Iron Supplementation

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For female athletes, iron deficiency is one thing that can have a negative impact on performance. An increase in blood loss, combined with training and a low dietary intake of iron can lead to fatigue, headaches and breathlessness during exercise. The RDA for iron for females is 14.8mg. Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when there is not enough haemoglobin in the blood or when there are low blood levels of ferritin. Such instances may lead to insufficient oxygen in the blood being transported to the working muscles when exercising. Therefore, if you notice an unexplained drop in aerobic performance during exercise and you are feeling more tired than usual despite being rested, then you should visit your GP to have a blood test done to check your haemoglobin and ferritin levels.

The best way to increase iron intake through the diet is by increasing consumption of red meat. In this form, the iron is more effectively absorbed than it is from plant sources such as dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, pulses or dried fruit. Foods such as cereals are usually fortified which means that they are a good source of iron too. Iron absorption is enhanced when there is vitamin C present. Vitamin C rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and juices can be taken alongside foods that contain iron which will enhance the amount of iron that can be absorbed from your food. This is especially important for vegetarians.

An effective way to improve haemoglobin concentration and iron stores in the body is with supplementation. Iron can be taken in pill form or in liquid form as ferrous sulphate. The liquid form is more effectively absorbed by the body and is recommended for those who are more iron deficient. There are different flavours available as ferrous sulphate has quite an unpleasant taste and sometimes iron supplementation can have unpleasant side effects, so it is important to find a supplement that works for you. Depending on the supplement that you choose, the dosage can vary on the amount taken per day. If you are a female athlete, then supplementing iron before you notice any of the symptoms can prevent you developing the deficiency and enable you to keep your performance levels high.

Please feel free to contact the G4 Manchester (Didsbury) Clinic to speak to a member of our diet & nutrition team for any questions that you may have or if you wish to arrange a consultation to discuss your diet, nutrition and lifestyle.



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