Iron supplementation for low serum ferritin

March 9, 2021

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Question from Thom

My daughter runs XC and she has struggled the last few races . She is about 45 seconds to minute slower than last years avg time . She has run 11:54 (3200) but has not been close to that pace from last year. She has some Leg fatigue and but most of all no pep when she needs to pick up pace (her statement ) . After races she is not winded but feels like she can't get into the next gear . We got blood work done and her ferritin is 13 . She is a petite 5ft and will turn 17 in a couple of months . Runs an average around 50 miles a week depending on races / workout schedule. My question is how much iron do you take ? what is a good dosage for her . She currently takes 40mg. daily . I totally understand you are not a doctor so we are just looking for a suggestions . Thanks for your time 

Reply - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

I would certainly want to investigate things – with a serum ferritin of 13, that’s a bit low and if her hemoglobin is also low that would seem to confirm anemia.  This would definitely affect her general energy level and performance.  Another thing I’d want to look into is her nutritional status.  If she is not taking in enough fuel to sustain growth as well as training, that could be problematic. She’s a growing teenager, so metabolic rate is pretty robust, and pile onto that the demands of running 50  miles a week… she needs to be eating! 

Discuss with her pediatrician or OB/GYN regarding supplemental iron, but realize that the foods you consume can affect iron absorption rates so it may be best to discuss this with a Licensed/Registered Dietitian.  Surf over to the “meet the Team” page on the website and check out the bio on Kendra Glassman. She’s a Licensed and Registered Dietitian with a specialty in sports dietetics as well as being a Physician Assistant.  She’s also a very accomplished marathoner and triathlete so she knows the athletic mindset and what it takes to fuel properly.  I encourage you to reach out to her to get further guidance. 

Best of luck to your daughter – hopefully with some adjustments she can get her pep back!

Best regards, Coach Janet Hamilton