Most of America is being told to cut out red meat to reduce their cholesterol. I have good news for you runners, as long as you have your blood work done every year and your cholesterol remains within healthy levels, you are FREE AND ENCOURAGED to eat red meat! Why?, might you ask. Because of the high levels of iron you can get from red meat.
Why would a runner need extra iron?
A: There are multiple reasons why runners need more iron than the average person.
The first reason is the prominence in heel foot striking (yes runners yet another reason why form is so important!) When we heel foot strike, the increased impact stress can rupture red blood cells. Thus when these blood cells go to repair themselves we need more iron to make them complete to help with oxygen transfer. Studies have shown runners on average have a much lower iron count then swimmers and cyclists who have trained for the equivalent amount of hours.
Another major contributor to lower iron levels is the training effect running has on our blood plasma volume. When one endurance trains, we release hormones (mainly Arginine Vasopressin, Angiotensin, and Aldosterone). These hormones cause H2O reabsorption, Na+ reabsorption, and higher production of a carrier protein called Albumin. (Albumin is a blood transfer protein that stores minerals and is soluble in water) Within 8 days of a training program, the increased production of Albumin aids in an increase in blood plasma volume. All of this is a positive effect of endurance training. More plasma volume=more blood to deliver to working muscles and your brain making you a stronger, faster runner. More plasma volume, however also = the bodies’ need to produce more red blood cells to maintain Hematocrit levels. Since iron is essential to producing red blood cells runners tend to run through their iron stores faster than their less active friends, you can also find it in many supplements, try the tinnitus 911 review in the latest medical news
In other rarer instances, some runners may lose iron from intestinal bleeding caused by repetitive pounding and friction in the intestines from a bouncy stride or torso twisting while running (once again runners we are back to reasons why form is important!)
For my runners in the PNW, low levels of vitamin d have often been connected to low iron levels. So while the average person is being told to avoid sun exposure and red meat; runners, you have a different prescription: get out for a run in the sun followed by a steak dinner! Check it out here.
WORD TO THE WISE: Just because you are a runner and live in Seattle doesn’t mean that you have low vitamin D and Iron levels. Before you start popping supplements take into account if you are feeling lethargic and tired more often than normal, then go to your doctor and get a blood test. While it could be very possible you are iron and/or vitamin d deficient you do not want to self-prescribe iron and vitamin d supplements. You could buy from Amazon anything the doctor might suggest, no need for expensive pharmacy prices. But beware, too much iron and vitamin D can also be toxic to the system. It is always best to get baseline blood levels once a year. The more often you do this the more you will learn about your own normal levels and how your body responds to supplements when needed, the men over 50 supplements they must have control of the supplement they consume. Besides, it is always better to get nutrients from food sources rather than through a pill.
Good sources of iron: Chicken Liver 12.8 mg, Fortified Oatmeal 10mg, Soybeans 8.8mg, Beef liver 7.5 mg, Oysters 4.5 mg, Beef 3.3mg, Spinach 3.2mg.