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Need of iron for an athlete

Iron is one of the minerals that most worries athletes, as performance declines, we fail forces and had a bad season, we think we have anemia and ordered a blood test or worse, we start taking supplements iron without a prescription. Iron is an essential trace element for life and sportswomen people really have more need for iron than do not do sport, especially women and long distance runners. Know their roles in the body and the foods you bring this trace element will help to increase performance and avoid problems with iron.

Question of Faith

Iron or Fe is a trace mineral that is present in our body in very small quantities, it is still essential for life. The body contains from 3.5 to 4 g of iron in total, about 50 mg per kilo of weight in the case of men and 35 mg per kilo of body weight in women.

Iron is very important for human life because their functions are:

  • It combines with heme, responsible for the red color of the pigment hemoglobin in the blood, which acts comotransportador oxygen from the lungs to the organs of the body.
  • As an element which oxidizes and reduces easily participates in the composition of many enzymes of the respiratory chain (catalase, peroxidase, cytochromes, etc.) that transfer electrons, Cytochrome C, in particular, it is the fundamental enzyme in reactions that release energy from cells.
  • Participate in the formation of myoglobin muscles, respiratory pigment that acts as a reservoir of oxygen in the muscles.

Availability of Iron

Surely you’ve heard that iron is best absorbed iron or heme the animal, if you do not know what it means now you can learn it. Bioavailability is the key, and indicates the amount of iron that really gets get from food into the blood through the intestines. Bioavailability depends on many factors, one of them is the way the iron is present in foods: heme and non-heme iron.

  • Heme iron is the one that is better absorbed and is found in animal foods such as organ meats (liver), red meat (beef, rabbit, pig, horse), poultry (turkey, squab, pheasant), fish and shellfish ( clams, oysters, cockles, mussels, etc.)
  • The non-heme iron is poorly absorbed and little and found in plant foods, in greater numbers than in vegetables in some cases, although it is not bioavailable, so it is not absorbed well. It is found in large amounts in foods such as brewer’s yeast, seaweed, legumes (soy, lentils, and beans), green vegetables (spinach, parsley, thyme) or egg yolk, although this is a food of animal origin.

As you can see in the table, no matter how much iron containing food, but what percentage of absorbed really. Breast milk is the food with less amount of iron by weight, but the baby absorbs it very well because it is associated with proteins (lactoferrin and transferrin) that help the transportation of mineral to the digestive system. Seaweed contains a lot of iron, up to 150 mg per 100 grams of dulse, but this type of non-heme iron is little and poorly absorbed. It is generally absorbs up to 23% of heme iron, and between 3 and 8% of non-heme iron group.

Food mg of iron per 100 g of food absorption  Percent
Breast milk 0.05 50-75%
Pork liver                   22.1 15-20%
Beef                                                           2.5 16%
Clams, cockles 22 10-15%
Serrano ham 2.5 10-15%
Fish 1.0 10-15%
Eggs 7 5%
Beer yeast 17.3 5%
Soy 8.6 02.05%
Dried vegetables 7 02.05%
Spinach 4 02.05%
Rice 0.4 1%

Friends and enemies of iron

You can increase iron absorption in the intestine, especially non-heme iron or vegetable, if you combine foods rich in iron-rich foods other elements that favor absorption. Conversely, other foods reduce iron absorption and should not be taken at the same time:

Friends of Iron

  • Foods rich in vitamin C:

Therefore it is recommended to take orange juice with iron supplements, or seasoning meats, fish and vegetables with lemon juice to better absorb iron. Another trick is to take vegetables with peppers, tomatoes, or vegetables from the cabbage family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) that are very rich in vitamin C.

  • Acidic foods:

As citrus fruits with malic acid as apple, etc

  • Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12:

Also they enhance absorption.

  • Cooking with pots and pans of cast iron:

Old pans were a constant source of iron for foods cooked in them, can now find special pans and pots modern.

  • Protein-rich foods. Proteins also promote the absorption of iron. So if you combine iron-rich plant foods with other protein such as eggs, milk, meat or fish, improved absorption.

Iron enemies

  • Foods high in phytates:

Phytates appear on the cover of cereal grains, especially wheat bran, whole grains in breads or whole grains and legumes. To avoid this, you can leave these foods to soak overnight to hydrolyze phytate or choose whole meal bread leavened with sourdough.

  • Foods high in oxalates:

They found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard, beets, rhubarb, and tea and bitter chocolate. To avoid low absorption, seasoned with lemon juice vegetables and tea

  • Foods rich in tannins:

The tannins in tea, coffee, wine and chocolate reduce the absorption of iron, so you should allow at least one hour between dietary supplements or foods rich in iron and these tannins.

  • Excess of some minerals:

The excess of some minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, zinc, cobalt, cadmium, lead, etc., compete with substances that absorb and reduce iron absorption. To avoid not take mineral supplements to your whim.

  • Others:

Calcium from dairy products, antacids medicines, foods rich in fats, some food preservatives such as EDTA and egg yolk.

Natural recycling

Iron metabolism is an example of natural recycling. The body pampers as a treasure and avoid possible losses in sweat, urine and feces, recycling most of the iron in hemoglobin in red blood cells that die and are destroyed (typically live about 120 days), minimizing losses of this element. The only real iron losses occur in bleeding, so women of childbearing age need to take good care of their diet, because they have losses every month during menstruation, hence many women athletes can stand to lose the “rule” if they have anemia as a mechanism to reduce iron losses to the fullest. If you are male but observe loss of blood in the urine or stool, you should also monitor iron levels.

The strange thing is that the absorption of iron increases when the needs are greater, during a time of intense training, bleeding, pregnancy, inadequate diet in iron, anemia, etc., can vary from 3% to 30% absorption iron.

Formerly pale-skinned children without energy were given water in which he had let rust a nail for several days? When there were no pharmacies, mothers knew that water or rusty red water sources were the best to increase iron intake in the age of growth.

The best way to take iron supplements if recommended is in the morning at breakfast with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or kiwi to facilitate maximum absorption of iron. If you have digestive problems with supplements, it is best to take the pill at night after a dinner that includes protein and a glass of orange juice. If iron supplements will cause constipation, increasing the dose of fiber each day.

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