Some individuals (especially active females) are prone to iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause excessive fatigue during workouts, slow recovery and lack of energy. This is understandable, as iron in red blood cells is responsible for delivering oxygen to working muscles. The following information will help maximize the body’s iron stores:
- Consume plenty of iron-containing foods (meat, legumes, dark green vegetables, dried fruit and enriched grains). Note: The iron in meat is more readily absorbed than other sources.
- Consume meat, fish or poultry, or a vitamin C-containing food (e.g., oranges, strawberries, tomatoes) with non-meat sources of iron (e.g., legumes, grains) to enhance iron absorption.
- Tea and coffee contain compounds that decrease the amount of iron your body can absorb from non-meat sources. Avoid consuming tea or coffee with your meal. (If drinking these beverages, have them at least one hour before or after your meal).
A physician can monitor iron status with comprehensive blood tests. Follow directions if a supplement is prescribed. Do not take iron supplements without a physician’s advice. Men especially should heed this advice, as men typically have adequate iron. Supplementation can lead to excess iron and serious health consequences.