Avoiding Runner’s Anemia


Runner’s and others in endurance sports are at an increased risk for depleted iron stores. You are at especially high risk if you are young, female, and/or vegetarian. If you have low iron stores, you are likely to fatigue quickly.

Athletes with highest risk for iron deficiency:

Endurance athletes; runners especially, due to increased red blood cell destruction from foot strikes.

Premenopausal female athletes

Teenage athletes, girls especially, due to continued growth, and often consume inadequate iron sources, plus menstrual losses.

12% of women in the US have iron deficiency to begin with.


Even marginal iron deficiency can hinder athletic performance.

Ways to boost your iron intake:

Choose lean cuts of beef, lamb, pork and dark meat skinless poultry 3-4x/week. Animal sources of iron are well-absorbed.

Choose foods that are iron fortified. Examples include farina, enriched breads and pasta, enriched cold cereal.

Choose plant foods high in iron, such as dark green leafy vegetables, dry beans, lentils, soybeans, dried apricots.

  • The iron from iron fortified foods and plant foods is not well-absorbed. Increase absorption by consuming with a source of vitamin C, such as citrus, berries, tomatoes, mango, sweet potato, melon, tomato juice or vegetable juice.
  • Avoid consuming coffee or tea with your high iron foods, as these decrease absorption.

Here is a vegetarian recipe that provides good sources of iron, along with good sources of vitamin C to improve absorption of the iron.

Tex-Mex Bean Salad

1- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

1- 15 oz can chick peas, rinsed and drained

               2 cans diced tomatoes and green chilis

              ½ green bell pepper, diced

             ½ red bell pepper, diced

            1/3 cup finely diced red onion

            1/8 tsp garlic powder

            1 tbsp chili powder

            2 tsp ground cumin

           ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, packed

           Juice of one lime

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving, stirring a few times to distribute juices.

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