5 Super Healthy Foods to Combat Iron Deficiency in Athletes

Are you eating enough of the right foods?

Iron deficiency can lead to many negative consequences when it comes to your general health and performance in the gym. 


Iron is hugely important because it assists with transporting oxygen. It is an important part of haemoglobin, which is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen and represents around two-thirds of the body’s iron.

Athletes need to take special care of the amount of iron in their body, because they lose large amounts during workouts through sweating.

Female athletes also experience a significant amount of iron loss when they have their period.

Read more: Influence of the Menstrual Cycle on Programming for Performance-Based CrossFit Athletes


As a rough guide, women need 18mg of iron per day, men only 8mg. If the demand is not covered, symptoms like general fatigue, headaches, weakness and dizziness can occur.

Make sure you stay healthy and optimise your performances by including some or all of the following 5 iron-rich foods. 

Iron-rich foods

Red meat such as beef

paleo bbq beef steak with tomatoes on wooden board
Red meat is rich with Iron


Tuna is an excellent source of selenium, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B12, vitamin B6, iron and protein. It is a very good source of phosphorus as well as a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), choline, vitamin D, and the minerals potassium, iodine, and magnesium.

In 3 oz. of yellowfin tuna steak there are 110 calories, .5 g of fat and 24.78 g of protein.

3 oz. of bluefin tuna steak has 156 calories, 5.34 g of fat and 25 g of protein. 

As well as helping to combat the symptoms of iron deficiency, tuna is a great source of Omega 3. 

Iron deficiency

Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach

When you exercise, you might not sustain any injury as such, like a cut or a wound, but the wear and tear of your muscles are also a form of injury. You need white blood cells to prevent infections, so you need vitamin A to keep the white blood cells in good shape.

Spinach has vitamin A. Long story cut short, eating like Popeye will make you like him.

  • Low in fat and even lower in cholesterol
  • Spinach is high in niacin and zinc
  • Protein, fibre
  • Vitamins A, C, E and K
  • Thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese
superfoods spinach bowl of leafy greens nutritional basicsSource: Shutterstock
Leafy greens should be an essential part of your diet

Read more: 5 Important Minerals and Vitamins all Athletes Need to be Eating

Beans and pulses

Pulses include beans, lentils and peas. They’re a cheap, low-fat source of protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and minerals, and count towards your recommended 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables.

A pulse is an edible seed that grows in a pod. Chickpeas are a great source of iron. 

Spiced black beans


Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth and can help combat Iron deficiency.

They’re a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Oats and oatmeal have many health benefits including the ability to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Oats are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. Half a cup (78 grams) of dry oats contains:

  • Manganese: 191% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 41% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 34% of the RDI
  • Copper: 24% of the RDI
  • Iron: 20% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 20% of the RDI
  • Folate: 11% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 39% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 10% of the RDI
  • Smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)

This is coming with 51 grams of carbs, 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 8 grams of fiber, but only 303 calories.

Healthy Homemade Oatmeal with Berries for BreakfastSource: bhofack2
Healthy Homemade Oatmeal with Berries for Breakfast

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