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. An iron supplement is one that nearly all of our ZAP Endurance athletes take regularly.

Iron deficiency is something we are constantly monitoring with the ZAP team.

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. You can get your ferritin levels checked with a simple blood test, but just be sure to ask your doctor to order Ferritin. If you don’t ask they often won’t get that number specifically, and it’s a number you need to know.

We’re not doctors or offering medical advice, and you should consult your doctor if you’re concerned about taking an iron supplement. However, in our experience most people should target a ferritin reading of at least 50, ideally over 75, 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 do need to supplement iron be sure you’re not taking it in combination with calcium. Calcium blocks the absorption of the iron. 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 iron deficiency in runners. However a simple blood test should provide clear answers if you’re not sure which you may be experiencing.

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