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Man working out outside after supplementing with iron

Iron is a mineral that is lives in every cell in the human body. Yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified iron deficiency as the most widespread nutritional deficiency in the world.

For athletes, iron is one of the most important nutrients for aerobic performance. This is because iron is an essential building block for hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body including the muscles. Specifically for athletes, the amount of hemoglobin determines how much oxygen will circulate through the body. Therefore, low iron levels equal low hemoglobin levels which will equal low oxygen levels for the muscles. All of this leads to low performance.

Runners aren’t the only ones who suffer the effects of low iron levels. Overall, the WHO says iron deficiency affects 2 billion people around the world. Women of childbearing years are at a higher risk due to regular blood loss from menstruation. Surprisingly, the WHO has stated that 20 percent of all maternal deaths are due to anemia from iron deficiency.

Multivitamins with Iron: Supplementing dietary intake to reduce fatigue

So why is iron deficiency so common even among first world countries? The most common reason is a low level of iron consumed from a normal diet. This is often combined with a regular intake of foods and drinks that inhibit iron absorption. For example, fruits and vegetables are top sources of iron. However, a CDC study in 2015 found that less than 20 percent of Americans ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Adding a regular coffee or tea to a low iron diet adds the potential to reduce iron absorption of a meal by 20 to 50 percent.

Original Multivitamin With Iron

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A typical American diet at times can be problematic for iron intake. Eating less meat, drinking coffee and skimping on fruits and veggies can create a nutritional gap for iron. A daily multivitamin with iron can help support eating habits to ensure healthy iron levels. Vitamin C combined with Iron in a multivitamin can dramatically boost iron absorption.

Studies have shown different food combinations can affect iron absorption. A multivitamin with iron helps ensure the body absorbs a wide range of nutrients daily to support food choices. For instance, Cooper Complete Original Multivitamin with Iron contains 26 different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in a daily serving. Accordingly, this range of ingredients allows the body to fill any nutritional gaps with the appropriate vitamin and minerals to maintain healthy levels.

Iron for Runners: Supplementing With Iron to Help Fight Iron Loss From Running

Any athletic activity requiring extensive aerobic activity can create an iron deficiency. Additionally, running on hard surfaces can deplete hemoglobin levels. As blood swells in the foot during running constantly running on hard surfaces creates damage to the red blood cells on foot strikes.

In contrast, rather than creating a deficit from losing iron, increasing aerobic capacity will increase the body’s iron requirement. The body’s natural response to hard training is to create more red blood cells. Consequently, while this new increase improves oxygen delivery it also requires more iron. Higher amounts of hemoglobin are needed leading to another reason runners need more iron. Cooper Complete offers a multivitamin that contains 18 mg of iron per serving to help athletes reap the benefits of their training.

Supplementing a diet with a multivitamin with iron also improves an athlete’s ability to intake iron without having to significantly increase food intake. Food should not be replaced with a multivitamin, but instead can be added for incremental increases in levels. For runners who need every pound to matter, this can be helpful to balance out nutrient levels without adding too many extra calories.

Too Much Iron? Healthy Iron Levels for Athletes and the General Population

Overall, iron is an extremely important nutrient for the body to function. However, excessive iron intake can lead to toxicity and cause a host of serious medical problems. Including congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease and cirrhosis. 

To determine iron levels, a physician will use a blood test to measure hemoglobin levels.  Cooper Clinic recommends:

For men: 14-18 g/dl

For women: 12-16 g/dl

Knowing these levels is a key indicator for all populations. When taking iron supplements, it’s important to have regular follow-ups with a physician so that blood testing can be completed to evaluate levels.

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