Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Iron and the Female Athlete

Quinoa with spinach and shrimp pic from Gudlyf
So one of the joys of doing lots of sport is that you don’t have to join in with the treadmill of dieting and worrying about eating too much chocolate. Unless of course you’re eating too little to keep your energy levels up. It’s a fine line between healthy eating and too little, especially for anyone doing weight-category sports where an extra 100g can make all the difference. 

Getting enough iron is one of the biggest worries. Sports Dieticians, Australia recommend that female athletes need 1.3 – 1.7 times more iron than a civilian. How come? Oxygen – low levels of iron means less oxygen in the body, means less power means decreased performance. Not good. It’s hard to tell when you’re lacking in iron as the symptoms are vague – tired, not training properly, difficulty concentrating, getting colds easily. SDA pinpoint four areas where athletes are more likely to lose blood than others:

  1. Injury or blood noses
  2. Marathon runners and other ultra-endurance athletes sometimes lose blood through the digestive tract or urine
  3. Wearing unsuitable trainers causes foot strike damage to the red blood cells in the feet, especially when running on hard surfaces too – like road running
  4. Heavy sweating
Combining animal (haem iron) and plant sources (non-haem iron) of iron is the most effective way to get enough. Plus sip on a Vitamin C rich drink and avoid tea/coffee at meal times! To get an idea of how much you should eat, think of this table when you’re cooking:
Almonds 1 handful   0.05mg          Eggs 2 small 0.08mg
Spinach ½ cup        0.1mg            Chicken 100g 0.1mg
Pork 100g              0.2mg            Tuna 100g 0.3mg
Lamb 100g            0.5mg             Steak 100g 0.7mg
(source: Womens Health, July 08)

What do you eat to keep your energy up?

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