Iron plays important roles for athletic performance, including red blood cell production and oxygen transport.
Previous studies have demonstrated positive associations between athletic performance measurements and iron concentrations.
It is now common knowledge that exercise affects iron levels in the body—with streneous exercise having a dramatic effect in depleting iron.
This suggests that maintaining adequate intakes of dietary iron is not only important, but vital for athletes.
Athletes just one group needing extra iron
Recently the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition released a study that examined the relationships of iron intake, athletic performance and growth development in young athletes.
Researchers studied 249 athletes, including 179 males and 70 females. The participants ranged in age 5 – 18 years old, and provided blood samples during the course of the study. The participants were assessed for dietary intake and athletic performance.
Though iron biomarkers varied between male and females, the primary findings indicated that athletic performance “consistently correlated” with iron concentrations and intake.
The results add to the growing evidence that athletes should be included in the categories of people already advised to consume additional amounts of iron.
These existing categories include vegetarians and pregnant women.
Different absorption rates
Fortunately iron can also be acquired from a variety of both animal and plant foods; however, an important fact to keep in mind is that iron in animal sources has an absorption rate of about 15 percent, compared to about 5 percent for plants.
Iron can also be aquired by taking quality supplements and by cooking with a cast iron skillet (especially if cooking acidic foods).
In addition to losing iron through streneous exercise, iron absorption from foods is decreased if the food is accompanied by caffeine or alcohol. On the flip side, adding fruit to meals enhances iron absorption.
Contrary to the negative information promulgated by the media, some iron supplements, such as Optimal Iron from Optimal Health Systems, contain organic chelated sources of iron which are much safer than synthetic iron supplements. They are also better-absorbed.
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