Iron supplements may boost exercise performance in women

Iron is one of the most important nutrients for women of reproductive age.  Many women around the world suffer from anemia related to iron deficiency.  As iron is necessary for the production of heme in blood, and that heme is necessary for the proper transport of oxygen throughout the body, it is no surprise that low iron can not only affect our health but also our physical performance. Proper oxygen utilization is necessary for good muscle performance — which means it is necessary for strong skeletal muscles, lung performance and a healthy heart rate. Data from animal and human studies support the fact that low iron levels can impair physical performance.
The results of a new meta-analysis (Journal of Nutrition, 2014) of 22 studies showed that supplementing with iron was associated with increased  maximal and sub-maximal exercise performance,  better oxygen consumption (VO2 max) and a lower heart rate.  This information is especially important for female athletes of reproductive age who are often at greater risk for low iron. This is due to altered diets which can be deficient in iron, subclinical inflammation, and increased demands on the body for blood to supply working muscles and their recovery.
The findings from this study reinforces the need for female athletes and programs dedicated to promoting female athleticism, as well as programs that promote the needs of women in general, to focus more on encouraging diets adequate for iron needs and the use of supplements that contain iron.
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