Iron Deficiency: What Is It?
In order to understand what iron deficiency is, it helps to have some basic understanding of your body’s metabolism. Your body uses oxygen and nutrients from food in order to maintain life functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. When these functions are impaired due to lack of oxygen or other factors, the result may be death. Without adequate amounts of oxygen (hypoxia), cells become damaged and die off. The most common cause of hypoxic damage is overuse of the heart and lungs, which is why many athletes suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.
The second most common cause of hypoxic damage is poor nutrition. This occurs when there isn’t enough calories in the diet because of insufficient intake. Low energy levels can lead to low blood sugar levels, which can then lead to muscle cramps and weakness. These two conditions are often combined into one condition called “metabolic bone disease.” If left untreated, metabolic bone disease can lead to severe complications including kidney failure, blindness and even death.
There are several ways to prevent or treat hypoxic damage. One way is through supplementation with vitamins and minerals such as iron. Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron from foods. Magnesium helps reduce muscle cramping caused by low blood sugar levels and calcium aids in the formation of red blood cells.
How Does Iron Help With Energy?
Basically, without this vital mineral in your body you die. Red blood cells contain a protein called “hemoglobin,” which can bind with the oxygen that your body needs to survive. The problem is, hemoglobin can only bind to oxygen if you have enough iron to create the hemoglobin in the first place. If there isn’t enough iron, your body cannot produce enough hemoglobin or oxygen for your red blood cells to carry around. This leads to what is known as “iron deficiency anemia.”
How Does Iron Help With Strength?
Your muscles need iron to repair micro tears in the muscle fiber. If you don’t have enough iron, your muscles don’t have the strength to lift as much weight during your workouts. This leads to a condition called “low testosterone” which causes you to lose muscle mass even at rest, which is why many women choose vegan or vegetarian diets without supplementing with iron.
However, a portion of your muscles are always in a constant state of tearing and then repairing themselves. This is why you feel sore after working out; it’s literally the pain of your muscles repairing themselves stronger. In the same way that low iron can prevent you from gaining muscle, it can also prevent you from losing fat if you don’t have enough iron to repair the muscle tears that happen during your workouts.
Without enough iron, your body has a difficult time metabolizing fat. This is actually a common side effect for many female celebrities who have traded their meat and iron rich diets in exchange for vegan or vegetarian diets. The metabolism of fat slows down to the point where they literally cannot lose weight no matter how little they eat or how much they exercise.
Too Much Iron?
Sources & references used in this article:
Anemia and blood boosting by R Eichner – Sports Science Exchange, 2001 – secure.footprint.net
Iron supplementation: oral tablets versus intramuscular injection by B Dawson, C Goodman, T Blee… – … and exercise …, 2006 – journals.humankinetics.com
Iron metabolism in athletes–achieving a gold standard by GO Latunde‐Dada – European journal of haematology, 2013 – Wiley Online Library