You just got done with the best set of your life. You crushed your workout and hit your personal best on the bench press. You’re pumped, you’re excited, and… exhausted?

How can you tell if your post-workout tiredness is coming from muscle fatigue, hunger, or an iron deficiency*?

*Why Iron?

“Iron is an essential metal the body needs to transport oxygen through the blood. When the concentrations of iron drop, you can become anemic. Exercising increases the amount of oxygen your body needs and being iron deficient can interfere with that process.”1

Who is most susceptible:

  1. Women athletes, marathon runners, and endurance sports athletes are most at risk for iron deficiency.
  2. Teenage girls, infants, pregnant women and those with kidney or intestinal problems, are also at a higher risk of being amenic.2

So, if you’re a regular gym goer, chances are pumping iron is not going to mess with your iron levels unless something else genetically or nutritionally is in play.

In order to accurately know if your fatigue is the cause of low iron, ask your doctor for a blood test. If your results show that you are iron deficient, you may be given an iron supplement or you may be told to add more iron-rich foods to your diet.

IMPORTANT: It is extremely important that you do not take an iron supplement unless it has been prescribed to you by your healthcare physician.


Too much iron can damage your body and even potentially be fatal due to one of these three reasons below, as listed on Healthline3:

  • Iron poisoning: Poisoning can occur when people, usually children, overdose on iron supplements (56).
  • Hereditary hemochromatosis: A genetic disorder characterized by excessive absorption of iron from food (7).
  • African iron overload: A type of dietary iron overload caused by high levels of iron in food or drinks. It was first observed in Africa, where homemade beer was brewed in iron pots (8).

However, if you are iron deficient and need to get more iron in the foods you’re eating, check out the list below to help add some iron to your diet the natural way.

Iron-Rich Foods

All the suggestions below were taken from an article published by the American Red Cross.4 Proper iron levels are needed in order to donate blood, so if you plan on donating you may want to add some of the below to your diet. To read the full article, please click here.

Meat and Eggs

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Veal
  • Pork
  • Dried beef
  • Liver
  • Liverwurst
  • Eggs (any style)


  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Scallops
  • Oysters
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Haddock
  • Mackerel


  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • String beans
  • Beet greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Chard

Bread and Cereals

  • White bread (enriched)
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Enriched pasta
  • Wheat products
  • Bran cereals
  • Cornmeal
  • Oat cereal
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Rye bread
  • Enriched rice


  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Prunes
  • Prune juice
  • Dried apricots
  • Dried peaches

Beans and Other Foods

  • Tofu
  • Beans (kidney, garbanzo, or white, canned)
  • Tomato products (e.g., paste)
  • Dried peas
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Instant breakfast
  • Corn syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses