You might lift iron. But if you don’t have enough iron in your body, you won’t be lifting like you used to. That’s because iron is a necessity for exercise — and when iron is low, your workout could be the first thing to suffer.
Iron is in charge of producing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your entire body. When your body isn’t producing a healthy amount of hemoglobin, there won’t be enough oxygen to go around. This can lead to anemia — a condition that makes exercise a bit challenging, to say the least.
So, what can you do if your iron is low? Is it okay to keep exercising or will you need to make some adjustments? And how can you up your iron intake to stay on top of your workouts? All the answers are below.
Why does anemia impact my ability to exercise?
Oxygen is a key ingredient in your workout. Yes, you need more of it when your breathing gets heavier. But oxygen is also vital for energy levels and muscle strength. And since iron is responsible for getting oxygen to every part of your body, low iron can put a dent in your exercise routine.
Iron also plays a big role in energy metabolism, immune health, and brain function. In fact, 6% of all the iron we absorb is used for respiration and generating energy.
That’s why iron deficiency anemia can decrease your endurance and recovery time and increase fatigue and muscle pain. It can also cause lactic acid build-up in your bloodstream. And since your muscles aren’t getting as much iron-rich protein, they won’t be able to move as powerfully as they used to.
If this sounds like a perfect storm for a not-so-perfect workout, that’s because it is.
Can exercise also cause anemia?
Yes. You see this happen a lot in long-distance runners. With all the high-intensity workouts, excessive sweating, and foot striking, it’s easy for iron to deplete faster than runners can restore it.
Some researchers also believe that intense exercise creates a blocking effect in your body. So even if you’re consuming high levels of iron, your body can’t absorb it.
How do I know if an iron deficiency is affecting my workout?
Some signs of iron deficiency anemia during exercise can be hard to spot. Others are impossible to miss. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- You feel fatigued soon into your workout.
- You get overly exerted during everyday activities, like climbing stairs.
- You feel pain or numbness in your legs from lactic acid build-up.
- You’re often out of breath.
- You see spots of colour or flashing lights during heavy workouts.
- You get lightheaded, nauseous, or dizzy during exercise.
- You experience chest pain because your heart is working overtime to pump more oxygen through your body. (This is why many researchers believe anemia can lead to cardiac disease.)
If any of the above sounded a bit too familiar, it’s a good idea to get your iron levels tested. To learn more about how iron tests work, click here. Once you get your results back, you can work with your doctor to figure out next steps.
Is it safe to continue exercising knowing my iron levels are low?
The more exercise you do, the more iron you need. That’s why doing heavy exercise with anemia can worsen the deficiency, add to your symptoms, and even cause more dangerous, long-term health issues down the line. In other words, rest day might be your new BFF.
But there are ways to exercise safely with an iron deficiency. It’s all about being mindful and taking your time.
First off, take regular breaks. If your body is asking for a time out, listen to it. That will give your body a chance to circulate oxygen before you start moving again.
Another tip: exercise when you’re feeling most energized. Whether that’s the morning or night, those are the times when your iron levels are highest. If you do choose to exercise, always monitor your heart rate and make sure it stays in the low end.
Most of all, take recovery seriously. If you have anemia, you probably won’t bounce back from a workout as quickly as you normally would. Give your body time to rest and relieve the lactic acid build-up in your bloodstream.
Before you try any of the above, talk to your doctor about what adjustments or new workout habits are safest for you and your unique condition.
What exercises can I do if I have iron deficiency anemia?
Anemia doesn’t mean your workout days are over. After all, physical activity is important for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. There are so many amazing ways you can move your body safely with an iron deficiency.
Instead of sweating it out at a HIIT class or running another mile, spring for low-intensity workouts like yoga, swimming, walking, light biking, or dancing. As you continue to improve your iron deficiency, you can slowly introduce higher intensity exercises.
While you’re at it, do shorter workouts. Start with 10 to 15 minutes and go up from there depending on how well your body is responding. Remember — a 15 minute workout is better than no workout.
Incorporate more low-intensity exercise into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to the store instead of driving. These small moments of movement can still keep your health in check while giving your iron deficiency room to improve.
And one more time for the people in the back: always ask your doctor about what exercises are right for you. You can work together to build out a workout routine that aligns with your condition.
Can exercise sometimes help anemia?
Good news: the right kind of regular exercise has the potential to improve anemia. How? By reducing chronic fatigue. Certain aerobic exercises can also produce more red blood cells, which boost the amount of hemoglobin and iron in the body.
By making the exercise adjustments outlined in this blog, you can work towards a workout schedule that might actually diminish your iron deficiency over time.
How can I increase my iron intake so I can keep exercising?
The quickest and most effective way to boost your iron is with a Liposomal iron supplement like Ferosom Forte.
Ferosom has a proprietary LCE Coat™ that protects it from acid breakdown as it moves through the stomach. Because of this acid, most supplements lose a large percentage of their iron by the time they get where they’re supposed to go. That’s what causes those nasty gastro-intestinal side effects.
But since Ferosom Forte comes in Liposomal form with a protective coating, it has a higher absorption rate and a lower risk of painful side effects. Plus, it’s infused with Vitamin C to naturally boost absorption even more.
Available in capsule or sachet form, this iron supplement is doctor recommended to get you back into the workout you love sooner.