by Melanie McQuaid
Female athletes often struggle with iron deficiency. High training loads or high intensity training blocks can deplete iron stores in some females, so blood tests to check for deficiencies are a good idea. This may be particularly true for females training at altitude. I like to supplement iron, B12, folate, zinc and antioxidants when I am training at elevation because the added training stimulus often requires me to dip into my iron stores to adapt. If the body is struggling to produce red blood cells while at altitude or you are simply performing a high training load, the new red blood cells will be continuously destroyed which may create a higher demand on iron stores. Feeling tired, lethargic or depressed can be signs of anemia. Consult your doctor if these symptoms occur.
Many athletes can maintain iron stores without supplements by eating lean red meat and leafy green vegetables. The most common complaint I hear r about eating red meat is the hassle of preparing it. Personally, I find preparing steak to be one of the easiest things in the world… but if you want a fool proof and tasty alternative, try one of my Thai Lettuce Wraps.
Mel’s Thai Lettuce Wraps
This recipe can be enjoyed with or without rice depending on your caloric needs. If I am trying to be leaner, I will eat calorically dense grains earlier in the day and stick to veggies and meat at dinner. I have included the rice recipe for those who would enjoy it with this meal.
2 lbs extra lean ground bison meat (beef, turkey or soy ground will also be tasty)
1 red onion
2 cups grated carrot
1 minced red pepper
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp Hoisin sauce
¼ cup sweet chili sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 head of iceburg lettuce, each leaf separated intact and rinsed
2 cups jasmine rice
1 can coconut milk
1 stalk lemongrass
2 lime leaves
2 cups water
To make the rice, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and turn heat on med/high until the mixture comes to a slow boil. Cover, turn to minimum heat and cook until all liquid is absorbed. The coconut milk does encourage the rice to stick so you may want to stir it a few times during cooking.
For the filling, sweat the onion in the sesame oil until translucent and add the ground meat. Brown the meat completely as the flavor is improved if the meat is seared in the pan and cooked all of the way through. Add the ginger and garlic and cook two more minutes. Remove from heat. Add the carrots, peppers, hoisin sauce and sweet chili sauce and mix thoroughly.
Serve in a large bowl with lettuce piled up like tortillas. Fill each lettuce cup with two to three spoonfuls of meat and vegetables (and rice if desired) and wrap like a burrito. I like to use two lettuce cups per wrap for added crunch. Enjoy!