How to Boost Energy for Running Long Distances: 4 Tips to Get More Iron Naturally

To bolster performance, it is important a runner tailors their diet to maximize iron intake. Healthy levels of iron can deliver extraordinary results in running performance as adequate levels of iron is critical for improved stamina and focus because iron helps deliver vital oxygen and nutrition-rich blood to the brain.

In contrast, low iron levels can cause chronic tiredness and shortness of breath –among the many other side effects that comes with low iron levels — which may jeopardize your running performance. Luckily, there are convenient ways to get more iron naturally, so that you can have more sustainable energy for running long distances!

Boost Energy for Running Long Distances: 4 Tips to Get More Iron Naturally

Boost Energy for Running Long Distances: 4 Tips to Get More Iron Naturally

In pulling together the research on how to promote better iron absorption in the body, here are 4 important strategic dietary suggestions you may want to try!   

Vitamin C  

One trick to capitalize on your iron intake is by sprinkling some vitamin C powder on your salad since the iron in leafy greens may be a little difficult to absorb. According to reports in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, adding a small teaspoon of vitamin C powder to your fruits and vegetables may greatly help your body soak up more iron, more easily. How?

  • Vitamin C delivers more iron, from plants, into your body because it structurally changes the iron in plants, allowing more iron to be easily shuttled to your body’s tissues!  

Eating Darker Cuts of Meat

For the runners who are carnivores, to optimize your iron intake from meat, darker is better! According to New Zealand researchers, darker cuts of meat are more concentrated in iron than lighter cuts of meat. For instance, the researchers discovered that darker red meat contained up to 15% more iron than white or pink meat. Therefore, if you are in dire need for a high shot of iron, feast on darker cuts of red meat.

What if you are a vegetarian? Research has revealed that cooking your vegetables seems to be particularly potent at making  the iron content in veggies easier for the body to absorb, helping your body use 30% more!


Another common trigger for better iron absorption is eating more yogurt. It is well-known that yogurt promotes good intestinal health. But new studies reveal that the good bacteria in yogurt, might influence iron absorption as eating more yogurt makes the intestines more robust at feeding in more iron into the blood stream!

According to Swedish researchers, healthy bacteria in yogurt may improve iron absorption in the body by as much as 55%! How?

  • Yogurt’s healthy bacteria eases gut inflammation, making iron more permeable and easier to pass through the membrane of the intestines and into your blood stream.

Cooking Your Veggies

Another handy way to usher in more iron is by eating your vegetables cooked, not raw. Evidently, how you cook your vegetables can greatly influence how your body absorbs your veggies iron! Some evidence points to cooking your vegetables, instead of eating them raw, may stimulate greater iron release from the vegetables.  

  • Cooking specific vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and bok choy may help rush in more iron because the heat from the cooking process enables more iron to be released from the vegetables.
  • According to reports out of Rugers University, the heat from steaming broccoli, stir frying, baking or grilling vegetables may amplify their iron release because the heat effectively punctures the vegetables tough, outer protective amour, helping your digestive system suck in more iron!   

Take Home Message

One of the most troubling aspects of running is getting more, lasting energy! It is useful to be realized how important iron is in keeping you energized for running which is why I thought it would be important to highlight some of the key dietary approaches to help maximize your iron intake, especially if you have an iron deficiency. Thus, it would be a good idea to consider trying the above as a key step forward to advance your iron intake.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!