Athletes are not at risk of developing iron deficiency or anemia any more than others; however, metabolically, athletes utilize more minerals, including iron, than non-athletes do.
Women have a greater risk of developing iron deficiency than men. Premenopausal women, in particular, are at risk of becoming iron-deficient because of the blood loss that occurs every month during menstruation.
Doctors often screen for iron deficiency by testing for anemia. However, individuals who have a mild deficiency of iron may not be anemic, since blood counts do not typically drop until iron stores in the body are almost completely depleted. If you suspect you are deficient in iron, ask your doctor to perform a more specific blood test, known as a “ferritin” test, rather than the routine “CBC” or “total iron” tests.
Prior to taking supplemental iron, people should be tested by a doctor to make sure such supplementation is appropriate. Although supplemental iron may help those who are deficient, too much iron may cause adverse side effects, including stomach and intestinal cramps, nausea, and constipation.