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Gyms.co.nz Fit Tips

Lift Some Iron

Are you constantly batting below your average?  Are below par performances in the gym or on the training ground getting you down?  You are putting in the hard work but you just can't seem to keep up with the pace. It may be time to lift some iron. 

I can hear the females in the audience already screaming ..."No way am I doing that ... I don't want to gain large muscles.."

But don't worry, the iron I am talking 'pumping' certainly won't make you muscle bound like Arnold, but conceivably it will send your physical performance skywards!

Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world in both developed and developing countries.  Women are still far more likely to become iron deficient than their male counterparts, however low iron status in men has become relatively common in developing countries.

Iron is an essential component of haemoglobin in the blood and plays an important role in oxygen transportation and utilisation.  Very low iron status or anaemia leads to fatigue, impaired physical endurance and can also cause several health problems during and after pregnancy.  Recent studies have also revealed that low iron levels, although without anaemia, may still restrict physical performance.  Researchers have stated that they believe low iron (non anaemic) individuals will not benefit from training as readily as those with higher iron status because their metabolic responses are impaired.

When people consume iron-deficient diets, their liver iron stores begin to become depleted at the first stage, however a long term negative iron balance will lead to the most severe form of iron deficiency, anaemia.  In this case the shortage of iron leads to underproduction of iron containing functional compounds, such as haemoglobin.
To counter the threat of anaemia we need to ensure we have adequate iron stores and iron intake from our diet.  Although some researchers estimate that only 5-10% of iron comes from our diet (much of the rest coming from the breakdown and recycling of red blood cells), it is still vitally important in combating anaemia.

The amount of iron we ingest depends on the composition of our diet.  There are two types of iron that we ingest as part of a healthy diet, heme iron, which is found only in meat, poultry, fish, and non-heme iron which is found in plant based foods and iron-fortified foods.  Heme iron is 2-3 times more absorbable than non-heme iron, illustrating the importance of various types of meat in a healthy diet.

The absorption of non-heme iron is dependant on the types of foods that are ingested at the same time.  For example - Vitamin C is an enhancer of non-heme iron absorption, whereas calcium can be an inhibitor.  For those adamant in pursuing a vegetarian diet, it must be stressed that they must plan the types of food that are consuming to minimise the effect of inhibitors on iron bioavailability and to increase the presence of iron enhancing foods.

My recommendations to improve your iron status through diet ... eat 2-3 meals including red meat per week.  For vegetarians, consume orange juice (Vitamin C) with meals to improve the absorption from iron rich foods such as green vegetables and legumes.  Remember eat to perform!


Exercise Tip Of The Month

Have you hit a plateau with your weight training?  You would like to reach the next level but your existing programme is not giving you that extra push?  Try out a some of the following options to assist you in breaking through that strength barrier.
Note:  these exercises should only be completed by individuals with an extensive lifting background, good technique and should be used sparingly, not as part of your every day training. 

1. Eccentric or Negative Lifts:  Use a weight that is above your maximum and only perform the negative portion (the part of the lift where the weight is moving with gravity).  Spotters lift the weight through the positive areas and you do the negatives.
2.  Stripping: 
Complete a set to failure.  Spotters then remove some  weight and you complete a few more reps to failure.  This exercise may continue for many reps.
3.  Super Set:  To further fatigue a muscle an isolation movement is followed immediately by a basic movement.  E.g. Flys followed by bench press.
Tri Set: Similar to Super Sets only three exercises are used instead of two.
5.  Partials:  Completing a movement through a small range of motion.  Usually used to strengthen the weak part of a lift.
6.  Burns:  After positive failure occurs, continue doing mini reps ( a few inches of movement) to keep stress on the muscles.