves. It will also answer common questions, such as where is iron stored in the body, and define the normal ferritin levels for runners, swimmers, and other endurance athletes.

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What Is Ferritin?

Ferritin is a type of protein that is responsible for storing iron and then releasing it throughout the body when it needs it. Although some ferritin moves through the blood, the bulk of it is stored in the body’s cells. It is stored here until the body needs to create additional red blood cells to optimize bodily functioning.

Symptoms of High and Low Ferritin Levels

High ferritin levels can be caused by medical conditions, such as hemochromatosis, that make the body absorb an excessive amount of iron. High levels can also be caused by type-2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. If a person has high ferritin levels, he or she may have joint pain, fatigue, and stomach pain.

Meanwhile, low levels of ferritin can be the result of an iron deficiency or anemia. This could also be caused by internal bleeding or monthly menstrual bleeding. Symptoms of low ferritin levels also include fatigue, which may be accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches.

Understanding the Ferritin Test

A ferritin test is conducted when a doctor suspects that a person has too much or too little ferritin in the body. It is a way to assess overall iron levels in the body and make changes to improve daily functioning and athletic performance. Like other iron-related tests, a ferritin test involves taking a small blood sample, a process that comes with minimal risks.

If a person’s ferritin test yields abnormal results, the doctor may recommend additional tests to get a clearer picture of how the body is processing iron, such as a total iron binding capacity (TIBC) test. In addition to endurance athletes, a doctor may recommend a ferritin test while trying to diagnose a medical condition that involves the red blood cells or to monitor an existing medical condition in order to guide future treatment.

Normal Ferritin Levels for Runners and Other Endurance Athletes

Although the recommended ferritin levels vary from one endurance athlete to another, the normal ferritin levels for runners are approximately 20 to 500 nanograms per milliliter for men and between 20 and 200 nanograms per milliliter for women. Discuss the results of a ferritin test in detail with a doctor to determine what diet, supplement, performance, and lifestyle changes are recommended.

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Effects of Low Iron: Can Low Iron Cause Muscle Pain and Soreness?

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The effects of low iron in the body are widely varied from one person to another because this essential nutrient has many different roles in bodily functioning.

For example, there’s a strong connection between iron deficiency and muscle pain because iron is needed to help the muscles grow, develop, and function properly.

Here is some information about why low iron levels can lead to muscle aches and when the aches could be one of the effects of low iron or due to something else. This article will also provide tips for athletes to prevent sore muscles due to a lack of iron.

The Low Iron Sore Muscles Connection

The brain stem is the part of the body where pain is registered, and research shows that the brain stem needs iron to keep pain sensations in check. When the body doesn’t have the iron that it needs, the structure and functioning of the brain stem and associated nerves are altered in an adverse way. Low iron levels are commonly found in individuals who have fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, and chronic muscle pain.

The American Society of Hematology has suggested that people with iron deficiencies may experience trigger point pain in their muscles that results from a lack of oxygen being delivered to them. This is because iron helps to deliver oxygen to the various parts of the body, including the muscles.

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Iron Deficiency Muscle Spasms

When an inadequate supply of oxygen is delivered to the muscles, iron deficiency muscle spasms may occur. In addition to muscle spasms caused by low iron, other common symptoms may be present as well, such as fatigue, brittle nails, and pale skin. However, muscle spasms can also be caused by many other conditions and deficiencies too, including low potassium, heat cramps, and muscle strain.

Athletes who increase their training or intensity without properly stretching and warming up may experience muscle spasms even if a nutrient deficiency isn’t present. The aches may be signs of something more serious than just iron deficiency muscle spasms if a person is experiencing a blood clot or rare conditions like hypoparathyroidism, Chagas disease, or pseudohypoparathyroidism.

How to Prevent Iron Deficiency and Muscle Pain

If it is determined that low iron levels are to blame for muscle pain and soreness, then the first step to treatment is to increase the amount of iron consumed on a daily basis. This can typically be done by taking iron supplements, like Fergon, and eating iron-rich foods in meals.

Once iron levels are restored to a healthy level, it is a smart idea to switch up workout routines so that all muscles are worked on a more equal basis. Eating protein-rich foods, wearing compression garments, staying well-hydrated, and thoroughly stretching before and after exercise can help prevent muscle pain and soreness as well. Once muscles become sore, it may help to take a soak in an Epsom salt bath, take a rest day from the gym, use a topical cream on sore areas, and use a foam roller to stretch out painful muscles.

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Iron Deficiency and Exercise: Can Exercise Lower Your Iron Levels?

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Exercise is one of best ways to keep the body healthy and functioning well. However, exercise can also result in some unwanted side effects if the right precautions aren’t taken before, during, and after workouts.

There has been a lot of focus on protein and carbs in athlete diets, but iron is another very important component of a healthy and active lifestyle. Many athletes are iron-deficient and exhibit signs of low iron without fully understanding the causes of their symptoms.

Here is some information about the connection between low iron and exercise to help athletes sustain energy and perform better.

How Low Iron and Exercise Are Connected

There are many low iron causes, but one of them can be exercise, especially for endurance athletes who are training hard. Researchers at Florida State published a study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism that suggests exercise increases inflammation, which increases the production of a hormone called hepcidin, which then reduces iron levels in the blood. The results of the study also suggest that exercise causes a blocking effect that inhibits the absorption of iron. Additionally, iron is lost through sweat during workouts, gastrointestinal blood, and menstrual blood in women.

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Signs of Low Iron Levels During Exercise

When the body doesn’t have enough iron to sustain the workouts its being subjected to, it cannot live up to its potential, and injuries are more likely to happen. The most common symptom of anemia that affects athletes is fatigue, which makes it very difficult or even impossible to safely complete workouts and training sessions. Other signs of low iron levels that affect athletes include headaches, shortness of breath, leg cramps, dizziness, and poor stamina. Low iron levels can also make the muscles stiffer and sorer after workouts and increase recovery time. All of these things are very important to people who exercise, which is why it’s so important to prevent and treat anemia at the first sign of symptoms.

How to Keep Iron Levels Up While Exercising

Fortunately, there are some ways that athletes can keep their iron levels sustained and avoid those signs of low iron levels. For athletes who take iron supplements like Fergon and who are trying to eat more iron-rich foods, focus these efforts before workouts or at least six hours after workouts. This will help athletes overcome the iron absorption block effect that exercise creates and ensure better absorption of iron-rich foods and iron pills. An iron-rich meal in the morning can also help fuel the body for a workout later in the day.

Managing Iron Deficiency and Exercise

Iron deficiency and exercise can go together, as it is very possible for anemia athletes to continue working out with a few modifications. Athletes should incorporate more aerobic exercise into their workouts because this type of exercise helps red blood cells be transported efficiently to muscle tissue. Anemic athletes need to find styles of exercise that get their heart rates up but that do not fully exhaust them to the point of extreme and dangerous fatigue. High-potency iron supplements and foods that contain high levels of iron are recommended for athletes to consume every day. This may include spinach, soybeans, liver, eggs, and oysters. Citrus fruits and other foods rich in vitamin C can aid with the absorption of iron in meals, especially post-workout meals that need to supply the body with restorative energy and speed along the muscle recovery process.

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Carb Loading Before a Race: Benefits & Key Considerations

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When training for a race or just ramping up to run longer distances, there are certain diet strategies that are proven to work well to provide an extra boost of energy long-term stamina. One example of this is carb loading, which involves eating more rice, pasta, potatoes, and other high-carb foods the night before a big race.

There are some definite benefits to carb loading, but it’s also important to not neglect other foods and minerals to set the body up for success.

Here is some information about the carb loading diet for athletes, including the best way to carb load and the best carb loading foods.

Behind the Carb Loading Marathon Strategy

Foods that are rich in carbohydrates are great for supplying the body with energy, which is something that athletes definitely need to run long distances. Carbs are mostly stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which is easily accessible in the body.

Many runners describe a feeling known as “hitting the wall,” which occurs when the body runs out of glycogen and the body must start burning fat instead to use as energy. This causes runners to slow down and fail to meet their goals.

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The Best Way to Carb Load

There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to carb load, so runners need to choose their carbs wisely. Some personal trainers suggest having a carb-heavy meal two nights before a big meal, rather than the night before it, in order to aid proper digestion and to allow the glycogen stores to restock themselves. Then instead of eating a towering plate of spaghetti the day before a race, choose well-balanced meals with carbs, proteins, and small amounts of fat. Another option is to taper training while gradually building up carb consumption a couple weeks before competition.

Best Carb Loading Foods

Not all carbs are created equal, and some carbs are definitely better for pre-race strategizing than others. As a general rule, skip foods made with refined flours and a high glycemic index. Instead, athletes should base their diets around the following best carb loading foods when preparing for a big race:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Old-fashioned oats
  • Potatoes
  • Bananas

Key Considerations for a Carb Loading Diet

One of the biggest issues with a carb loading diet is that athletes tend to neglect other important food groups, vitamins, and minerals while focusing on carbs. For example, hardworking athletes and especially runners, often need extra iron antioxidants to fuel their bodies with power and resilience during periods of hard training. In fact, it may be necessary to eat more fruits and vegetables and supplement the diet with iron in the weeks and days leading up to a big race.

Therefore, it’s important to remember balance in meals, even while focusing more heavily on carbs. Not only will this method help ease the body into dietary changes, but it will help sustain healthy energy for longer periods of time without the dreaded crash that so many runners experience.

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Nutrition Periodization & The Best Nutrition for Athletes

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For athletes, it doesn’t just matter which foods are consumed, but also when they are consumed. There is a nutrition training concept called nutrition periodization that involves breaking a nutrition plan into discrete blocks to match the physical demands and physiological responses of the body. For example, distinguishing one’s nutritional needs in the pre-season, competitive season, and off-season, as well as trying different macronutrient ratios, can help athletes achieve optimal performance in their chosen sports.

Here is a discussion of nutrition periodization as an effective nutrition training strategy and how it can help athletes manage their iron intakes while training. The discussion will also extend to establishing a marathon training diet for maximum endurance and nutrient absorption.

What is Nutrition Periodization?

The main idea behind nutrition periodization is that the way an athlete eats throughout the year can affect how he or she performs during the competitive season. This is because nutritional deficiencies can develop if an inadequate amount of nutrients are stored in the body. Good year-around nutrition for athletes is important to maintain glycogen stores and a strong immune system that can bounce back from intense training sessions.

The ideal ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat should vary during different times of year. But athletes can also think of periodization on a more hourly, daily, and weekly basis too. When an athlete takes a rest day, the body’s energy demands are lower, which means that meals should look a bit different.

Ultimately, the goals of nutrition periodization are to align nutritional habits to support an athlete’s energy needs through various training cycles. If practiced effectively in the preparation, competition, and transition cycles, the outcomes will be a better body weight and competition, stronger immune system, faster recovery times, and metabolic efficiency.

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Iron and Nutrition Training

Based on sports nutrition studies, it is believed that periodizing one’s nutrition can also help manage an athlete’s iron when training. This is because the hardworking body of an athlete may require additional iron and nutrients than recommended as standard for sedentary individuals. As an essential part of hemoglobin, iron assists in the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide through the blood and to muscle cells. Iron supplements, such as Fergon, can help athletes meet their nutritional needs while ramping up their training regimens.

The Marathon Training Diet

It is also important to note that nutrition periodization is a key component of the marathon training diet. Marathon runners should eat at least six to eight servings of vegetables and fruit each day and focus on high fiber foods in the preparatory stage. During the intensity stage, energy bars, salt tablets, and four to six meals per day are recommended. For the peak stage, a lower fiber diet is recommended for marathon runners, as well as drinking at least 12 to 14 glasses of fluids each day. When it comes time for the race, many marathon runners carbo-load a couple nights before the race and consistently snack on high carb foods on the day before the race. During a marathoner’s active recovery period, this is a time to try new foods and reintroduce items from all food groups that may have be omitted while training intensely. Timing is everything when it comes to marathon training and nutrition for athletes, which is why nutritional periodization plans have become so popular among endurance athletes in recent years.

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Iron Deficiency vs. Anemia: How to Tell the Difference

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Understanding Iron Deficiency vs. Anemia

The terms “iron deficiency” and “anemia” are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, which can be confusing for people who are struggling with low iron levels to understand the differences between iron deficiency vs. anemia.

Signs of an iron deficiency may not necessarily render a diagnosis of anemia based on the severity of the condition. This is an important distinction to make, particularly for athletes, because the type and level of treatment will be different for someone who has a minor iron deficiency compared to a person with a more severe case of anemia.

This article will discuss how to know the difference between an iron deficiency and anemia and why it is important to be able to differentiate between the two conditions.

Signs of Iron Deficiency

Oftentimes, the first signs of iron deficiency are dizziness, weakness, headaches, and fatigue. It is also common for people with an iron deficiency to have a sore tongue, feel cold more often than usual, and become short of breath while doing everyday tasks. An iron deficiency in itself is not a disease, but rather a form of malnutrition.

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What Causes Iron Deficiency

The question of what causes iron deficiency can be answered in a few different ways. During periods of growth, such as childhood and pregnancy, the body requires more iron. If a person’s iron intake does not meet this increased demand, an iron deficiency results.

Iron deficiency diseases can also be caused by decreased rates of iron absorption. For example, consuming dairy products, eggs, fiber, coffee, and tea with iron-rich foods can reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron well. Excess blood loss through menstruation, an injury, or another medical condition can also cause someone to become iron deficient.

Iron Deficiency Diseases

There are multiple iron deficiency diseases that result from low iron levels, including iron deficiency anemia and anemia of chronic disease. While the first of these conditions involves consistently low iron levels, the latter is a multifactorial anemia that is usually accompanied by an inflammatory condition, autoimmune disease, cancer, or kidney disease. With anemia of chronic disease, anemia is the result of another underlying condition rather than purely low iron intake through diet.

Symptoms of Anemia

Simply put, when comparing iron deficiency vs. anemia, anemia is a much more severe form of iron deficiency. It is a disease that results from decreased red blood cells that are needed in the body. When an iron deficiency isn’t treated promptly, it can lead to anemia. Symptoms of anemia are similar to those of a less severe iron deficiency but will typically be more noticeable and intense.

Treatment for Iron Deficiency vs. Anemia

If the cause of a person’s anemia is determined to be low iron levels, then the treatment for both of these conditions is similar. Fergon, a high-potency iron supplement, can help restore iron in the blood and reduce the symptoms that result from low iron. Blood transfusions or iron infusions may be options explored in cases of severe anemia, but not typically for minor iron deficiencies. Meanwhile, dietary changes may help individuals with an iron deficiency keep their iron levels up and also aid the absorption of iron for long-term wellness.

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Why Exercise-Induced GI Bleeds Occur in Endurance Athletes

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Being an endurance athlete is hard work, and there are many things that can go wrong in the body with repetitive and strenuous exercise. Although GI bleeds can occur because of a variety of complicated reasons, long and hard workouts are a common cause. Long distance runners, for example, commonly experience the troubling complication of GI bleeding. But unfortunately, many athletes are not aware of their own gastrointestinal bleeding and therefore do not seek treatment for it.

Here is an explanation of how gastrointestinal bleeding occurs in athletes and how this condition can lead to debilitating side effects, such as anemia.

Why Does the GI Bleed?

GI bleed symptoms can result from many conditions, including colon polyps, diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, and cancer. Gastritis often causes GI bleeds as well, which is brought on by the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), infections, Crohn’s disease, and severe injuries.

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Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Many marathon runners have experienced blood in their diarrhea, urine, and vomit after challenging races. Bleeding can occur in both the upper and the lower digestive tracts, but this amount of blood can be so small that it’s not even visible.

Upper tract bleeding appears as vomit that is bright red or that looks like coffee grounds, as well as stool that is black or mixed with dark blood. Meanwhile, lower digestive tract bleeding typically appears only as stool that is black, mixed with dark blood, or coated with bright red blood.

Causes of GI Bleeds in Athletes

Endurance athletes have a lot to worry about in regards to how their bodies function and recovery every day. But one question many of them have is what causes bleeding in the stomach.

Strenuous exercise affects the stomach and intestinal lining of the body and can weaken this lining over time. Research suggests that bleeding among long-distance runners may be due to gastrointestinal ischemia, a condition that makes it difficult for the intestines to work property and can create a loss of blood flow the intestines. Other theories address the fact that repeated jarring of the colon during exercise can cause trauma and contusions to the lower GI tract. Also, athletes who use anti-inflammatory drugs to manage aches and pains from working out are at a higher risk of developing gastrointestinal bleeding.

GI Bleeding and Anemia

As if blood loss through the gastrointestinal tract wasn’t bad enough, serious side effects can result if the condition is not promptly treated. One of the most common side effects of a GI bleed is an iron deficiency and anemia. This is because iron is lost with this type of bleeding, as well as the blood itself. For example, many athletes experience blood loss in their urine after exercise, which is a source of lost iron. In general, athletes usually have hemoglobin concentrations on the low end of normal. While this may actually be beneficial in reducing blood viscosity to deliver oxygen to their muscles, it also makes athletes more prone to the symptoms of anemia.

It is recommended that endurance athletes practice gradual conditioning and avoid taking pre-race aspirin to prevent GI bleeds. Therapy with iron supplements like Fergon, antacids, or H2 blockers may also be recommended based upon the symptoms of anemia and the GI disorder. Staying well-hydrated and making good nutrition choices before exercising can also reduce GI discomfort and stress in the body.

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Could Poor Circulation in Athletes Be Caused by Anemia

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In order for athletes to compete and perform well, good blood circulation is needed throughout the body. An athlete’s muscles require blood and oxygen in order to push the body harder, work out longer, and run a farther distance.

But what athletes might not know is that poor blood circulation could result from a lack of iron in the body. Poor circulation is one of the lesser-known symptoms of anemia, but a common one among athletes. This is due to the fact that other common causes of this condition, such as lack of exercise and smoking cigarettes, are not a factor in most athletes’ lives.

This article discusses whether poor circulation in athletes can be caused by anemia and how the physical symptoms present themselves.

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The Importance of Circulation for Athletes

The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood vessels, arteries, and veins that collectively transport blood to the various parts of the body. These essential components operate in a continuous cycle to not only ensure blood circulation, but also stabilize body temperature, maintain pH balance, and transport nutrients to and from bodily cells.

When blood isn’t flowing properly through the body, a blockage of the arteries is often to blame. This means that the heart, brain, and other parts of the body aren’t receiving the nutrients they need on a steady basis. In athletes, a lack of blood flow can also mean compromised functioning of the arms, legs, hands, and feet. If left untreated, poor circulation can lead to more serious conditions like high blood pressure, blood clots, organ damage, and stroke.

The Connection Between Blood Circulation and Anemia

Anemia commonly results in a wide array of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, paleness, and difficulty concentrating. However, cardiovascular symptoms like increased heart rate, chest pains, and poor circulation can also occur.

Common signs of poor blood flow include muscle cramps, tingling, numbness, and dizziness. Athletes who are anemic may experience cold hands and feet due to their circulation issues. This sense of coldness signals that blood is not flowing to these parts of the body as it should.

Other Causes of Poor Circulation

However, anemia certainly isn’t the only condition that can cause poor blood circulation in athletes. Oftentimes, one’s circulation is affected by lifestyle habits. Athletes who eat too many cheat meals with foods high in sugar and trans fats may be contributing to poor circulation. It is also common for athletes who maintain an unhealthily low body weight to struggle with circulation issues.

Easy Ways to Boost Blood Circulation

Athletes who suspect that their blood circulation problem are due to low iron should consult a doctor to get their iron levels tested. For these individuals, high potency iron supplements like Fergon may be recommended to restore iron in the body and boost the flow of blood.

It is recommended for athletes to practice yoga to lower their blood pressure, improve circulation, and deal with the stresses of competition in a healthy way. Getting a sports massage may also help to boost circulation in an athlete’s body. Eating beets or drinking beet juice may also help improve blood circulation as well because beets contains nitrates that are known to open up blood vessels and improve the natural flow of blood. Other healthy foods that support good blood circulation are avocados, chia seeds, and coconut oil.

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