It’s Elemental, My Dear Ladies…
Female athletes are at risk of low iron stores, and even iron deficiency anemia. High-intensity and endurance cycling increases the turnover and use of iron stores, which can quickly deplete iron reserves if not replenished properly. In addition to exercise requirements, menstrual-related bleeding increases iron losses. Thus, the requirement for female athletes may be higher than your average “Joe”.
So what does this mean exactly? And how does Iron work?
Iron is an important mineral that acts as a transporter of oxygen in the blood (as hemoglobin) and in the muscles (called myoglobin), and is required for red blood cell production. Additionally, iron creates essential enzyme systems needed to produce energy and DNA, as well as supporting a healthy immune system.
Iron is kept in “pools” in the body, which acts as a reserve and storage to be accessed when the body needs it.
There are 3 main pools-
Pool #1 > Storage iron: typically known as ferritin, and mainly found in the liver, bone marrow, and spleen. You can get your iron stores checked with blood work.
Pool #2 > Transport iron: carried by transferrin (a protein) through plasma and fluids throughout the body to the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. This can also be checked with a clinical blood test.
Pool #3 > Oxygen transport iron: combines with oxygen and is carried in the blood as hemoglobin, and also combines with oxygen in the muscle to create myoglobin.
If these iron reserves get low, aerobic ability (and metabolism) can be impaired by the reduced ability to deliver oxygen to the tissues. This hinders the muscles’ ability to use oxygen for energy production, and cycling endurance power and declines……
Iron declines in [...]