Since the onset of my term as Ontario Ski Team coach I’ve observed that roughly 70% of my athletes have alarmingly low Ferritin levels when first tested. An emphasis is often placed on female athletes and their susceptibility to low iron [anemia] but the truth is ALL endurance athletes are susceptible to low iron levels. Remember, without enough iron in your blood, you’re getting reduced oxygen delivery from each stroke of your heart.High iron levels are required to deliver oxygen to all of your tissues and produce energy.
Factors That Can Deplete Iron Levels:
*The CSIO has found that the ideal Ferritin level for cross country skiers is >80 ug/L*
What may be considered “normal” for the average person is unacceptable for endurance athletes. We require much higher values to meet the demands of our sport.
Factors That Can Deplete B12:
• General fatigue and weakness
• Depression and memory loss
• Peripheral neuropathy (tingling/numbness)
• Impaired immune function
*The CSIO has found that the ideal B12 level for cross country skiers is >500 pmol/L*
CBC (Complete Blood Count)
This test measures immune system activity, circulation (hemoglobin), inflammation and blood clotting.Though these levels are not necessarily something we’re looking at changing, it is important to have your values on the record and make sure your blood values are ideal. In the event that you progress to an international racing level, it will be critical that you have saved documentation of your baseline CBC levels.
How to address low Ferritin & B12
Addressing Iron and B12 deficiencies will depend on how low your readings are. Ferritin levels below 15ug/L and B12 levels below 150pmol/L will require supplements to reverse the deficiency. Contact your doctor or coach for specific supplementation protocols.
It is the responsibility of the athlete to ensure that all supplements are free of prohibited substances as indicated by WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency [www.wada.org], or the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Sports [www.cces.ca]. Specific questions about substances are encouraged and can be directed to the CCES at 1-800-672-7775.