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I was reading a thread on the doping forum which referenced the original use of EPO as treatment for people who have anemia, especially cancer patients.

So I was thinking back to my high school xc days, when a lot of us were probably anemic, and some had to be treated for it, usually with iron supplements. Lots of jokes about girls not getting enough meat, etc.

So my question is, will iron supplements in a non-anemic person yield a higher hematocrit and possible performance gains? The logic seems sound to me, but I'm not sure just how much of a difference, if any, it would make.
 

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No. Iron deficiency amenias are quite rare if you eat a normal diet or one multivitamin ( healthy individual) . The red cell count will not rise with additional iron supplements ... but constiption heart and liver disease can result from excess iron intake. Erythropoetin (EPO)works by stimulating the marrow to produce more RBC's, sometimes to the point where the blood becomes a poorly flowing sludge.. Best left for the kidney failure patients, one of the most (in my opinion) dangerous of the enhancement drugs
 

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Not quite

AH1 said:
No. Iron deficiency amenias are quite rare if you eat a normal diet or one multivitamin ( healthy individual) . The red cell count will not rise with additional iron supplements ... but constiption heart and liver disease can result from excess iron intake. Erythropoetin (EPO)works by stimulating the marrow to produce more RBC's, sometimes to the point where the blood becomes a poorly flowing sludge.. Best left for the kidney failure patients, one of the most (in my opinion) dangerous of the enhancement drugs
While you are correct that iron deficiency amenia is not that common, what we're talking about here is not the clinical definition of anemia, but whether performance can be improved for someone in the normal range. The answer is a qualified yes. If your Hb and Hct are at the low end of the range and your ferritin levels are likewise, then adding iron supplements may result in significant performance improvement. Liver damage, etc. is only an issue if you are pushing to high iron levels. Also, either dietary variations or just individual iron absorbtion differences can mean that someone with well over 100% of the RDA in their diet is still low on iron. You need to look at the full blood profile before drawing any conclusions about either health risk or performance improvement opportunity from iron supplementation.
 

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True to some extent, but without guidance and knowledge of an existing pathology, which you seem to be defining (malabsorption) supplementing with iron is probably not a smart or healthy thing to do for most individuals particularly athletes. I would suggest a diagnosis as to why a deficiency exist prior to recommending supplementing.
 

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AH1 said:
True to some extent, but without guidance and knowledge of an existing pathology, which you seem to be defining (malabsorption) supplementing with iron is probably not a smart or healthy thing to do for most individuals particularly athletes. I would suggest a diagnosis as to why a deficiency exist prior to recommending supplementing.
It goes without saying, or at least certainly should, that specific problems that might cause anemia need to be ruled out. Once that is dealt with, any athlete that finds themselves at the low end of the parameters I outlined can safely consider iron supplementation without any significant risk. Just because a person is within the "normal" range does NOT mean that they are in the optimal range.

I was never clinically anemic, but my Hb, Hct, and ferritin levels were all at the bottom of the range. Once I started iron supplements, my power on the bike increased 12% (based on repeated time trial performances). It is my understanding that low iron levels are fairly common in endurance athletes.
 

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there's a useful article on Velonews today about athletes getting at least quarterly blood tests to track these parameters.

In general, I'm a bit suspicious about RDA guidelines in terms of recommendations for endurance athletes. RDA does not reflect the atypical demands of endurance athletes. Likewise, considering the oxidative stress involved in endurance training, most studies I've seen of endurance athletes reveals deficiencies in terms of things like anti-oxidant intake.
 
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