As you go about your diet plan to help excel at whatever sport you happen to be participating in, one nutrient that you need to be sure you are getting enough of is iron.
Iron deficiency anemia can quickly suck the life out of any athlete, so to speak, making their performance take a sharp decline.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that many athletes avoid the primary source of iron in the human diet – red meat – for fear it will cause weight gain. And while the wrong cut of red meat can definitely lead to you taking in more calories than you need, the right cut of red meat can safely be part of any athletic diet.
If you simply cannot have red meat for whatever reason, it becomes critical that you look into other forms of iron such as spinach, soybeans, lentils, garbanzo beans, Swiss chard, and iron-fortified cereals.
Do keep in mind that certain people are at a higher risk of suffering from iron-deficiency than others. Women who are of menstruating age are top in line as they are losing some blood each month with their cycle. Others who are labeled as high-risk individuals include those who are giving blood on a regular basis as well as those who are eating a vegetarian diet.
But why is this mineral so important? Let’s go over a few of the athletic consequences you stand to suffer from if you aren’t hitting your iron quota.
Reduced Muscular Endurance
The first devastating side effect lack of iron will have for the athlete is poor muscular endurance. Perhaps you used to run 5 miles no problem but today, you feel like you need to quite and it’s just mile 4.
Or, maybe you’re a strength trainer and you find that lately, you’ve been consistently hitting a lower rep range than you were a few weeks ago.
Both could be a classic case of simply not getting enough iron.
Poor Strength Level
Along with lack of muscular endurance, many athletes will also notice their strength level starts to decline. This is extremely important because in most sports, strength and power development essentially dictate the progress that you make.
A poor strength level will also make every training session you do perform that much more grueling as you’ll struggle to keep up with what you were doing before.
Lack Of Focus And Concentration
Some athletes who are lacking in iron also report feeling a lack of focus and concentration. This applies not only as they go about their day to day life, but also as they go about their sporting activities.
Without that mental focus and drive, you’ll be hard pressed to push yourself to achieve optimal performance. In addition to that, you may also find that you lack the motivation to train that you used to have.
Feelings Of Dizziness
Along with a lack of focus and concentration, you may also notice that you’re feeling a bit dizzy as well. This can go from being detrimental to your performance to being downright dangerous if you aren’t careful, so be sure that you are not overlooking this symptom.
If you ever start to feel dizzy while training or playing your chosen sport, stop and sit down until it passes. If it’s happening on a regular basis, make sure to look into what could be causing this.
Fast Or Irregular Heartbeats
You’re also more apt to experience faster or irregular heartbeats when in a state of iron deficiency. Your body is trying to push blood through the body in order to deliver sufficient oxygen to the muscle tissues and in effort to do so, your heart beat increases higher than normal.
Remember that the main function of iron in the diet is to help with the formation of red blood cells that transport oxygen to the various tissues. If you are lacking in red blood cells then, your blood will need to be moving faster to get what oxygen it does carry delivered.
Couple this with the fact that your heart rate is already higher than normal due to exercise and you could end up placing great strain on this important organ in the body.
Poor Recovery Ability
Finally, don’t be surprised to find that you have very poor recovery ability when in a state of iron deficiency. The red blood cells won’t be transporting oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells like they should and as such, you won’t bounce back between sessions like you should be.
This can then mean less frequent training sessions or practices, resulting in lower performance levels.
So don’t overlook iron in your diet. Many athletes pay great attention to the main macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, but fail to focus on the micronutrients that are so vital to their health, iron included.