ATHLETICS + ANAEMIA = ?
Life with anaemia is a struggle to say the least. Never mind life with anaemia whilst being an athlete.
Being anaemic means you have a lower level of red blood cells than everyone else therefore, you have a lack of iron. The main cause of this illness is blood loss, which leads to more females than males developing it due to women's menstrual cycles. The treatment is extremely straight forward - you get prescribed iron tablets to combat and increase the lack of iron in your blood- if your iron count is especially low, or you can buy over the counter iron tablets which have a lower dose of iron in alternatively.
For me, my anaemia was diagnosed when I was around 15 and this was due to loosing a lot of blood whilst on my period (sorry if that's too much info!). My iron count was at 9 micrograms per litre of blood whereas normal iron levels are between 75-150 micrograms per litre of blood. So yeah I was pretty ill for a while.
The hardest part of being anaemic is the lack of energy. It is a massive struggle to do absolutely anything. I remember my Mam and Dad always having a go at me before I got diagnosed, for being asleep all the time or not moving out of bed or off the sofa, when in reality I physically couldn't move and was tired 24/7. So as you can imagine training and competing were fun - NOT! I absolutely dreaded training around the time I was diagnosed. I just couldn't understand why I had absolutely no energy or motivation! My coach's would have to alter my sessions to make them easier because I both physically and mentally could not do it. It was a massive effort to go to training 3 times a week and it took a lot of persuasion off my mam to not give it all up.
I have had a lengthy 3 year battle with anaemia. I have been on and off iron tablets more times than I can count! I am currently borderline anaemic, and have just recently been prescribed a 6 month course of iron tablets (Ferrous Sulphate) for me to take 3 times a day. I feel a lot better now and have more energy and motivation to do daily tasks and train- thank god!
So, here are some of my tips to try and increase your iron levels. These can also be used if you don't suffer with anaemia as a stronger immune system is an obvious plus!
Dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are full of iron and are amazing supplements to increase your iron stores!
Meat- Especially steak!
Cereals and bread with extra iron in - literally no difference in taste.
Pulses such as beans, peas and lentils
The main and only point I can suggest on sleep is the normal get your 8 hours minimum! I would suggest between 8-10 hours however, I've found that if I get too much sleep I feel even more tired the next day! Find out what sleeping pattern works best for you and plan! If you know you have to be up at 7am aim to be asleep by 11pm. if you like browsing social media or reading before going to bed make sure they are turned off at least half an hour before the time you want to be asleep by so your brain can deactivate.
Here is some professional advice on how to increase your iron levels.