Iron is critical for aerobic performance, and endurance athletes need more of it than the average population… Perhaps 70% more. It plays a vital role in energy metabolism, oxygen transport, and acid-base balance.
Athletes are frequently diagnosed as iron deficient, due to the combination of increased iron needs and insufficient dietary intake. Upwards of 50% of women athletes are at risk for iron deficiency. Exercise depletes our iron stores, and our bodies aren’t particularly efficient at absorbing dietary iron.
How can we improve iron absorption? Nutrient timing is important. Research suggests that it’s best to eat an iron-rich meal within 60 minutes of a workout. It also appears that vitamin C might aid in iron uptake.
Alex Hutchinson’s comprehensive overview on the importance of iron — and how endurance athletes might better manage it — will get you started.