by Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D.
Because iron plays an important role in oxygen transportation and energy metabolism, female athletes should closely monitor hemoglobin levels to ensure continued health and maximum performance. Though full-blown iron deficiency anemia is relatively rare among athletes, women who are on calorie-restricted diets frequently fail to meet their requirement of 15 mg/day. Since men have higher caloric needs and a lower iron requirement (10 mg/day), it is easier for them to avoid iron deficiencies. Red meat-a food avoided by many athletes who strive for a low-fat diet-is one of the richest sources of iron. The average American diet has about 6 mg of iron for every 1,000 calories you eat. Iron supplementation should be used cautiously, however, as iron is associated with increased free-radical production in addition to the risk of toxicity if taken in doses of over 75 mg per day.
If cutting back on your caloric intake, take an iron supplement! Men 10 mg/day and women 15 mg/day.