March 28, 2018

Is iron deficiency the cause of your fatigue?

Iron is the essential element for energy production and optimal athletic performance. Did you know that almost half of women in Singapore could be iron-deficient but are unware of it? UFIT’s Head of Nutrition Wendy Riddell was recently surprised to find out she was one of them in an Iron Panel Test.

“Nutrition isn’t just about weight loss or weight gain. It’s not about macro counting or calorie counting. It’s not about how you look or how cut you are. It’s about your health, it’s about your strength, it’s about your quality of life, and it’s about your self esteem. You get these things right, and everything else will follow.

The wealth of knowledge on nutrition out there can be very confusing. Everyone has a different opinion, the world wide web is often full of deceptive information. At UFIT Nutrition we pride ourselves on continuous learning from the best in the industry. So when I got the opportunity to speak to the experts at The Iron Suites to learn more about iron’s impact on personal fitness, I jumped on it immediately.

Iron is essential for carrying oxygen through the blood cells to every parts of our bodies. It is a vital component of our metabolism and is crucial for energy production. Iron deficiency often results in fatigue, which is often mistaken as a consequence of a busy life. I’m a health professional, so of course I’m fully aware of the importance of having sufficient iron in my diet, along with magnesium and zinc etc. I eat well. I work out. I also have 4 children, 2 dogs, and a full-time job, so being tired is part of the deal.

While looking around the clinic, I was offered the opportunity to have an iron panel test done. I thought, why not? I’m perfectly healthy. So I was a bit shocked when I got the call to tell me that my iron levels were pretty low, and I should come in and see the doctor. It turns out that I’m tired because I’m iron deficient. Oh the irony!

  Source: The Iron Suites  Source: The Iron Suites

And it appears that I’m far from the only one who is unaware that this could be an issue. A recent study done on a group of athletic women aged between 25 to 45 years – all of whom were eating well and training to run a race, showed that a third of them were tested iron- deficient. Iron deficiency is an especially common problem in women (due to regular periods) and young athletes. If you work out regularly, you may be depleting your iron stores and stand at a risk of being iron-deficient. One of the main reasons that people who exercise regularly need more iron is that they lose it faster through perspiration. You can experience anything from fatigue, irritability, and even lose interest in exercising altogether. This can have a huge impact on your training programme.

Iron is an essential nutrient which the body doesn’t produce by itself, it must be obtained from your diet. If not enough iron is consumed, or if your body has trouble absorbing it, iron deficiency can occur, which impairs your body's ability to transport and utilise oxygen. Considering that dietary iron recommendations for people who work out regularly are 1.3 to 1.7 times higher than usual, if your diet does not provide you with sufficient iron, your performance will take a direct hit.

In another yet unpublished study about the impact of iron deficiency on athletic performance, a visiting professor from the UK shared with us that one of his patients, a key contender in the London Marathon had initially dropped out of the event due to fatigue. The professor treated her with an iron infusion, and not only did she feel well enough to participate in the marathon (due to a new burst of energy), she even improved her personal best timing by a staggering 13%!

The doctor at The Iron Suites gave me a couple of options. Eat 1 kg of meat every day for 18 months? Tempting, but expensive. Another option is to take oral supplements, but they are not well absorbed by the body,  and may present side effects such as constipation and bloating. It will also take 6 months to a year to get my levels to what they should be. So I decided I would have an iron infusion, which is the quickest and most effective remedy.

 The iron panel test and iron infusion treatment is done in the cosy clinic of The Iron Suites. The iron panel test and iron infusion treatment is done in the cosy clinic of The Iron Suites.

This was a super simple procedure that took all of 10 minutes, and I was on my way back to work right after. I did not notice much difference immediately, but within a week my energy levels went through the roof! I found my workout timings improved (to the extent that my CrossFit coach filmed me to prove that I wasn’t cheating), and I was able to lift heavier weights. But more importantly, I wasn’t as tired at the end of the day and was able to spend more time with my children.

One month after my infusion, my endurance and run times have improved along with my strength. My iron levels were measured again, and I’m now in the normal range. For female athletes out there who feel that you are not performing to your best ability, I highly recommend you do an iron panel test to check if your fatigue is due to an iron deficiency.”

Iron Suites Promotion

The Iron Suites is offering a free iron panel test (worth $52) to the first 400 sign-ups from the UFIT community!

Step 1: Click HERE.

Step 2: Select your preferred date and time

Step 3: Key in your contact details, and enter promo code <UFIT-Fe> under "Purpose of Visit"

A representative from The Iron Suites will be in contact to confirm your visit. You can also call in at +65 6702 1929 during office hours to make an appointment.

About the author:

Wendy Riddell is a degree-qualified nutritionist with 18 years of experience. She runs the highly popular UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge, which successfully helped thousands of people lose weight and develop healthy eating habits. 

Wendy is also a fully qualified personal trainer and bootcamps coach, with experience in running fitness programs in Australia and Singapore. A regular CrossFitter, she has competed in multiple obstacle races, half-marathons and cycling races in Singapore and in the UK. Wendy is a great believer that anyone can achieve anything with the right support. “I can, and I will.” is one of Wendy’s favourite phrases. She has four young children and understand first hand the challenges of balancing a healthy lifestyle with the demands of daily life.


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