Last summer I was running 5 days a week — mostly on trails– and feeling great! Being on the trails gives me the ultimate runner’s high. I just wanted to keep running forever! And suddenly I couldn’t. I had no energy. I was fatigued and my endurance started declining. Until one day, I was so tired I couldn’t lift my foot high enough to step over a root, and I did a belly flop into the dirt. My first thought was “I want a steak!”
Does this sound familiar? If so, you could be suffering from iron-deficiency anemia (IDA). IDA is typically seen in the very young, the very old, pregnant women and -unfortunately- runners!
Iron is critical to running because it is responsible for effectively transporting oxygen to your muscles, and helping to produce energy at the cellular level.
Runners lose iron in a number of ways- through sweat, the destruction of red blood cells caused by the impact of running on muscles and organs, and minor bleeds that can cause you to lose iron through your urine. Women lose even more iron than men because of menstruation.
Some of the most common signs of anemia in runners include fatigue and low energy. You can also look to a few physical signs: sores by the side of your mouth that are not healing well, pale nail beds and inner eyelids and getting out of breath with minimal exertion.
If your training has left you low on energy and you can’t seem to figure out why, consider changing your diet. Some foods that contain iron are green leafy vegetables, red meat and beans. Even cooking occasionally in a cast iron skillet can boost your iron.
If this doesn’t do the trick consider talking to your healthcare provider about IDA. Preventing and treating IDA will keep you at your strongest!