Iron Needs for Athletes

October 18, 2010

While pumping iron is critical for improving athletic performance, a lack of the nutrient iron can be detrimental to performance. No wonder Popeye the Sailor Man downs a can of spinach before physical exertion.

Iron deficiency, which is especially prevalent in female athletes, prevents the body’s cells from getting enough oxygen, causing fatigue, dizziness, headaches and even decreased immunity. Athletes, particularly those in endurance sports, depend on efficient oxygen delivery to working muscles. Furthermore, when you sweat, you actually lose a bit of iron with each drop. If you’re looking to build muscle or up your endurance level, it'll be a tough road without a adequate amount of iron.

In the following video, Liz Applegate, Oakland Raiders team nutritionist and director of sports nutrition at UC Davis, explains why iron is a crucial part of an athlete's diet.

Listed below are Recommended Dietary Amounts of iron. If you are unsure about your own needs, consult your doctor.

Males
14-18 years old — 11mg/day
19+ years old — 8mg/day

Females
14-18 years old — 15mg/day
19+ years old — 18mg/day

Many foods are rich in this essential energizing mineral. Check out these top sources, with number of milligrams of iron:

Clams
3 oz — 14mg, 126 calories

Lean Meats
½ cup — 1-3mg, varying numbers of calories

White Beans, Lentils and Soybeans
½ cup white beans — 3.9mg, 153 calories
½ cup lentils — 3.3mg, 115 calories
½ cup soybeans — 4.4mg, 140 calories

Grains
½ cup of fortified breakfast cereal — up to 18mg, varying numbers of calories
½ cup oatmeal — 10mg, varying numbers of calories

Spinach
½ cup spinach — 2-3mg, approx. 20 calories

Pumpkin Seeds
1 oz — 4.2mg, 148 calories

Also, consciously consuming Vitamin C with your meals can enhance iron absorption into your system.

Sources:  Office of Dietary Supplement, firstendurance.com

Photo:  ifood.tv

Maddy Lucier
- As an associate editor for STACK, Maddy creates lifestyle, social media, gear and nutrition content for our audience of athletes. She played volleyball and basketball...
Maddy Lucier
- As an associate editor for STACK, Maddy creates lifestyle, social media, gear and nutrition content for our audience of athletes. She played volleyball and basketball...
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