Running Tip: Iron Deficiency in Runners

If you’re experiencing chronic fatigue or that feeling that things aren’t quite right you may want to consider getting your iron levels checked. Iron deficiency in runners is often directly related to fatigue, reduced oxygen transport and underperformance in athletes. It is one supplement that many of our On ZAP Endurance athletes take regularly.

Members of the team are very aware of the regularity of iron deficiency in runners and make sure to get tested regularly.

The more demand you’re placing on those stores through running, the higher your need might be. Ferritin levels that most physicians view as “normal” are often well below what is optimal for a long-distance runner with performance-based goals. We’re not doctors or offering medical advice, and you should consult your doctor, but in our experience most people should target a ferritin reading of at least 50 combined with a hemoglobin reading in the normal range.

Paying attention to regularly including iron rich foods in your diet is a great place to start for any runner. However, if you have the need to supplement iron be sure you’re not taking it in combination with calcium, as one blocks the absorption of the other. You may need to check the labels on any multivitamins as well. You also want to avoid taking caffeine with iron for the same reason. Vitamin C however, actually helps the absorption of iron.

And while it is uncommon, it is possibly to take too much iron and experience iron toxicity. The symptoms of iron toxicity are frustratingly similar to deficiency, however a simple blood test should provide clear answers if you’re not sure which you may be experiencing.