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Get The Winning Edge with Iron 

Russell Setright


Iron is a trace mineral that is highly significant to #endurance #athletes. Iron is critical to optimal athletic performance because of its role in energy metabolism, oxygen transport, and acid-base balance. low iron levels in athletes are common and one of the reasons for poor results during competitive events and exercise programs. Endurance athletes are at increased risk for suboptimal iron status, with potential negative consequences on performance (Hinton PS. Iron and the endurance athlete. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Sep;39(9):1012-8).


Studies have found that more than 50 per cent of competitive runners have iron deficiency at a level that can effect red blood cell production and athletic performance.


Women at higher risk: 

Recent studies have documented poor iron status and associated declines in both cognitive and physical performance in female athletes. In addition to low iron status low vitamin D and calcium status have been observed in female athletes, which can be associated with injuries, such as stress fracture, and limit a female athlete's ability to participate in regular physical activity. (McClung JP et al. Female athletes: A population at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies affecting health and performance J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2014 Jul 5).


A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that 89 percent of the members of a women’s college cross country team were anaemic at one time or another during the season


Iron Inflammation, athletes and Hepcidin

Hepcidin is the predominant negative regulator of iron absorption in the small intestine, iron transport across the placenta, and iron release from macrophages. And the synthesis of hepcidin is greatly stimulated by inflammation, trauma or by iron overload.


During the body’s inflammatory process, hepcidin is overproduced and as a negative regulator of iron this increases the risk of iron deficiency anaemia.

Inflammation and trauma, commonly caused by damage to joints and muscles during heavy exercise such as triathlons and marathons is one of the main causes of iron deficiency anaemia in athletes.


This inflammation causes an increase in hepcidin which in turn reduces iron adsorption and release from the body stores. If high levels of hepcidin are present, iron adsorption is reduced and as a result oral iron supplements are unlikely to be effective.


There are two factors that need to be addressed if adequate iron levels are to be maintained in the serious athlete.

1.      Ensure that the dietary intake of iron is adequate. If relying on cereal or non-haem iron as a major dietary source it is important to include vitamin C rich foods at the same meal or a vitamin C supplement as without adequate vitamin C non-haem iron is only about 30 per cent bioavailable.

2.      Reduce inflammation to increase bio availability and adsorption of iron by;

(a)    Wearing shock absorbing footwear

(b)    Use support strapping on joints that have had injury.

(c)     Supplement with curcumin (turmeric) may reduce inflammation mediated hepcidin production

(d)    Fish oil and Lyprinol for their natural anti-inflammatory activity.


1.     Sihler KC, et al Hepcidin in trauma: linking injury, inflammation, and anemia. J Trauma. 2010 Oct;69(4):831-7

2.     Peeling P, et al. Iron status and the acute post-exercise hepcidin response in athletes. PLoS One. 2014 Mar 25;9(3):e93002.

3.     Sim M et al. Iron regulation in athletes: exploring the menstrual cycle and effects of different exercise modalities on hepcidin production. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Apr;24(2):177-87.


4.     Fatih N, et al. Natural and synthetic STAT3 inhibitors reduce hepcidin expression in differentiated mouse hepatocytes expressing the active phosphorylated STAT3 form. J Mol Med (Berl). 2010 May;88(5):477-86


Bio Iron (Blackmores) supplement may assist if your dietary intake is low


Ferrous fumarate (iron 5 mg)

15.3 mg

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

100 mg

Folic acid

166.5 µg

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)

50 µg

Urtica dioica (Nettle) herb powder

100 mg

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