Active Women At Risk
“Do you feel tired?” My Dr asked me. Um, yeah? I run a business…. I’m generally tired, isn’t everyone?
I’d just had my bloods done, which were looking amazing, except for one thing I’d never heard much about before. My Dr explained that while my blood iron levels were good, my reserve levels were a little low.
I went away to do some research.
Your reserve iron is stored in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. These stores replenish iron lost from the blood and provide iron reserve during periods of insufficient dietary intake.
Your blood iron (functional) increases the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, as well as oxygen storage and transport within muscle cells.
Working with lots of women around the same age as me, many of them have told me they’ve been diagnosed with low iron levels at different times. Some chronically struggle to maintain blood iron levels without an infusion, others experience low iron as part of a heavy menstrual cycle and others when they forget to supplement.
They know that I will ask them if they’ve had their levels checked recently when I notice them presenting to sessions overly tired, pale, dizzy and struggling.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and leading cause of anaemia in the US.
The recommended dietary intake for females from 11yo to 50 is 15mg/day. Iron loss during a menstrual cycle can range between 15-30mg, so an additional 5mg of dietary iron daily for pre-menopausal women can offset this over the month.
Strenuous training and activity can increase the demand for iron in the system through additional losses. There is a high prevalence of iron depletion among female athletes.
Does this mean exercise is to be avoided? Considering the overwhelming benefits of being physically fit, strong, mobile and maintaining a healthy bodyweight – no.
Although I can see the frustration amongst my female clients who experience varying levels of iron depletion, when it affects their performance.
While it’s not practical for most of us to frequently get our levels checked and monitored when we feel low on energy – let’s be honest, there’s so many other factors that influence our energy levels including sleep, stress, hydration, workload etc, we can be a little mindful to include more iron-rich foods in our diet.
Here’s an example day of eating I put together for a client to assist this process:
As Vitamin C assists the body to absorb iron, including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet will benefit (for other reasons too), and some plant based sources of iron include: chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils, rolled oats and almonds and cashews.
However if you struggle to include a wide variety of these foods due to your lifestyle, one of my clients has said that she manages her iron levels by taking a daily multivitamin that includes a small amount of iron. She finds this helpful in avoiding the gastrointestinal side effects of needing to take a larger dose iron supplement that some women experience.
If you suspect that you are low in iron, or feeling chronically tired and run down, struggling to exercise etc, it’s a good idea to see your GP to get your levels checked so that you can manage this. Please don’t just put it down to “just feeling tired”, when you can manage this, you can experience daily life and exercise much more positively!