A couple weeks ago I had a small procedure that went completely fine, but what it led to finding has let me on in some crucial info about my body in the past couple weeks. I’ve heard the word “Anemia” since before I can remember, as an endurance athlete both in the swimming realm and running realm vitamin and mineral deficiencies were something we were made aware of young. However, the research has only gotten deeper and more involved the older I get and the more technology plays such a major role.
At my post-op appointment two days later I was weak, like really weak, and really pale – it was not my best look. My doc went ahead and took my blood work again. It was ugly. Not only was I below normal for both Hemoglobin and Hematocrit I was VERY low. I felt like I didn’t know myself, everything felt foreign. I had lost some blood in surgery, but this went deeper than surgery there was more at play.
The last time I had my Iron checked was in the fall of 2018, not so long ago. My training had decreased and I was just pressing through at the minimum through the end of the year. At that point my levels were in the normal range, maybe a little low for a woman of my age and physical health, but normal. SO what changed in 6-7 months??? And how do I get myself back to healthy???
PAYING ATTENTION TO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRAINING + NUTRITION
At the beginning of 2019 I found my zeal for running again, while January and February were slow on the race calendar the craziness that March would bring led me to pick up intensity fast. Simultaneously, I was staying really lean in the animal protein department – I was eating almost NO red meat, even though poultry was still a regular part of my diet, the foods that I ate to make up for it were not rich in that vital nutrient.
So my training increased so my need increased but level of intake stayed the same leading to a negative outcome, and that outcome was huge when it came to my recovery after this procedure.
But, I’m also really glad it came to light, it’s helped me change somethings in my diet and be more in tune to my body in general. And I don’t think I’m alone in the endurance athlete realm who is growing in this awareness and knowledge every day!
As someone who has a Nutrition Certification I am a firm believer in a well-rounded diet. We need protein, fats, and carbohydrates to keep our body functioning at our best. I know some people don’t eat animal protein, but you HAVE to find other ways to get those nutrients. Likewise, people who believe a low-carb diet is best, please make sure to give yourself at least an adequate amount of carbs – regardless of what anyone says you need them in moderation.
All that to say here are a few things I have implemented in my diet to help increase my iron and overall health in general as well as one of my favorite new recipes below!
*Disclaimer: moderation is always key, and these are not long term solutions, but temporary changes to get the most effective results
- Limit dairy + calcium rich foods. While you need calcium for strong bones it’s also a big iron inhibitor
- Limit corn. I am popcorn’s #1 fan, but I also love some corn tortilla chips & guac, not the best idea to go hard when you are wanting optimum iron absorption.
- Stay clear of gluten. While this normal for me research emphasis staying clear of sugary starches and eat those natural carbohydrates like brown rice and potatoes.
- No Caffeine! Gosh I was already feeling terrible, but the compounding caffeine headache for three days was not my best life.
- Eat animal protein including red meat. Right now I’m keeping mixed between red meat and poultry, but making sure that at least one meal has this as well as at least one meal has eggs (yes the yolks).
- If you are a vegetarian eat all the beans!
- Get those dark leafy greens. From salads, to sautéing it up with some of protein and carbs, to throwing it in a smoothie it’s essential to get these in your diet.
- Flax seed + Chia Seed + Hemp Seeds. The nutritional benefits of these have been researched time and time again, but they are also great for getting those micronutrients you need. I throw the mix in smoothies, peanut butter w/ fruit, and pretty much anything else.
If you are an endurance athlete, make sure to get your Iron levels tested regularly so you don’t fall prey to the same thing I did. As always ask the doc before taking any actual supplements, too much Iron can be a bad thing.
Knowing that I needed extra nutrients and was struggling for creativity I found a way to mix it altogether in a delicious way that helps fuel my body with everything it needs.
Jordan’s Iron Absorption Smoothie
-1/2 cup of OJ (vitamin C for iron absorption)
-1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (for texture and flavor)
-1 cup of frozen berries
-2 handfuls of spinach + Kale mix (iron rich)
-1 heaping TBSP of hemp seed + flax seed + chia seed mixture (all the micronutrients)
Blend it altogether and enjoy!
urger, but because of the cholesterol and fat I had limited it pretty severely. So right now I am