Q. My 12-year-old granddaughter swims at county level. She is often tired and has pale skin; she has started her periods. She is allergic to nuts, eggs, peas and lentils. Should she be tested for anaemia and can you advise on diet?
A. Specialist paediatric dietitian Nicole Rothband, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (bda.uk.com) says ‘iron deficiency anaemia is quite common in young women who are menstruating. Also, iron requirements are higher in athletes so it may be worth having a blood test to check if she needs a supplement. If she does have anaemia, it will affect her performance. Improved iron intake should decrease her fatigue.’
Iron supplements can lead to constipation and gastrointestinal discomfort so Nicole recommends trying food first. The best sources of easily absorbed iron are red meats (beef, lamb and pork), and offal (liver, kidneys and black pudding). Vegetarian sources include dried fruits, leafy green vegetables (kale, watercress, broccoli, spring greens), brown rice and fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin C can optimise iron absorption so eat lightly steamed vegetables, fresh tomatoes or red peppers, or drink a glass of fresh orange or tomato juice when eating iron-rich foods. Avoid high-fibre foods (pulses and whole grains) and drinking tea, coffee, milk or taking a calcium supplement in the same meal as they interfere with iron absorption.
As she is competing at a high level, Nicole suggests she see an accredited Sports Dietitian for a full dietary assessment. (Visit senr.org.uk, The Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register.)
NHS CHOICES CALLS EXERCISE A MIRACLE CURE
It’s free, easy to take, works immediately and you don’t need a prescription. It can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2-diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent.’
What’s more, exercise is proven to boost mood and strengthen mental wellbeing, according to Stephen Buckley of Mind ‘Research shows outdoor exercise, such as running, can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression.’
Mind is urging workers to reclaim lunch breaks ‘as getting outdoors for a short run or walk can provide a real boost to wellbeing’. The charity offers free advice on getting started at their new initiative Get Set to Go, which has eight regional groups/getsettogo.mind.org.uk.
Kavita Patel, 33, who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, says ‘exercise, particularly running, helped me cope with feelings of helplessness and isolation.’ Kavita is running the London Marathon in aid of Mind, which is part of the ‘young Royals’ Heads Together campaign (headstogether.org.uk) aimed at reducing the stigma of mental health problems.
Tech journalist and TV presenter Georgie Barrat (georgiebarrat.com) is always hunting for gadgets to help keep on track with her fitness goals. Here are Georgie’s top three motivators:
Fitbit Alta/£94.99 at fitbit.com
This records your steps, distance, work-outs and measures your sleep, then links the data automatically to your phone where it’s displayed in easy-to-read charts and badge systems that become surprisingly addictive to earn. It also looks great on.
Sennheiser PMX 686 Sport Headphones/£79.99 at en-uk.sennheiser.com
Having a good pair of headphones that stay in place while you’re running or at the gym is key. The sound quality is brilliant and the neckband design ensures a really secure fit. Georgie mixes her playlists with podcasts for variety and stimulation.
Seven – 7 Minute Workout Training Challenge App (Free, iOS & Android)
This app challenges you to work out for seven minutes daily for seven months. You just need a chair, a wall and your own body weight to do the bite-size exercises, so you can do them at home, in your office or a hotel room. The illustrated on-screen instructions are easy to follow and if you have time for a full workout, simply select the multiple circuit option.
If you are walking or running in the dark, please wear some article of hi-vis clothing, such as a sash belt/£7.76 at the safetysupplycompany.co.uk). Driving recently, we barely missed a runner loping along in shades of grey. Also, with the sun now low in the sky, it’s wise to wear something bright in the daytime too. I love my bright coral pink top by Pink Soda Sport/£28 sizes 6-14 at jdsports.co.uk.