Monday, 2 September 2013

Iron & Iron deficiency

   

                            The importance of Iron, especially in Women Athletes
                           


                                       
Because Iron is so critical to the oxygen energy system, it is essential for endurance athletes to have adequate Iron in the diet to maintain optimal body supply and to help them achieve their peak performance. 

Iron is an essential mineral because it aids in the body's use and production of oxygen. It is a part of all our cells and does many things in our bodies. Iron is also apart of many enzymes and is used in many cell functions. A deficiency in Iron can also lead to iron deficiency anemia, which affects the functioning of several organ systems. 

A combination of the following factors place athletes at a risk for iron deficiency, especially women athletes.

1. Not enough dietary iron
2. Increased demands of iron. -- Hard training stimulates an increase in red blood cells & blood vessel production and increases the demand of iron, especially endurance athletes training at high intensity.
3. High iron loss. -- blood loss through injury or menstruation. In endurance athletes "foot strike" damage to red blood cells in the feet due to running on hard surfaces with poor quality shoes leads to iron loss & also heavy sweating leads to iron loss.

How to tell if we may be iron deficient. 

1. Feel fatigued for more than a month
2. You always feel cold
3. Brittle hair & nails
4. Swelling of the tongue or soreness of the tongue.        
5. Frequent infections
6. Your skin looks paler than normal
7. Cracks in sides of the mouth
8. You can't focus
                                      

Here are some Iron food sources in both animal & plant foods.

There are two types of Iron

1. HEME  --- animal proteins, some are:
---- lean ground beef, chicken livers, oysters & clam.

2. NON-HEME  --plant foods, some are:
---- beans, tofu, soy beans, spinach, broccoli, dried fruit & fortified cereals.

The difference in these besides which foods they are found in is that Heme iron ( animal foods ) are 2-3 times more bioavailable ( absorbed ) then the Non-Heme ( plant foods ). 

Did you know --- A single serving of clams exceeds your daily amount of Iron?

   Here's some tips to increase your iron with both animal & plant based foods

1. Caffeine can decrease iron absorption when consumed with a meal, so skip it at meal times
2. Eat foods containing Vitamin C to increase iron absorption.
3. Cooking with a cast iron skillet will also add more iron into your meal.

The RDA of Iron for women is 15-18 milligrams a day
Endurance athletes may need more.

One thing I have just started trying is drinking hibiscus tea. Hibiscus tea contains 114% of iron in 1 cup. It's antioxidants also helps the body absorb the iron. 
May be a great drink for those who need a little pick me up from a little iron loss or for one who has low iron stores ( like me ) and is trying to get their count back up. 

Be careful not to take more iron than is recommended as it can be toxic. If you feel you need to take an iron supplement check with your health professional just in case your iron stores aren't as low as you may think. It may be only your diet that needs changing. 

Here's a great website I found on this topic. Hope you enjoy and may you be Nutritionally Well. 

home.trainingpeaks.com/articles/.../iron-and-the-endurance-athlete.aspx

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