Do you often feel like you are needlessly fatigued?
Maybe you cannot run up hills like you used to be able to do?
Are you dragging yourself through your workouts?
If this sounds familiar, you certainly want to consult with your doctor and get your blood tested to rule out anemia. Because you are an athlete, ask your doctor to measure your serum ferritin. That’s your stored iron. The iron in your blood can be at a normal level but if your iron stores are depleted, you can feel needlessly tired during exercise.
• An estimate 50% of female athletes have iron-deficiency, as indicated by low serum ferritin stores. (In the general population of women, about 14% are iron deficient.)
• A study with college-age male runners suggests that 21% of male cross-country and distance runners had low serum ferritin.
Just think how much better all of these athletes could perform if they were not iron-deficient!
These days, many athletes are avoiding red meat (an excellent source of iron), and they have stopped eating iron-enriched breakfast cereals. That is, they have traded their Kellogg’s Raisin Bran (enriched with iron) for an “all natural” brand of cereal, such as Kashi, that has nothing added to it—including no iron. No wonder their iron stores are low!
To prevent anemia, you want to enjoy iron-rich foods on a daily basis. Red meat is one of the best sources of iron, but if you are a non-meat eater, other common sources of iron include dark meat chicken (legs, thighs) and iron-enriched breakfast cereals. Include a fruit and/or vegetable (rich in vitamin C) with each meal to enhance iron absorption. Taking supplemental iron (as in a multi-vitamin/mineral pill) can help reduce the risk of becoming anemic if you do not eat red meat or iron-enriched breakfast cereals.
When I counsel either casual exercisers or competitive athletes, I ask them what they typically eat in a day. I then do a more thorough food intake, gathering details of all that they eat, More often then not, they “try to stay away from” bagels, crackers, pasta, juice, bananas, and other “carbs.” I ask them “Why?” With embarrassment, they mumble, “Because they’re fattening.” The athletes know in their intelligent minds this is not true, but somehow they have fallen victim to fad diets.
If you are among those who “try to stay away from carbs”, think again. Remember that carbs are NOT fattening (excess calories are fattening) and that carbs (such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables) should be the foundation of each meal because they fuel your workouts. I invite you to enjoy whole grain bagels, sandwiches, and pasta – and also enjoy higher energy during your workouts.
Do you really want to never enjoy potato or pasta again.....???
For more information about carbs/weight, please read the chapter on how to lose weight and have energy to exercise in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook (www.nancyclarkrd.com).