Fuel to Be Strong: Nutrition for Strength Athletes

The following are some facts about eat for strength empowered by iron:

Iron plays a crucial role in your body’s ability to perform at its best. Iron is essential for normal growth and development of all tissues throughout your body, including muscle tissue.

Without enough iron, you won’t grow or develop properly. Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) affects 1 out of every 5 children under five years old worldwide. IDA causes short stature, pale skin coloration, weak muscles and mental retardation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies among children around the world. It is estimated that over 2 billion people have inadequate intake of iron from food, water or other sources. Iron deficiency anemia is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Approximately 30% of women and 20% of men suffer from iron deficiency anemia.

Iron is necessary for normal growth, development, and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth, blood cells, red blood cell production, nerve function and many other functions in your body. You need to consume adequate amounts of iron to meet your daily needs.

Great sources of iron include red meats (lamb, beef and liver), kidney, oysters and other shellfish, whole grains, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and dried fruit. Green leafy vegetables and dried legumes such as beans, peanuts and lentils also contain iron. Cooked oatmeal is also good source of absorbable iron. It is important to maintain the recommended daily intake of iron (15 mg) to prevent IDA. Sources of vitamin C help the body absorb iron, so eat iron-rich foods with a vitamin C source or take a daily multivitamin supplement that includes vitamin C. Eating meat in combination with drinking coffee, tea or other sources of caffeine decrease the amount of iron the body absorbs.

You can have too much iron. The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for iron is 45 mg per day.

Consuming more than this could lead to iron toxicity, especially if you already have IDA. Iron toxicity can cause liver damage and organ failure. Common signs of iron toxicity include black stool, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Iron toxicity is more common in children under the age of 5 years old.

Iron deficiency anemia IDA and iron deficiency without anemia (ID) are the two types of iron deficiency. Without anemia, you may have a low number of red blood cells or less hemoglobin in your red blood cells.

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If you have anemia with low hemoglobin, you may feel tired and weak with other symptoms of anemia. If you have IDA in addition to anemia, you may feel even weaker and tireder than usual with other signs of anemia.

You can be at risk for iron deficiency if:

You are a vegetarian or vegan and do not consume enough iron from food sources (the body does not absorb iron from plant sources as efficiently as it absorbs iron from animal sources).

You have a chronic (long-term) bleeding disorder such as Celiac disease, ulcer or irritable bowel syndrome.

You are pregnant and lose blood during your period or during pregnancy.

You have an increased need for iron, such as growth spurts in childhood and adolescence, pregnancy (females), liver disease, severe infection or rapid blood loss (like from a car accident).

You take certain medicines such as antacids, sucralfate (Carafate), antibiotics, ibuprofen or aspirin.

You have a diet low in iron and you also do not eat foods that contain vitamin C to help your body absorb the little iron in your diet.

You engage in excessive exercise without consuming adequate nutrition.

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You live a stressful lifestyle, such as academic demands, work pressures or family problems.

You are a vegetarian or vegan and do not consume enough dietary iron.

You experience heavy or prolonged menstrual periods.

You have a diet high in foods that interfere with iron absorption such as coffee, tea, red meat, egg yolks and soda.

You have had recent blood loss from trauma like tooth extraction, cuts or surgery.

You have taken certain over-the-counter medications like antacids, pain relievers or anti-diarrheals in the last two hours.

You have had recent blood donation or lost more than 1 pint (0.5 liters) of blood.

You are a man who has had a vasectomy and are not taking iron supplements.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your diet, medical history and family history. Based on this information, your doctor may order the following tests:

Blood count. A blood count can determine if you have anemia and if you are deficient in iron.

Urine test. A urine test can help detect a potential bleeding problem.

Stool test. A stool test can reveal if you have hidden (occult) bleeding.

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Skin biopsy. A tiny piece of skin is removed and examined under a microscope to rule out malabsorption or tumors that block the intestines.


To be diagnosed with iron deficiency, you must have signs of both iron deficiency AND anemia. (Some doctors diagnose iron deficiency if you have iron deficiency without anemia).

If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will most likely recommend an increase in iron. This may come in the form of dietary supplements (usually ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate) or in the form of injections (usually ferrous sulfate).

Your doctor may also recommend dietary changes to help your body absorb iron better.

Your doctor may also recommend other tests to find out why you have low iron. These tests may include:

Hematocrit or hemoglobin test. A blood test to measure the iron in your red blood cells.

A peripheral blood smear is made to assess the size and shape of your red blood cells.

Other iron tests, such as serum iron, total iron binding capacity and the percent saturation of transferrin are also ordered.

Urine tests to rule out hidden (occult) blood in your urine.

Abdominal ultrasound to assess the size and shape of your liver and spleen.

Colonoscopy to detect problem areas in your colon.

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Stool tests to detect hidden blood in your stool.


Most people with iron deficiency do not develop complications. However, people with iron deficiency who have anemia may be at increased risk of heart disease.

If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, your doctor will recommend that you have regular hemoglobin and hematocrit tests to follow your condition. If your anemia is caused by another medical problem (such as chronic blood loss), you will need treatment for this problem.


Most people with iron deficiency anemia improve their iron stores with adequate blood building. Your doctor will follow your condition with regular blood tests to make sure that you are improving.

The outlook is good if the cause of the iron deficiency can be quickly corrected.

Sources & references used in this article:

Sports nutritionists fuel the competitive edge by D Shattuck – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2001 – search.proquest.com

Intercollegiate student athlete use of nutritional supplements and the role of athletic trainers and dietitians in nutrition counseling by RD Burns, MR Schiller, MA Merrick, KN Wolf – Journal of the American …, 2004 – Elsevier

Creatine: Muscle Fuel No Longer Just for Athletes! by N Albertson – dynamicchiropractic.com