Iron is an important micro mineral that plays various functions in the body. It helps in the transportation of oxygen (haemoglobin) as well as playing a vital role in the entire electron chain transport. It also represents part of the enzymes in the Krebs cycle.
Sources of Iron
Iron can be obtained by consuming whole foods including red meat, whole grains, green vegetables, oysters and legumes. However, it is good to note that iron contained in non-animal products (non-heme) is not absorbed into the body as that contained in animal (heme-iron) products.
Benefits of Iron for Bodybuilders
Iron offers a number of benefits for athletes and bodybuilders. It is vital for enhanced performance, mental function, immune function and most importantly, in thermoregulation. Iron helps to increase muscle strength during strain exercising by 27%. This was evidenced when women suffering from iron deficiency were fed on supplements containing iron. It is believed that people engaging in strenuous training require higher amounts of iron attributing to the increased iron losses during workout. While men undertaking intensive training expend approximately 75% of iron, women lose 64% more than those leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Research has identified three groups of people that are very vulnerable to iron deficiency – distance runners, female athletes and vegetarian athletes.
Negative Side Effects of Iron
Although iron plays a very important role in improving one’s overall performance, it is important to note that there is no proven evidence that increasing your daily intake can help to increase your output.
By supplementing iron, some people may exhibit stomach discomforts, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation and dark stools. It is therefore advisable that one ingests lower doses of iron supplements daily especially in the beginning and later increase the dosage gradually for tolerance.
Another issue that should be considered and since the system used to store iron is adequate, it is not good to consume too much of it. In this retrospect, excessive consumption results into iron accumulating into the body – hence causing damage. It is therefore important to have your iron levels checked in order to establish the right dosage and whether there is any need for supplementation before embarking on a high iron supplement regime.
Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing for Iron
Recommended doses for iron is dependent on a number of things – gender, age, exercise level and the status of your pregnancy. Below is a table to provide the guidelines for recommended dosages. Note that the figures are based on general population and could vary depending on the amount of exercise one undertakes as this could mean an increase in the iron intake. It is also good to understand that iron requirement for women is higher than that of men attributing to the fact much of their iron is lost through pregnancy and during menstruation.
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Remember that iron absorption efficiency diminishes with increase in dosage. This therefore means that for optimum results, iron dosage should be split so that it is taken throughout the day. Taking it along with food reduces cases of stomach upsets.
Iron can be found as an independent supplement; however, in these kinds of supplements, the form of iron varies thereby making some more efficient than others. For instance, ferric iron is less bio-available as compared to ferrous iron and they can be found in the form of ferrous sulphate, ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumerate. Iron injections are available for those who seriously need it. Various multivitamin supplements contain low doses and in some cases, it can be found in protein bars
As a mineral, iron can be stacked with vitamins and other minerals in case it is not present in the available supplements. Remember high iron levels are likely to negatively impact on the absorption of zinc if ingested while hungry. So it is advisable that you take it along with food. Vitamin C is certainly the best substance that can be stacked with iron as it helps to enhance absorption of certain types of iron. It is good to avoid taking iron along with dairy or calcium as this may prevent the body from absorbing the iron.