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View Full Version : Hematocrit, ferritin, and bad performances



trident58
August 25th, 2014, 06:27 PM
I few months ago, I posted about what a horrible meet, performance-wise, I had at short course nats this year. Couldn't figure out why I swam so slow, and why I was feeling so fatigued.
Anyway, I had a physical a few weeks later, and my blood work showed my ferritin level at 11, and my hematocrit at 39%. Both very low values for an endurance athlete. Doctor has me taking iron pills (ferrous sulfate, 325 mg, twice daily), and I've been taking Proferrin ES for about 6 weeks. Just in the last month, I've noticed a huge increase in performance. I went a :52:33 for my swim split at Ironman Boulder, and I've been feeling great in workouts. Anybody else ever experienced iron deficiency? I'm wondering if the increased performance I'm seeing is due to the replenished iron, or if it's due to something else.

Allen Stark
August 25th, 2014, 07:06 PM
The low iron leads to the low hematocrit(unless the low hematocrit is due to blood loss in which case the 2 low numbers are related to a third cause.)If your hematocrit is back to near normal you will have more energy and endurance.

Sojerz
August 25th, 2014, 08:22 PM
I had surgery after breaking my femur 5/23 and lost a unit of blood. They transfused that back, but my red count stayed down (called anemia, it think), and they put me on iron pills to build it back up. It took about two+ weeks or so. The combination of narcotic pain killers (causing constipation) and large doses of iron (causing tar) played havoc with BMs, and I was glad to at least get off the iron, as soon as possible.
Red blood cells transfer oxygen throughout the body, and if the count is low, a lack of available oxygen would make you tired. Iron apparently allows your body to replenish red cells and will boost the count and your energy levels. A few years back some of the TdF riders were doping by transfusing and boosting red cell production. You might want to find out why the levels were low.

trident58
August 26th, 2014, 03:30 PM
Doctor said my iron levels where low for two main reasons:
1) I don't eat a lot of red meat (maybe once every other week)
2) Since I run and cycle a lot, I lose iron through perspiration (something I never heard of before-I thought you just lost salt)

My real question is if replenishing my iron stores can cause such a large increase in performance in just 2 months. Not feeling tired is one thing, but suddenly going 10-15 seconds faster in a 500 free seems very surprising (not that I'm complaining!).

knelson
August 26th, 2014, 04:28 PM
Doctor said my iron levels where low for two main reasons:
1) I don't eat a lot of red meat (maybe once every other week)

Your doc is a quack. There are plenty of ways to get iron in your diet other than red meat.
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/top-10-iron-rich-foods

Sojerz
August 26th, 2014, 05:32 PM
10-15 seconds in a 500 free is only dropping .5 to .75 sec. per lap for 20 laps. Training and tapering could easily result in that drop, unless you are very fast. No doubt an increase in iron and red count would be very helpful too, but I'm not sure I would lay the low count on lack of red meat and sweat from running and cycling. A good physical with blood work might provide a better understanding.

trident58
August 26th, 2014, 05:43 PM
Your doc is a quack. There are plenty of ways to get iron in your diet other than red meat.
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/top-10-iron-rich-foods

As the doc explained to me, many of those iron-rich foods are non-heme iron, which is not absorbed very well. That's why I've added the Proferrin tablets (heme iron supplement). Probably doesn't help that I'm a caffeine freak, and caffeine inhibits iron absorption.

trident58
August 26th, 2014, 05:52 PM
10-15 seconds in a 500 free is only dropping .5 to .75 sec. per lap for 20 laps. Training and tapering could easily result in that drop, unless you are very fast. No doubt an increase in iron and red count would be very helpful too, but I'm not sure I would lay the low count on lack of red meat and sweat from running and cycling. A good physical with blood work might provide a better understanding.
I struggled at Nationals to go a 5:17, and that was tapered and shaved. The week before, in practice, I went a 5:25 with a push start. Just last week, I went a 5:18 at the end of practice. So for me, 10 seconds per 500 is a big deal. I've got a meet in a few weeks, so I'll find out then how much I've really improved.

I know it may sound like I'm making too much of a fuss over a poor season, but I'm trying to nail down the reason, or reasons, why. Just one of those things that keeps me up all night thinking.:D

mpmartin
August 26th, 2014, 11:09 PM
Did your doctor suggest any tests to rule out internal bleeding? I suffered from bleeding internal hemroids, and after having a colonoscopy confirmed it was the cause of my anemia. After a few months of taking iron supplements and eliminating the bleeding issue my swim times returned to normal.

DeniseMW
August 27th, 2014, 08:55 AM
I haven't eaten red meat in 40 years. I was anemic in my early 20s, when I was still eating meat, and often, so knelson is right about your doctor.

Sojerz
August 27th, 2014, 11:13 AM
I struggled at Nationals to go a 5:17, and that was tapered and shaved. The week before, in practice, I went a 5:25 with a push start. Just last week, I went a 5:18 at the end of practice. So for me, 10 seconds per 500 is a big deal. I've got a meet in a few weeks, so I'll find out then how much I've really improved.

I know it may sound like I'm making too much of a fuss over a poor season, but I'm trying to nail down the reason, or reasons, why. Just one of those things that keeps me up all night thinking.:D

Those are solid times for a 500 fr , so i can see where a 10-15 sec drop is significant and why the iron then seems to be the significant actor. Over the last few years I've tried to focus on a more alkaline diet (with much less red meat) to improve muscle building post middle-age - more spinach and raisins that are high in iron too.

trident58
August 27th, 2014, 11:21 AM
Okay, I think some of you folks are being a bit judgemental about the red meat comment. Notice it wasn't the only reason he gave. Also, realize that most of us deal with a general practicioner, not someone who deals with people who train 20 hrs a week. I guess it's also my fault that I condensed his statement about iron-rich foods.

Anyway, I don't have any symptoms of internal bleeding or any other indications of excessive blood loss. If you research some of the distance running forums, there's a lot of comments about very low ferritin levels in runners. One of the causes for this, among others, is that foot strikes can cause ruptures in many of the capillaries in your feet, leading to blood loss. There's also some interesting comments about how iron levels can affect performance.
http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/nutrition/iron-level-upkeep-for-runners_63445
http://www.runnersworld.com/health/ferritin-and-fatigue

shagbarkr
September 3rd, 2014, 04:02 PM
I'm wondering if the increased performance I'm seeing is due to the replenished iron, or if it's due to something else.
I'm not a Dr., so I do not feel qualified to comment on potential medical issues. I am a swimmer and realize that sometimes when things appear to go bad, and performance is perceived as sub-par; some individuals begin improving. The improvements can stem from better eating habits, more rigorous/lengthy workouts, the body naturally adjusting to the workouts coupled with some rest, or a training change from sprint to endurance work, etc. I think the main key is that you are concerned with the performance and are attempting to improve...potentially self-fulfilling.

trident58
September 3rd, 2014, 06:25 PM
I'm not a Dr., so I do not feel qualified to comment on potential medical issues. I am a swimmer and realize that sometimes when things appear to go bad, and performance is perceived as sub-par; some individuals begin improving. The improvements can stem from better eating habits, more rigorous/lengthy workouts, the body naturally adjusting to the workouts coupled with some rest, or a training change from sprint to endurance work, etc. I think the main key is that you are concerned with the performance and are attempting to improve...potentially self-fulfilling.

That last sentence pretty much says it all. Looking at all possible aspects and seeing what you can do to improve each one.

I had a follow-up blood test done last Friday. It showed my iron levels pretty much back to normal, so the supplements worked. However, the doctor also had me tested for something called Heliobacter Pylori bacteria, and the test came back very positive. Turns out, about 50% of the population has this infection, and it's usually benign. In some cases, however, in can inhibit iron and other nutrient absorption, plus it can cause iron loss due to intestinal and stomach bleeding. As a result, I'm now on an antibiotic regimen for 10 days.

Funny thing is, many of us older athletes think we're so much healthier than the average Joe, and we tend to overlook going to the doctor for regular physicals.

Sojerz
September 4th, 2014, 01:41 PM
Funny thing is, many of us older athletes think we're so much healthier than the average Joe, and we tend to overlook going to the doctor for regular physicals.

Great job following up on this trident. I agree, especially for males -it see no evil, hear no evil, so there must not be any evil.