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