A study has shown that taking a low-dose iron supplement daily may reduce the burden of exercise and improve fatigue, stress and performance in athletes.
The study, published in the Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications journal, involved 51 male and 42 female athletes receiving either 3.6 milligrams of iron or a placebo once a day for four weeks while maintaining a training exercise regime, daily lifestyle and food diary.
Participants had to conduct self-reported questionnaires and biochemical assessments focusing on mood, stress and sweat behaviours and results showed a significant reduction in feelings of exhaustion, negative mood and exercise-associated stress in the men and women of the iron group.
Iron is an essential mineral that the body needs for growth and development. It is found in every cell and assists in the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body including the muscles. A lack of iron can lead to symptoms of fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, headaches and reduced immunity.
Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder worldwide and is common in athletes, affecting up to 17 percent of male and 50 percent of female endurance athletes due to increased iron demand, iron loss of up to 70 percent and reduced iron absorption often triggered by exercise-induced inflammation. The body can lose iron through sweating, increased urination and menstruation.
Growing research has shown a link between sports performance and iron regulation in athletes. Athletes who compete in high-impact, running or endurance sports, young adults, female athletes and those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet need to pay particular attention to their iron levels. Without enough iron, the body can’t use oxygen properly to produce energy which can impair an athlete’s capacity to train, perform and recover.
Health expert, Vanessa Ascencao said that athletes push their bodies everyday which requires increased nutrients such as iron to achieve peak performance and optimised health.
“The body does not produce iron naturally, so increase intake of iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, chicken, liver and oily fish. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and Brussel sprouts, legumes, nuts, seeds and avocadoes. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as these reduce iron absorption and include citrus fruits, sweet peppers and tomatoes as these increase absorption,” said Ascencao. “Adding an iron supplement can promote faster recovery and help bounce back from the effects of daily training including muscle or bone injury. Try high-quality, naturally occurring, Spatone Iron Rich Water which is scientifically shown to have higher absorption of up to 40 percent. Spatone is gentle on the stomach with fewer side effects commonly experienced with standard iron supplements and contains 5 milligrams of iron in one daily dose,” added Ascencao.