This blog post was written by our friend Audrey, endurance runner with the Front Range Elite. team.
For many individuals, finding the right supplement and learning how to implement it into a daily routine can be a process of trial and error. I didn’t realize the true importance of a consistent nutrition and supplementation routine until I decided to train for my first marathon in 2018.
At the time, I was logging mileage on local trails, trying to navigate the world of marathon training for the first time without a proper nutrition plan to help me succeed. With about six weeks to go until race day, I couldn’t complete my training due to a host of strange symptoms including dizziness, headaches, daily fatigue, and a higher-than-normal resting heart rate. Upon visiting my local physician to find some answers related to my symptoms and undergoing several blood tests, I was diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia. My physician stressed the importance of eating foods rich in iron, like red meat, spinach, and beans, as well as taking a high-quality iron supplement.
I learned that lower iron intake is very common among endurance athletes, especially females. Monitoring your iron intake can mean the difference between performing at a high level versus being stuck on the sidelines. When I was diagnosed with iron deficiency, I was a first year graduate student in the Grand Valley State University Occupational Science and Therapy Department. In my studies, I learned how to work with individuals of all ages and abilities who were experiencing a variety of health-related conditions, including new-onset disability or injury. I learned how to help these individuals adapt to new habits and daily routines to improve their overall health and wellbeing. I knew that I could apply these same concepts to my own life as an endurance athlete, in regard to proper nutrition and supplementation to fuel my training and racing in a safe manner.
Getting the Best Results from Your Iron Supplement
Awareness of a nutrition routine is two-fold: incorporating nutrients through both diet and a high-quality supplement, or as recommended by your physician. Adding a daily iron supplement into your routine can support your training and exercise regimen, contributing to higher levels of energy and mental clarity.* (Check with a medical professional before adding a supplement into your routine, especially if you are taking any other supplements or medications. It may be helpful to ask how to best incorporate an iron supplement into an already-existing medication schedule to ensure all of your needs are met.)
I prefer to take Floradix® Iron + Herbs Liquid Herbal Supplement or Floravital® Iron + Herbs Liquid Herbal Supplement on an empty stomach, either one hour before or two hours after a meal so my body has maximum ability to digest it. This gives you an option to take your supplement as part of a morning or evening routine, either before breakfast or in-between meals. An iron supplement can also be taken with a drink containing vitamin C to increase absorption. Mixing Floradix or Floravital Iron + Herbs with orange juice or a smoothie are healthy (and tasty!) options to increase your iron intake for the day.
Iron Supplementation for Athletes
Taking iron on an empty stomach can be tricky for endurance athletes, as it is important to fuel with carbohydrate-rich foods before each exercise session and throughout the day.
Eating enough nutrient-dense foods ensures that you are able to maximize your performance in each session. Some athletes like having a small meal or snack every two to three hours as part of their fueling routine. I usually complete two to three training sessions per day, and it can be overwhelming to schedule meals and supplements around both a work and exercise routine. I usually eat a light breakfast before my first workout of the day, which usually includes a run or bike ride, as well as a second breakfast containing carbohydrates and protein afterwards. This usually opens up a window for me to take my Floravital Iron + Herbs supplement two hours after my second breakfast and one hour before lunch, or in-between lunch and dinner.
Overall, it takes some planning and preparation to ensure that you’re taking your iron supplement at a time of the day that works best for your current schedule. The easiest way to introduce a new habit is to incorporate it into an already existing routine. Making iron supplementation a habit ensures that your body is fueled for all of the activities you enjoy each and every day. Happy fueling is happy training!
Audrey is an occupational therapist, duathlete, and long-distance runner living in Colorado with her husband Todd, who is also a runner and triathlete. She ran track competitively in high school and began training for the half-marathon and marathon distances in 2017. She now spends much of her free time training for both cycling and running events, and enjoying Colorado’s beautiful mountain landscape with her teammates.