Clinical Nutritionist and SB Tri Club member Chris Latham shares her 3 Part Nutrition Series:  Conditions Commonly Seen in Athletes.  For more information on Chris and her services, visit

Conditions Commonly Seen in Athletes (Part 2): Anemia 

Anemia is one of the most common conditions athletes experience. This is due to the breakdown of red blood cells during intense activity. Anemia decreases the body’s ability to carry oxygen by decreasing red blood cells.

 Anemia comes on slowly. The symptoms are often vague and may include feeling tired, weak, short of breath or a decreased ability to exercise.

There are 40 different types of anemia but we will focus on the one most commonly seen in athletes:


Oxygen feeds the mitochondria (powerhouse of your cell) to make ATP (energy). You need iron for hemoglobin; protein used by the RBCs that deliver oxygen to the muscles.


  • Vegan or vegetarian diets
  • Poor diet
  • Female menstruation
  • High volume and high intensity exercise
    • Oxidative stress or inflammation alters the RBC membrane and breaks it down


  • Increased heart rate (less oxygen for the heart)
  • Decreased performance
  • Fatigue


  • Iron
  • Ferritin (iron storage)
  • Takes 3-6 months or longer to increase
  • Iron is lost slowly and gained slowly

Nutritional Recommendations

  • Eat animals
    • Red meat, poultry, seafood
    • Why? Animal products are more bioavailable.
    • Fun fact: Muscle in meat is pink because it contains hemoglobin.
  • Vegans
    • Eat dark leafy greens
    • Eat nuts
    • Eat tofu
  • Vitamin C
    • Eat citrus type foods with iron supplements or foods because it enhances iron uptake