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Female Athletes at Risk for Iron Deficiency

There may be a simple reason why some female athletes find it hard to keep their energy levels up. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, it is common for female athletes to have iron deficiency due to monthly blood loss, an added demand on iron stores during high-intensity training, and diets that often don’t include fortified foods or red meat. It’s important to note that you can be iron deficient without being anemic, although anemia is often caused by low iron and refers specifically to low hemoglobin—the molecule that carries oxygen throughout the body. Lack of iron can lead to feeling tired, cold, and depressed, which can impact performance in a big way. Luckily iron deficiency is completely preventable. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The National Institutes of Health’s recommended iron intake for premenopausal women is 18 mg daily. According to one expert, female athletes may need to take a higher dosage.
  • Aside from red meat and seafood, green-leafy vegetables can also provide iron, especially when consumed along with vitamin C. Avoid eating these foods with ones that interfere with iron uptake, such as coffee and tea.
  • Iron can be taken as a supplement, but it’s important to be screened first to see how deficient you are, as getting too much iron is not healthful.

Source: The Washington Post

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