Effects of Lean Beef Supplementation on Iron Status, Body Composition and Performance of Collegiate Distance Runners


Iron deficiency is prevalent among endurance athletes, particularly females. Low iron may compromise oxygen delivery and physical performance. Vegetarianism, desire for convenience, and perceived health risks associated with red meat contribute to low bioavailable iron intakes. The purpose of this study was to examine if lean beef supplementation would maintain iron status, improve body composition and increase performance of distance runners after 8 weeks. Twenty-eight (14 female) Division-I cross-country runners were stratified by iron status, use of iron supplements, and gender, and randomized into a control (n = 14) and intervention group. All participants maintained their typical diet and consumed a daily multivitamin, while the intervention group consumed 9 ounces of lean beef weekly. Dietary intake (total iron, heme-iron, protein, zinc), body composition, VO2max, and iron status (hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, serum ferritin, total iron binding capacity [TIBC]) were measured at baseline and post-intervention. The intervention group had greater intakes of total and heme-iron. There were no group differences in amino acids, protein, or calories. Both groups had a significant body fat increase and lean mass decease over time. There was a significant VO2max increase over time in both groups. There were no group differences due to the intervention in serum ferritin, hemoglobin, serum iron, and TIBC. There was a significant difference in hematocrit between groups as a result of the intervention. In conclusion, increasing bioavailable iron from red meat may have effects on body composition and maintenance of blood iron markers; however, its direct impact on performance among endurance athletes is unclear.

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D. Burke, J. Johnson, M. Vukovich and K. Kattelmann, "Effects of Lean Beef Supplementation on Iron Status, Body Composition and Performance of Collegiate Distance Runners," Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 3 No. 6, 2012, pp. 810-821. doi: 10.4236/fns.2012.36109.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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