Ferritin Levels

Suggested Low Ferritin Protocol

Buchanan Distance Runners


** First and foremost, calcium is important to anyone's diet.  The Ferritin Protocol is designed to schedule when to manage calcium intake in respect to iron intake.  Usually an athlete should have a time buffer of 2 hours before and after the intake of iron.  There have been studies that have shown calcium does inhibit heme and non heme iron absorption.  There have even been studies that contradict the preceding statement.  Regardless of the studies done regarding iron absorption, calcium is still a vital part of anyones diet.


Low Ferritin is generally when an athlete's levels dip below 30.  Athlete’s require an increased effort to maintain their normal workouts. Tingling of the thighs, and overall fatigue are the major symptoms that we have observed.  Every athlete is different and we’ve seen very high levels of performance at meets from track athletes with low ferritin levels, this could also be a result of a decrease in their normal workload for the week(s) prior to that meet.


Severely low Ferritin levels are when an athlete’s level dips below 15.

Interestly a girls Ferritin level can vary 27% within a day, while a boys can vary 17%.  Our research into Ferritin levels over the years tells us we would love our athletes to always be above 40.  Definitely, levels below 20 show significant reduction in performance.  In general, Cross country performances are affected much more than track, possibly related to the length of time for physical exercition.


Iron supplementation should be considered when an athlete’s level dip below 30, we would like to see a baseline of 40.

When Ferritin levels are below 20, and supplementation does not increase Ferritin levels within 8-12 weeks to a level above 30, the potential for a sports medicine doctor to assist should be considered.


     1.  Checking Ferritin levels is simple, go to https://buchananxc.com/ferritin.html

     2.  Be sure to relay results the coaches (Simpson, Weaver, Soares, Bartosch)

     3.  Once you have your results follow these guidelines to get Ferritin levels above



Guidelines: for FERRITIN LEVELS below 30

     1.  Check for a diet HIGH in any of the following:  dairy, refined food (white

          bread, cereals, highly processed snacks, cakes and cookies, and food with

          added sugar).  These foods tend to be void of their natural iron source.  Some

          do add iron back into the food but the body does not like this type of iron.

     2.  Increase: Red meats and liver are high in iron that your body can absorb easily.

          Other top choices for heme iron (natural readily absorbable iron) are: chicken,

          oysters, canned sardines, canned tuna, eggs, chicken liver, fish.

     3.  Increase: The following are non heme iron sources (natural but not as

          absorb-able as heme iron but when taken with heme iron sources help in their

          absorption):  lentils, beans, nuts (pistachios best), dark chocolate 70%, green

          leafy vegetables (cooked especially spinach), beans, seeds (pumpkin seeds,

          sunflower seeds), dried fruit.

     4.  Don’t be afraid to use the cast iron skillets to cook with, research shows that it

          can help get iron into our bodies.


Guidelines: for FERRITIN LEVELS below 20

     1.  Change your son/daughter’s diet following the above guidelines.

     2.  Supplementation should be considered.

          a.  There are lots of different types of oral iron; the standard recommendation,

               according to review papers, is slow-release ferrous sulfate (Amazon link

               see below) at a dose of 120-200mg per day of elemental iron. For

               many products the needed dosage is 3-5 teaspoons or 15-25 mL (each

               teaspoon contains about 220mg of Ferrous Sulfate but only 44mg of

               elemental iron).

          b.  It’s also important to NOT take dairy products 2 hours before or after or any

               Calcium fortified foods when any iron supplement is used.

          c.  Since Iron needs to be taken with vitamin C, lots of the liquid supplements

               already have done that for you. (Iron should be taken with vitamin C.

               Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron when taken together.  If you

               decide to take iron with orange juice, make sure to read the label.  Some

               orange juice drinks add calcium and should be avoided if you are trying to

               increase your iron absorption rate.)

          d.  It’s best to take supplements on an empty stomach.

          e.  Interestingly, research has shown that taking cheese on a hamburger can

               decrease the amount of iron absorbed by 50-60%, therefore try and not mix

               dairy when ingesting iron rich foods for absorption.

     3.  Supplementation schedule:  We want to stress that taking iron supplements

          within the first 30-60 minutes after a strenuous workout is very important.  It’s

          at this point in time that the body is on the search to start getting everything

          back to normal levels of iron.  Since, we usually have 3 hard practices every

          week and 1 could be a race day effort, start with supplementation for those

          three days per week for the first 4 weeks.  If your son/daughter feels better,

          keep up with this 3 day a week supplementation.  If not, increase 2-3 additional

          days per week.


Guidelines: for FERRITIN LEVELS below 10

     1.  First and foremost don’t panic, their level will start to increase.

     2.  If after 8 weeks and your attempts have not produced results above 15 an

          infusion should be strongly considered.

     3.  If levels do not improve an infusion may be needed (this is done through and

          I.V.).  This is something that you would need to contact a doctor directly.  If

          this is the direction that is to be taken, the coaches can help with contacts.

Liquid Iron



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