Running Out of Steam Running? Try Checking Your Ferritin Levels

Nothing is more frustrating as a runner than suddenly becoming “slow” !  Especially after tons of training, building up speed and endurance.

While there are many health and environmental factors that may be attributed,  one commonly overlooked reason is low ferritin levels.

What is ferritin? Basically the body’s storage tank of iron, like the gasoline in a car.

One study found that iron depletion was present in 28% of female runners!

Why? As a runner, the pounding impact of the feet hitting the ground with such a powerful force causes an abnormal breakdown of red blood cells. This often contributes to the loss of iron.

While iron-deficiency anemia is one of the most common deficiencies in females, it is far more common to be iron-deficient without having anemia.  Many physicians will typically run tests checking 2 levels of iron in the blood –  hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.  They will often not check ferritin.

Often cases, in non-professional athletes, the hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are totally normal.  But without the testing of ferritin, you may not know the whole picture.  Ferritin storage levels are extremely important and can be causing an array of symptoms if low.

Back to the car example, low ferritin is like running your car on fumes; while it may still run, it’s slow and eventually, the car will not be able to run anymore, unless it’s gas is restored.

Having low ferritin is like constantly running on fumes! 

Ferritin lab value ranges are quite large.   The values can range from 20 – 500 ng/mm for men and 20-200 ng/mm for women.  Tests may show a range considered normal, but teetering on the low end will not help with speed and endurance.

What should you do if your lab values show low ferritin levels?  Consult with a physician.  The physician most likely will recommend an iron supplement.

Take note –  do not take a supplement without knowing your ferritin levels because the kidneys cannot excrete excess iron in the urine.  Iron overload can be toxic to the body!

The moral of the story is get your ferritin levels tested if your running is causing you to run out of steam quickly!

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