Nutrient deficiency: How to spot the signs

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Everybody needs nutrients. But you, the athlete, need them even more so. If your nutrient need is not met, it can cause your body to suffer. Resulting in bad performance among other things. Since our body can’t physically tell us when it’s running low, there are signs it will send you instead. To help you recognize these, here are the common nutrients athlete’s lack and how to tell if you’re not getting enough.

Calcium

Calcium is a nutrient required for maintaining strong bones and controlling muscle and nerve function. So if you’re feeling more tired than usual or experiencing muscle cramps, it’s likely you aren’t getting enough of this stuff.

Our tip: Add some more dairy products to your diet like yoghurt, milk, low fat curd. Or if you’re vegan try leafy green vegetables to get your calcium levels up.

Magnesium

Magnesium is important for keeping your bones healthy and energy levels up. Although pretty uncommon in those who have good health, magnesium deficiency can happen if you’ve been following a bad diet, consumed a high level of alcohol or suffered from an illness. How can you tell if your magnesium levels are too low? Loss of appetite, nausea or weakness are all common symptoms.

Our tip: Almonds, cashews and peanuts are all valuable sources of magnesium as well as spinach, black beans, and edamame.

Iron

Why is iron important? Iron is a nutrient that helps your body make red blood cells. Without enough of it your body can’t effectively carry oxygen and suffers as a result. Low iron levels can leave you feeling exhausted, weak, tired and unable to focus. Noticed yourself become increasingly pale? Or has anyone told you that you look ill recently? These could be signs of an iron deficiency.

Our tip: Beef and liver are very high in iron and therefore always a good idea to add to your diet if you’re running low. But you’re a vegetarian? Not to worry. Things like spinach, lentils, soybeans and chickpeas are all valuable sources of iron too.

Zinc

As an athlete, zinc plays an important role in your body. It contributes to the growth, building and repair of muscle tissue and energy production. Signs that you’re running low are likely to appear in your performance. For example you might find that you’re not as strong or can’t run as far as usual.

Our tip: Although this could also be a sign that you need a rest, it’s not a bad idea to ensure foods high in zinc are present in your diet. Examples of these are fortified breakfast cereal, beef, seafood like lobster, crab and oysters, spinach and pumpkin seeds.

To be the best, your body needs the best. Just keep in mind that although it’s a good idea to increase the nutrients in your diet, you still have to ensure they are at a healthy level, right for you. If you do notice any of the above signs over a longer period of time, be on the safe side and visit your doctor.