Low ferritin and iron deficiency anemia in distance runners: A scientific guide for athletes and coaches.
When I see a runner getting fatigued early on in workouts or struggling mightily in races for no good reason, there’s one potential cause I always consider first: low iron. Iron deficiency is a significantly underdiagnosed problem in distance runners. Low levels of hemoglobin in the blood, or low levels of the iron storage protein ferritin, can have a profoundly negative impact on your ability to have successful workouts and races.
Hemoglobin is the main building block for red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. If you don’t have enough hemoglobin, you can’t make enough red blood cells, and as a result, your distance running performance will suffer. Furthermore, research and practical coaching experience suggests that low ferritin levels can cause poor performance, even when hemoglobin levels are normal.
We’ll take a close look at the science behind low iron and distance running performance, then analyze the best ways to treat and prevent iron deficiency in runners. (more…)