The 3 Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Active People and How to Fix them.
You're Fit! But could something be missing?
You are incredibly good at pushing your body beyond the ‘average’ threshold. You often train when you feel tired or run down, push through when you don't feel like training and pride your yourself on never giving up!
You know your body incredibly well, however sometimes we all guilty of not TRULY LISTENING to what our bodies are trying to tell us.
Our bodies are INCREDIBILY intelligent; feeling overly tired or un-motivated may be more than just a big week…. Maybe you are running low in some vital nutrients….
Given your training load, you know that you need to eat more calories than most to sustain your high energy (and hunger!); your persistent high-octane output means that you churn through vital nutrients at a faster rate.
Nutritional insufficiencies in athletes (from elite, to us, as weekend warriors) are more common than you think! Keeping a nutrient dense diet and being aware of your body’s warning signs allow you to stay at the top of your game.
Fatigue (both in your workouts and during the day).
Feeling like ALL your workouts are HARDER than usual.
Feeling un-motivated to train. You may feel like your body is taking longer than usual to recover, or you begin to get sick more often.
If you are feeling like this, it is your body’s way of speaking with you.
The most common Nutritional insufficiencies in athletes
One of Iron’s key roles within the body is to deliver oxygen to the cells within the muscles and to the rest of the body, this process helps to generate energy. Without adequate Iron stores, you can see how this would affect your energy in your classes when you’re trying to work hard!
Females are most prone to low Iron levels due to their menstrual cycle; however, Iron is also depleted through hard training, sweating and strenuous foot-strike in training, so we need to ensure that we are topping up our stores consistently through food.
How do I know if I have low Iron?
You feel flat and tired
You feel dizzy, especially during or after a workout
You feel unusually breathless
Paleness underneath your eyelid (gently pull the skin down underneath your eye and look in the mirror). This should be a vascular red. Low Iron will show pale pink to white.
Dark circles underneath your eyes (like you’ve had a big night out)
Cold Hands and Feet
Have Restless legs
Often catch colds and flus or can’t shake them
Have unusual pain on the underside of feet
Cravings for Ice, Licorice or even dirt!
What to do:
If you have more than 2 of the symptoms above, you should have your Iron levels checked by a health professional. This is generally done a simple blood test with your healthcare provider. A Naturopath or your GP can help you with this. Supplementing Iron without guidance of health professional can have unwanted effects, always test first.
Increase your Iron Rich Foods
The best way to maintain iron at good levels is through quality food.
There are two forms of Iron Rich Food. Heme (from animal sources) or non-heme from plant-based sources.
The absorption rate and availability from heme Iron is much greater than non-heme sources (30-40% Heme vs 3-10% Non-Heme), meaning that vegetarians or vegans, will need to consume a greater amount of Iron rich foods to hit their targets.
Iron Rich Sources Include:
Red Meat, Organ Meat, Poultry and Pork, oysters and dark coloured fish
Dark green leafy vegetables, dried apricots and prunes, quinoa, lentils, seeds and nuts, black strap molasses and Tahini
To boost absorption:
Combine your iron rich foods with vitamin C containing foods (think Beef stir-fry with capsicum or quinoa salad with broccoli and tahini)
Avoid having a tea or coffee with iron rich foods as this will inhibit absorption.
Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in your body after Iron and is used within every cell of the body!
Zinc is essential for muscular growth and energy!
Zinc’s role within the body
Crucial for Growth and Repair of muscular tissue
Promotes testosterone and Growth Factors which stimulate muscular growth
Repairs damaged DNA and RNA
Supports digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food
A strong Antioxidant which helps supports recovery from exercise
Helps convert food into energy
Vital for Immune System
Without adequate Zinc Stores, the body is unable to recovery adequately, access energy and has compromised immunity.
How do I know if I'm Low In Zinc?
Altered sense of smell or taste
White spots on fingernails
Slow Wound healing
Compromised immunity – always getting sick, or unable to recover
In high training loads, we utilise more zinc due to constant training, sweating; muscular growth and repair.
What to do?
The good news is that Zinc is easy to obtain through quality foods. Being a trace mineral, a little bit can go a long way. The current RDA recommendation for Zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women.
Where to find it?
The highest bio-available source of zinc is found in Oysters.
Other great sources include Fish, Shellfish, Beef, Pork, Pumpkin Seeds, Rice and Beans.
Anytime we stress the body, eat sugar, sweat or drink coffee we increase our need for magnesium. HA HA! WE NEED A LOT!!
Magnesium is essential for over 300 processes in the body.
Magnesium’s key roles within the body:
Muscular Contraction and relaxation
Nervous System Support (helping us to wind down)
Support bone density
Blood sugar regulation (yup! Can reduce sugar cravings!)
Sleep and relaxation
Without adequate magnesium, we often have muscular cramps, crave sugar and have trouble sleeping.
How do I know if I’m low in Magnesium?
You have muscle cramps or spasms
Abnormal Heart Rhythms
What can I do?
The most absorbable magnesium comes from mother nature and is found in abundance in super yummy food! Dark Chocolate is one of them!!
Foods High in Magnesium
Green Leafy Vegetables
Nuts and Seeds
If you would like support to fine tune your nutrition, I would love to support your journey.