The Importance of Dietary Iron

Posted: March 17, 2012 in Nutrition

You cannot stress the importance of dietary iron for an endurance athlete.


  1. Glycolysis – breakdown of glucose
  2. Oxidation –  breakdown of fat
  3. Hemoglobin – red protein responsible for transporting oxygen
  4. Mitochondria – part of the cell where energy production occurs.
  5. Ventilation – movement of air in and out of the lungs.

In the body, fuels are stored in the cells near the mitochondria and contractile machinery of the muscle. However, there is next to no oxygen stored in the muscle. Muscle cells need oxygen in order to conduct glycolysis and oxidation. Once these two cellular process happen the muscle can use the broken down fuel reserves to produce work.

Revisiting the fact that there is next to no oxygen stored in the muscle.
Q: How is oxygen carried to the muscle?
A: Oxygen is carried to the cell via the oxygen transport system.

The Oxygen Transport System.
ventilation–>perfusion of the pulmonary circulation where hemoglobin is lying in wait to pick up the               oxygen–>pumping the blood through the heart into the organs and tissue–>aerobic metabolism–>waste carried out opposite it came

If you think back to high school, your biology teacher probably spoke about hemoglobin as little oxygen carrying trucks. These trucks require iron to attract the oxygen to get into their truck beds. Therefore, no dietary iron no oxygen transport capacity and good performance depends on hemoglobin capacity to do its job.

The Athlete
It is very common for endurance athletes to suffer from anemia due to the fact they use so much iron. It is important you get plenty of iron daily. It comes in most multi vitamins, but it is best to get it from a dietary source. Below are some of the signs of anemia, and some great foods that contain a large amount of dietary iron.

Things to Eat to Get Dietary Iron

  1. Red Meat
  2. Egg Yolks
  3. Dark Green vegetables
  4. Dried Fruit
  5. Iron-enriched grains, and cereals
  6. Mollusks
  7. Turkey or chicken giblets
  8. Liver
  9. Beans
  10. Artichokes

Signs of Anemia

  • Easy fatigue and loss of energy
  • Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise
  • Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Leg cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Hunger for strange substances such as paper, ice, or dirt (a condition called pica).
  • Upward curvature of the nails referred to as koilonychias.
  • Soreness of the mouth with cracks at the corners.

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