Studies report a high prevalence of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in female athletes and soliders. And, iron needs may be higher in athletes due to the demands of training and iron loss (for example, blood cells actually break down from running – something termed foot strike hemolysis). In addition, women lose iron through menstruation every month.
Iron deficiency occurs in 2 main stages:
1) Iron deficiency – too little iron in the body. This is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide and, according to the NIH, as much as 80% of the world’s population may be iron deficient!
2) Iron deficiency anemia – by the time you reach anemia, you have advanced iron depletion. Your iron storage is deficient and your blood levels of iron cannot meet your daily needs. A general CBC (Complete Blood Count) includes a test for hemoglobin, which will show up below normal when you are anemic. According to the NIH, 33% of the world may have iron deficiency anemia.
While iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia can slow you down, taking iron will improve performance and help you feel significantly better (though if you have normal iron levels, taking iron isn’t warranted and doing so will have no effect on performance).
Symptoms of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia include muscle weakness, fatigue, feeling cold often and impaired cognitive performance.