Updated: Jul 24
Iron has several roles in the body including the transport and delivery of oxygen, and energy production. It is also key for both cognitive and immune function.
Athletes are at a greater risk of being iron deficient in comparison to the general population, especially female athletes, with up to ~35% having an iron deficiency versus ~5% in the general population.
Regular exercise can increase the likelihood of an iron deficiency. This is because there is an increased inflammatory response in the body post-exercise, which can decrease the body’s ability to absorb iron for 3-6 hours post-exercise.
You will need a specific blood test to check for iron deficiency. I recommend endurance athletes have a routine blood analysis every 6 or 12 months pending prior issues.
Treatments of iron deficiency will depend upon underlying issues, severity of deficiency and time frame which iron levels need to be restored.
In most cases a food first approach is considered first. Followed by oral supplementation and finally IV injections.
References and Further Reading