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Why is iron important for sport?

According to a study carried out in 2021, 1.5 billion people around the world suffer from iron deficiency, the most affected being children and women of childbearing age. However, its importance is also found in the world of sports.
Pourquoi le fer est-il important pour le sport ?

According to a study carried out in 2021, 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from iron deficiency, the most affected being children and women of childbearing age. However, its importance is also found in the world of sports.

Contents :

  • What is iron?

  • Benefits

  • Pay attention to the dosage

What is iron?

Iron is a trace element that makes up hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells . It is also found in myoglobin, a protein present in the muscles. It is necessary for the transport of oxygen, the production of certain enzymes and the regulation of body temperature.

Iron-containing enzymes are responsible for several phenomena in the human body:

  • Energy production
  • DNA synthesis
  • Detoxification of harmful substances in the body.

There are two types of iron:

  • Heminic: whose average absorption rate is 25% on average (from 15 to 35%)
  • Non-heme, whose average absorption rate is 5% (2 to 20%).

Red meat, fish, poultry and seafood contain both types of iron. Green vegetables, legumes, seeds and dried fruits contain only non-heme iron. Dairy products are a separate category, as the high calcium content can disrupt iron absorption. It is therefore more interesting to consume foods rich in heme iron to guarantee the recommended daily intake.

Certain elements, such as vitamin C, promote the absorption of iron. It is important to consume enough vitamin C to allow its assimilation in the body.


Iron has various health benefits and contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. It is essential at any age, for sedentary people as well as for athletes.


First, iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen around the body. A sufficient amount can therefore improve endurance and the ability to perform prolonged endurance exercises.


This trace element allows energy production and the regulation of body temperature, two key elements for sports performance. Maintaining sufficient levels of iron can therefore make it easier to achieve your goals.


Additionally, iron is important for energy production in the body. A deficiency can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, which can impair athletic performance. Maintaining sufficient iron levels can therefore help reduce fatigue and improve performance.

This mineral also speeds up recovery after exercise. In fact, it is responsible for the formation of red blood cells, which help repair muscle tissue damaged during exercise.

Cognitive functions

In terms of cognitive functions, iron is necessary for the production of myelin. It is a fatty substance that surrounds neurons and allows rapid transmission of electrical signals in the brain. It is also involved in the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other.

A deficiency can therefore have negative effects on cognitive functions, including memory, attention, concentration and problem solving. Studies have shown that children with iron deficiency perform less well in school and have difficulty concentrating.

Body temperature

Finally, iron is involved in the regulation of body temperature. A deficiency can therefore disrupt the body's ability to regulate its temperature during exercise, which can harm sports performance.

Pay attention to the dosage

Although iron is essential for health, supplementation should always be approved by a physician.

Indeed, an excess of iron can have serious consequences on health. This can seriously affect organs and red blood cells. It is therefore necessary to respect the recommended doses.

The daily recommendations are different according to the age, the sex and the level of activity of the individuals. A woman tends to eliminate more iron than a man, due to menstruation (⅔ of our iron reserves are in our blood).

The recommended nutritional intakes are 11 mg/d for men over 18, and 16 mg/d for women of childbearing age. A man therefore has much lower needs than a woman and will be less likely to have a deficiency.

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