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