Iron and Exercise

2In order to transport oxygen through the blood and into the muscle cells the body needs the essential metal iron.  This metal binds to hemoglobin which is found in the blood and this allows for the oxygen to travel through the body and transfer the oxygen into the muscle cells.  The only source of useable energy for the body is ATP and iron is an important part of creating ATP.  When you exercise the body needs more oxygen so it is important that you have an adequate iron supply in your body.  If oxygen cannot travel properly in the body then the body cannot break down what it needs for fuel.  Of course, when you exercise you need more fuel for energy.    When you perspire your body loses oxygen.  For most people exercising iron loss is not a problem, but it is something you need to consider.  Decrease in iron is especially prevalent in endurance athletes. Because of their monthly menstrual cycle woman athletics may be more at risk for iron deficiency than men.

Lack of iron can lead to anemia.  The body does not make iron so you must get it from a supplement or from food.  Supplements are available in both capsule and liquid form.  However, you should consult your physician before starting an iron supplement.  There are foods which will boost your iron supply such as red meat, legumes, leafy green vegetables, tofu and chickpeas.

Having low iron levels can make you tired, lightheaded, dizzy and you may easily bruise or you may even faint.  All these symptoms mean you will not be exercising to your optimal level.   Your doctor can test the level of iron in your blood through a blood test.  If you think you may have symptoms of iron deficiency it is important to be tested.

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