Iron is an essential micronutrient for the functioning of the organism. This mineral is one of the main elements that make up hemoglobin, a protein whose function is to ensure the proper storage and transport of oxygen by all cells of the body.
The iron needs are of the order of 8 to 11 mg / day, requiring an additional 50% for women and sportsmen and up to twice as much for sportswomen (20 to 25 mg / day). If we suffer from iron deficiency, the arrival of oxygen to our organs and tissues is lower, resulting in a lack of energy and a feeling of weakness.
Effect of iron on the athlete
When it comes to sports, it is important to have a balanced amount of all micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements). However, some of these substances are especially important for the athlete since a lack of them implies a decrease in physical performance.
Iron is one of the substances that most affect the performance of the athlete. Its function ensuring the oxygenation of the body is vital to increase resistance and accelerate recovery. In fact, a low level of iron implies the appearance of symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness or dizziness, which, obviously, substantially reduce the athlete’s ability.
It is important to note that iron needs in athletes are greater, since their oxygen consumption is also higher. When we perform a physical activity we begin to burn energy and our body goes through an adaptation process. Oxygen is responsible for responding to these energy demands and facilitating adaptation. The greater the intensity of the exercise, the greater the oxygen requirements will be.
On the other hand, this mineral is also present in the composition of myoglobin, the protein responsible for oxygen transport necessary for the muscle contraction process. When we exercise, we subject our muscles to continuous contractions so the role of iron will also be vital to ensure the proper functioning and health of muscle tissue.
Taking into account what was mentioned above, if we are sports lovers, especially high performance sports, we should pay special attention to our diet and control the levels of iron in our body in order to optimize our physical capacities to the maximum.
Types of iron
There are two types of iron: Hem and not Hem. Iron Hem is predominantly present in animal blood and is absorbed up to 20%. YesNatural does not recommend it due to excessive toxicity or hormonal loads as a result of its habitual consumption. Iron not Hem, can be found in foods of vegetable origin, such as legumes, green vegetables or nuts. The absorption of iron from this type of food is lower. Nevertheless, if we consume them together with other foods rich in vitamin C the absorption increases, almost equaling that of iron Hem, and we avoid the consumption of undesirable components at the same time.
In the case of being vegetarian and athlete, it is important to keep in mind the contributions of elements that facilitate absorption if they are not already in the plant component.
Tips to improve absorption
As we said, the consumption of vitamin C contributes to a great extent to improve the assimilation of iron by the organism. For this reason, it is recommended to combine the intake of this micronutrient with iron, especially if the sources of iron we use are of vegetable origin (not Hem).
On the other hand, we must also bear in mind that there are foods that cause the opposite effect, that is, they hinder the absorption of the mineral. Some of these foods are coffee, tea or acetic acid (vinegar), so if we suffer from anemia or other diseases related to iron deficiency it is advisable to reduce their consumption.
Iron rich foods
When it comes to avoiding conditions related to iron deficiency, the best option is to ensure its consumption through the intake of foods rich in this mineral.
Algae are especially healthy foods because of their rich composition (they provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants …). In the case of iron, chlorrella and spirulina stand out, the two sources of plant origin with the highest percentage of iron in their composition.
Legumes are also a good option to consume iron of vegetable origin. Soybeans or lentils are two of the legumes with the highest contribution of this mineral.
Clams and sardines are rich in iron, so within the animal option it is popular to consume them.
Some vegetables such as moringa or spinach offer interesting amounts of non-Hem type iron. For this reason, in order to make the most of the iron they can give us, we can prepare a green salad with citrus fruits (rich in vitamin C) that will help us to facilitate the absorption of the mineral.