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How iron intake can improve your workouts

Christopher Worthington considers the impact of iron supplements on you and your workouts.

It is not an unusual thing for women, in particular, to suffer from iron deficiency. Symptoms such as general exhaustion, and even breathlessness, and palpitations are put down to the general pace of life and ignored when they are evidence of mild anaemia. They are usually mild annoyances that you can put up with from day to day, but when it comes to your workout, it is not easy to get the most out of both cardio and strength exercises.  You might even find that you are giving up and going home early out of sheer exhaustion – not ideal if you are training for an event or trying to improve your general fitness.

Daily iron supplements could be the answer to improve your workouts – women in particular who take a daily dose can work harder but find it easier to do so; their heart rate is lower, and they are expending less energy. The reason for this is the increased ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body – iron is an essential mineral. If you do not have enough, you are going to get tired faster, and particularly when exercising. 

If you have particularly heavy periods or a diet that is low in red meat (which is rich in iron), there's a chance that you could be anaemic, especially if you feel sluggish both in and out of the gym. Thankfully, suppose you are low on iron. In that case, it is a relatively easy and quick fix – either increase your intake of iron-rich foods, either from red meat or shellfish or pulses, dried fruit, spinach, or watercress if you are avoiding animal proteins. For an extra boost to iron absorption, add a good fresh source of Vitamin C, such as lemon juice or a tomato sauce for flavour.

Be wary of adding an extra supplement with a high dose of iron if you have not had a blood test to show that you have low levels, however – too much can cause organ damage, and also increase your chances of contracting other issues, such as cancer, diabetes, and even heart disease.

It can be difficult to get to see your doctor, and especially to run both tests that are important to check on not just your iron levels, but whether you have a low red blood cell count as well. For extra peace of mind and access to full diagnostics, visit haematology at Harley Street at University College Hospital, where a doctor will be able to check not just your haemoglobin (or red blood cell) levels, but your ferritin (or iron supply) as well.

Whether you are training for an event, or just keen to keep an eye on your physical fitness, it is a good idea to have a full health check from time to time when it is convenient for you, to make sure that you keep on top of your body's changing needs.

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  • WORTHINGTON, C. (2016) How iron intake can improve your workouts [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Christopher Worthington is an experienced medical writer who has several years' experience covering sports injury topics. Christopher has written for various hospital websites and contributed to health blogs.