Identifying Sports Anemia

By Performance Registered Dietitian, Eric Bockelman

During exercise we constantly challenge our bodies. These increased demands often can cause specific deficiencies that compromise our bodies’ normal processes. One specific and very common level that is often compromised is iron. When this mineral is low it can lead to a condition known as anemia. This is when your body has a significant decrease in the number of red blood cells, more specifically a decrease in the hemoglobin concentration in the blood. Iron plays an important role in this process because it is what binds oxygen for transport in the body. A deficiency in iron can lead to a few symptoms.

There are a few telltale signs that may indicate you are anemic.

  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Leg cramps
  • Thinning hair
  • Becoming fatigued easily

Iron levels can be detected from a blood test performed by your family physician.

Risks Factors

As you can imagine, the efficient transport of oxygen within the body is imperative as an athlete.  As with many disorders and deficiencies, there are target populations that have greater occurrences than others.

  • Female athletes: Typically anemia is more of concern for women than men, due to the fact that women consume fewer calories than men, resulting in a decreased intake of iron-rich foods. The average intake and composition for an American’s diet requires about 2500–3000 calories to meet the recommended daily intake for iron. Additionally, regular menstruation can increase risk of deficit to blood loss.
  • Exclusionary diet, specifically vegan or vegetarian: One of the primary dietary sources for iron is meat. Although you can get adequate quantities of iron in your diet as a vegan or vegetarian, it is difficult and requires increased consumption of iron rich plant sources in your diet.
  • Ultra-endurance athletes: Ironman athletes, ultra-marathoners, long-distance cyclists, etc. can all lose small amounts of blood in the sweat and urine, which can lead to deficiency.
  • Developing athletes: Children are growing at a rapid rate so their dietary and caloric needs are increasing with their growth.

If you fall into one of those groups it is necessary to pay close attention to your intake of iron rich foods to avoid this deficiency.

So where do I find iron?

This can be difficult for some individuals who are not regular meat eaters, however due to the prevalence of anemia in the general population in the past, specific foods have been fortified with iron to decrease the occurrences. Below is a list of iron-rich foods that you should try and eat on a daily basis.

  • Dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale
  • Red meat
  • Turkey
  • Cereal that is iron fortified
  • Beans, lentils and chickpeas
  • Artichokes
  • Liver
  • Dried fruit

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As you can see there are a multitude of different food options that can increase your level of iron.

What if I struggle with eating good iron sources?

There are a few different ways that you increase the absorption of iron within the body if you are not a big meat eater or are a vegetarian. There are dietary elements that either increase or decrease the amount of iron you are capable of acquiring from your food.

  • Consume a food rich in vitamin C when you eat an iron rich food: eat a tomato with your beef, orange slices with your spinach, etc. Vitamin C increases your absorption of iron!
  • Eat chili once a week! It is an anemia fighter being rich in iron from the beans and meat as well as being rich in vitamin C from the tomatoes!
  • Avoid drinks like tea and coffee when consuming an iron source. These drinks contain polyphenols which decrease absorption of iron. Meat sources have the highest bioavailability of iron, specifically heme iron which can be absorbed better than plant sources of iron which are known as non-heme iron. (Bioavailability refers to how easily a substance is absorbed by the body.)
  • The primary goal is to eat a balanced diet rich in the vitamins and minerals that will allow our bodies to perform at an optimal level. Everyone’s physiological processes are different, so it is important to monitor your intake and activity levels to determine if you are at risk and to consult with your family physician.

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Jalapeño Chocolate Chili Recipe

A great way to combat anemia is by consuming chili once a week. It is rich in iron from the meat and beans as well as rich in vitamin C that will increase your absorption of iron!

Ingredients

  • 2 15 oz. cans no-salt-added pinto beans
  • 2 15 oz. cans no-salt-added black beans
  • 1 6 oz. can low-sodium tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large soup pan, cook turkey all the way through until no longer pink. Then add spices to meat.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.
  3. Add water to desired consistency. Typically, 1 or 2 cups will be adequate
  4. Rinse beans thoroughly and add to pot
  5. Chop green pepper and jalapeño and add.
  6. Add chocolate.
  7. Allow chili to cook on low heat for at least 20 minutes prior to serving.

 

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

Tom P

Since joining Performance, I have made huge gains. The process of recovering from knee surgery has been much easier because of the expertise of the Performance staff in helping me get back to full strength. I would recommend this gym to anyone.*

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

Kim C

Performance Fitness Member

“I joined Performance and it has changed my life. Gone are the days when I dreaded trying on clothes at the store, Thanks to Performance, I feel like a super fit mom.”*

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

Seth D

Performance Fitness Member

Under the guidance of trainers, I have been able to decrease my 5K time from 28 minutes to under 20 minutes in just 2 years.  I have also lost 30 pounds while increasing strength, endurance and power.*

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

Connie R

Training over the last few years at Performance has been the best health decision I have ever made.  Leslie, my current trainer, keeps me on track to stay fit and strong, makes our sessions interesting and challenging, and is always positive, even when I have setbacks.*

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

Barry C Testimonial
Barry C

Performance Fitness Member

“I am a competitive cyclist and have been in personal training at Performance for 6 years. The best part about the trainers is that they know our medical histories very well.  Leslie is great at modifying a training session specifically to each individual person’s limitations so as to avoid injury.”*

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

Pat S

Performance Fitness Member

“I’m retired and enjoy a full, active life. This is due, in no small part, to the time I spend at Performance. The group classes provide a great workout and lots of variety. Plus, a fun way to meet new friends!”*

About Eric Bockelman, Registered Dietitian

Eric Bockelman, Registered DietitianEric is a Registered Dietitian at Performance. He received his bachelors degree in Health Science from the University of Iowa in 2010 and his dietetic registration from Iowa State University completing the program and Dietetic Internship in 2013. Eric has a progressive and sustainable approach towards nutrition consultation. He has a background in medical nutrition therapy, sports nutrition and weight management. Eric focuses on the foundation of nutrition at the metabolic and chemical level in order to achieve and sustain personal goals. Each plan is individualized to target specific nutritional requirements and needs. All of Eric’s plans are based on research driven principles to develop custom nutritional goals. Eric has experience in medical nutrition, strength and conditioning field as well as the field of endurance sports. His goal is to provide the highest quality of nutritional information and consultation for the members of Performance and the surrounding area.

*Results may vary