Iron for Endurance Athletes: How Cricket Powder can Boost Iron Absorption

Athletes are often fatigued. Hard training, work, family commitments all add up and being tired is to be expected. However prolonged tiredness and lethargy, that don’t respond to some quality rest and feet-up time, can be a sign of another issue. Low iron is one such possibility.

 

What’s Iron?

 

Iron is an essential mineral – vital for health as well as sports performance. Most of the iron in your body is incorporated into hemoglobin – the blood protein which delivers oxygen to all body cells and removes carbon dioxide as part of metabolism and energy production. Iron is also found in the myoglobin of muscle cells (which also store oxygen), and is stored as ferritin. A blood test, which is recommended for serious athletes on a regular basis – and everyone else as part of regular health checks – will include levels of both haemoglobin and ferritin, and these are used to diagnose an iron deficiency.

 

Iron in food comes in two forms – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal foods such as red meats, chicken, fish and insects (like crickets!) and is well absorbed. Liver and kidney are extremely rich in iron, which is one reason why insects are a great source of iron because the whole animal is consumed. Crickets have almost three times as much soluble iron compared to sirloin steak.

Plant foods can also contain high levels of iron but in the non-heme form which is poorly absorbed by the body. This is why vegans, or athletes who avoid animal foods, are at higher risk of iron deficiency, especially when coupled with the demands of exercise.

 

Iron Deficiency Causes and Runners

 

Iron must be replaced through the diet as it is continually being lost through normal body processes. For females, considerable amounts of iron are lost during menstruation, but iron is also lost through sweat, urine and faeces as well as when red blood cells are damaged during impact exercise.

For runners, each time the foot hits the ground, red blood cells are destroyed. For runners and other endurance athletes, these continual losses mean higher dietary iron requirements. If iron losses are greater than the intake through the diet, then iron stores become depleted and symptoms such as lethargy, pale skin, a lowered immune system and a drop in sports performance are common.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

 

What’s the Iron Intake Recommendation for Athletes?

 

According to Australian Sports Commission, daily intake of 17.5mg is recommended for male distance runners, and 23 mg/day for normally menstruating female distance runners. This higher than normal requirements reflect the fact that athletes are recognised as being at greater risk of iron deficiency (along with pregnant and breastfeeding women, menstruating women, children, regular blood donors and vegans and vegetarians.).

 

Cricket Powder as an Iron Absorption Enhancer

 

There are many natural ways of increasing your iron absorption. You already know that animal protein can boost iron absorption from plant sources. Aside from that, there are other ways you can boost iron absorption too:

  • Vitamin C enhances iron absorption so include some fruit or vegetables with your iron rich food.
  • Avoid drinking tea and coffee alongside iron rich meals and snacks as the tannins can reduce iron absorption by as much as 50%.
  • Cast-iron frypans and skillets made of iron will also boost iron in food as some leaches in during cooking.
  • Add Cricket Powder to your post training smoothies and juices to increase your iron intake and boost iron absorption from plants.

 

Check out our cricket powder smoothie recipe!

On the flip side, too much iron in the body can be toxic and have very serious consequences, which is why food sources are preferable to supplements (unless medically advised) as it is harder to over consume nutrients in real foods.

 

Sources:
Lombardi, G. I. O. V. A. N. N. I., G. I. U. S. E. P. P. E. Lippi, and Giuseppe Banfi. “Iron requirements and iron status of athletes.”Sports Nutrition. West Sussex: International Olympic Committee (2014): 229-41.

Latunde‐Dada, Gladys O. “Iron metabolism in athletes–achieving a gold standard.”European journal of haematology 90.1 (2013): 10-15.

 

Pip Taylor Professional Triathlete
Author: Pip Taylor

Pip is an Accredited Sports Dietitian and Professional Triathlete. She is our brand’s ambassador and assists Grilo with nutrition and products development.

Crickets are the new superfood