Ferritin Levels

Plasma ferritin levels are an indication of the body’s iron stores. 2/3 of the body’s iron is in the hemoglobin molecules of the red blood cell. Oxygen is transported in the body bound to the iron in hemoglobin. Luther College studies show that cross country runners do best with ferritin levels at 50 or greater. Recovery time for ferritin levels can take several weeks.

Stages of Iron Depletion

1. Storage iron depletion – ferritin levels less than 12 μg/l

2. Iron deficient erythropoiesis – ferritin levels in range of 20-30 μg/l

Possible causes of poor iron status in athletes

  • GI bleeding during exercise (especially in runners)
  • Hematuria – especially in runners because of hemolysis due to foot impact
  • Increased iron excretion through sweating
  • Low dietary intake
  • Iron loss through menses
  • Plasma volume expansion at the beginning of training season. (This is why it is important to wait at least 4 weeks into the training season to test ferritin and hemoglobin levels.)