Workouts Wearing You Down?
Physical activity is essential for good health. It keeps the muscles in shape, boosts your mood and stamina, and helps you lose weight. But is there a time when a good thing can actually leave you feeling tired, fatigued and weak?
If you feel wiped out instead of invigorated by physical activity, perhaps its something more than overexertion. Studies show than physical activities, especially intensive aerobic exercise actually increases the demand for iron and drains it from the body through sweat and squashing of blood cells when your feet strike the ground.
Iron deficiency, the most common nutritional shortage, affects over one billion people and is a potentially serious condition if not replaced. Severe deficits can leave you feeling fatigued or zapped of energy. It can decrease your work capacity, physical power and impair both your intellect and behavior. It can lower your body’s resistance to infections and cause difficulties in regulating body temperature. It can slow the development of children – and it can even be life threatening!
Iron links oxygen to red blood cells. Low iron means the supply of oxygen to your muscles is decreased. The most common causes of iron deficiency are menstruation (women tend to lose approximately 30 mg per month), pregnancy, strenuous prolonged exercise and poor diet. Risk factors are poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking (which decreases the absorption of important nutrients) and anticonvulsive drugs.
With mild deficiencies you may notice skin paleness and a tired or weak feeling. Your tongue may become sore and inflamed and you may experience headaches and nausea. With more severe cases you may experience abdominal pain, breathlessness, heart palpitations and dizziness and/or fainting. You may become irritable and begin to discover hair loss. Bone density is also decreased with iron deficits.
The RDA recommends 15-18 mg per day for women and 10 mg per day for men. But caution must be used as too much iron can accumulate in tissues and organs, especially the liver and pancreas causing things like cirrhosis, diabetes and arthritis. Too much iron also increases your risk to heart disease and heart failure.
Eating a healthy, well balanced diet can help. Adding iron-rich foods, such as lean ground beef, chicken, tuna, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, lentils, pinto beans and tofu can increase iron. A diet rich in vitamin C and E is also essential as they aid in the absorption of iron and provide your body with antioxidants. Common foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, cantaloupe, peppers, strawberries, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Foods high in vitamin E are wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, collard greens and blueberries.
So when fatigue and weakness begin to interfere with your resolutions to increase your overall well-being, be sure to look at your eating habits to make sure you are supplying your body with all the necessary nutrients. And if you still are plagued with decreased energy or any of the symptoms above, do not hesitate to seek medial advice – your physical activities and more importantly, your health depends on it!