Anemia, or iron deficiency, can be a scary diagnosis: Without enough iron, your body has a hard time building and rebuilding red blood cells that carry fresh oxygen to your muscles. That doesn’t just mean running a marathon will be harder, it means walking the dog in the morning may make you feel irritable or fatigued.
What is Anemia?
Anemia "can leave you chronically tired, hamper your workouts, and also cause more random symptoms, such as irritability and frequently feeling cold,” writes Stacy Sims, PhD, in ROAR. It’s more common in women, due to monthly blood loss from periods—and particularly, female athletes are at a high risk. But it’s not a female-specific ailment, anyone can suffer from the ill effects of anemia.
Sims notes that for athletes, iron deficiency is common because more iron is used due to losses in sweat, red cell breakdown during exercise, potential gastrointestinal bleeding (yikes!) and an increase in cytokine expression from constant inflammation after exercise.
What Can You Do?
How can you cure, or avoid that anemia-based fatigue? By making sure that your diet is rich in iron. An analysis of iron supplementation and its impact on female athlete performance showed that female athletes—even those not necessarily suffering from anemia—improved performance when iron was added to their diets. Additionally, on average, women who were given iron were able to perform a given exercise using a lower heart rate and at a higher efficiency.
For most people, adding iron to your daily diet has traditionally meant reaching for red meat. Iron is much harder to find in plant-based form, which also explains why plant-based and vegan eaters are also at higher risk for developing anemia. But there are great plant-based options available—like spirulina.
How Can SP2 Spirulina Help?
A single serving of SP2 fresh spirulina contains 6.7 milligrams of iron, or 39 percent of your daily iron requirement! By comparison, a single 3-ounce serving of steak only has 13 percent of your daily iron requirement.
In 2011, a study looking at iron deficiency in seniors and how adding spirulina to their daily diets would impact their iron levels showed that spirulina may "ameliorate anemia and immunosenescence in older subjects.” Men and women in the study saw positive results in blood tests within only 12 weeks.
One last note: If you’re worried that you may have anemia, eating iron-rich foods like spirulina is a start, but make sure you see a doctor for a blood test to confirm and make sure no additional treatment is required.
Molly Hurford is a runner, cyclist and health & fitness journalist, running her site TheOutdoorEdit.com as well as The Consummate Athlete Podcast, which she co-hosts with her equally active husband. When they aren't on the trails, she teaches yoga and works to get more women and girls out riding bikes and having fun outside! Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter @mollyjhurford