Iron as an ergogenic aid: Ironclad evidence?


Iron supplementation for the iron-depleted nonanemic athlete is a controversial issue. Athletes may be iron deficient due to poor dietary intake, significant or obligatory blood loss, or deficiency via increased need secondary to intense physical activity. Athletes who are found to be anemic secondary to iron deficiency do benefit and show improved performance with appropriate iron supplementation. There is contradictory evidence for iron supplementation and improving performance in the iron-depleted nonanemic athlete. An athlete’s iron status is usually monitored via serum ferritin. Currently, there is no standardized ferritin level at which supplementation is recommended, nor is there a consensus as to the appropriate maintenance of ferritin. Screening endurance athletes or female athletes in general for iron deficiency and also educating these athletes regarding the importance of a balanced diet to maximize performance would seem prudent and beneficial. Based on the literature, supplementation for the iron-depleted nonanemic athlete does not appear to be justified to solely improve performance.

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Correspondence to Richard E. Rodenberg MD.

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Rodenberg, R.E., Gustafson, S. Iron as an ergogenic aid: Ironclad evidence?. Curr Sports Med Rep 6, 258–264 (2007).

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