Iron Status and Dietary Patterns of Collegiate Female Distance Runners

Main Article Content

Rachel Walny
Todd Keylock
Carrie Hamady
Wan Shen



Introduction: Iron is in oxygen transport which is important for athletic performance. Many female distance runners struggle to maintain adequate iron status through diet alone and rely on iron supplementation.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with eight members of the Women’s Cross Country team at a Division I university to assess dietary patterns and behaviors related to iron status. This information, along with food records and serum ferritin levels, were analyzed qualitatively for trends with a focus on iron intake, total energy intake, and food components that enhance and inhibit iron absorption.

Results: All participants took an iron supplement at the time of the study. All but one had experienced poor iron status currently or in the past.  Most participants did not meet dietary iron, Vitamin E, or estimated energy requirements. Half of the participants expressed an attempt to increase iron intake in response to higher training loads. Half attempted to increase intake in response to a low ferritin result or iron deficiency symptoms.

Conclusions: Consistently low energy and iron intake among participants indicated the likelihood of a relationship with poor iron status and/or reliance on supplementation. The most common motivation for increasing iron intake was the prevention of symptoms.

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