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Young athletes hear a lot about the importance of eating enough calories and drinking the right amount of fluids for their performance and growth.
As a dietitian and mother of two young athletes, I believe it’s also important to think about the smaller nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, to get your kids through a long day of school and a demanding practice.
Below is an overview of the importance of iron intake and good food sources to help work this mineral into your young athlete’s diet.
Iron deficiency anemia can occur when the body does not have enough iron. In turn, it will make fewer red blood cells or red blood cells that are too small. This results in the blood having a decreased ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Depending on how significant the iron deficiency is, it can reduce sports performance, especially endurance activities (such as distance running, swimming and triathlons), impair concentration and cause increased fatigue and risk of injury.
Many of the symptoms mentioned above, however, may not show up until the deficiency is more significant. So it is a good idea to be aware of who is at risk, the signs and symptoms and to know how to prevent iron deficiency in young athletes.
For more food sources, check out Tables 1 and 2 in the Center for Diseases and Control website.
If you feel your athlete is at risk for iron deficiency, talk to your doctor. Professional guidance from your Pediatrician will help determine whether or not blood work to assess your athlete’s iron stores and/or risk of anemia is warranted.
Learn more about sports nutrition.
Written by: Lauren Furuta, MOE, RD, Clinical Nutrition, Children’s Hospital Colorado.