Statin Trouble + Iron deficiency

Hi all,

I'm new here and wanted to share my recent experiences.

I came back from a usual run of about 5 miles and noticed my both calf muscles twitching badly. After refuelling it eased and eventually went but over the next fortnight I was doing my usual training and it kept re-appearing and my legs felt weaker and weaker, also getting weakness in my forearms. Eventually the discomfort was too much and I could not train and off I went to my GP. I was told it was a side effect of the statin I take and I was given a blood test. I was told to stop the statin and they found I was iron deficient as well so put on an Iron supplement.

I have been taking the tablets for over a week and have been to the gym and managed  a couple of spinning classes and weights but unable to run as my legs are still painful and twitchy although the symptoms generally seem to be going albeit very slowly!!

I was wondering if any one else has had similar experiences of iron deficiency and how long it could take to build my iron levels up again, hopefully relieving the symptoms.

Rest assured I am still seeing the doctor and will be investigated as to why the iron levels dropped but I was increasing my distances and I'm not getting any younger! so that could be a reason.

I look forward to hearing from you all




  • It may be your diet was slightly lacking in iron. Running is hard on the body and the demand for nutrients increases with the amount you do.

    There is a lot of tissue damage associated with running and long distances runners should have between 1.2 and 1.7g of protien per kg of weight to provide enough of it to heal and replace it.

    I imagine you would need more iron too. Low iron wouldn't really affect a normal persons everyday activity but as you are putting a lot more stress on your body through exercise the that lack of iron began to show. 

    I'm hoping it is diet rather than any other problems. You would ahve experienced other symptoms if it wasn't diet related which I'm sure you would have shared with your doc if you had any. I'm guessing you are on iron tablets now?

    If not it would be raelly upsetting to have to eat a bit more red meat. In fact if you had high blood pressure ( becasue of the statin) they may have told you to eat less red meat? Which would explain low iron.... 

  • Statins are used to manage high cholesterol levels, and are known to cause muscle cramps/twitching as a side effect. If you have high cholesterol, it may be worth trying a different statin, as not all produce the muscular problems. 

    As to the iron deficiency, it's not (as far as I'm aware) known to be linked with statin use. It could just be that the deficiency was picked up incidentally when you were being investigated for the muscle symptoms. Iron deficiency is quite common, although more so in women than men. 

    It will take several weeks for iron levels to return to normal, but it is important to rule out any sinister causes of the deficiency. It is usually linked to blood loss, poor diet, or an inability to absorb. If the problem is dietary, then increasing dietary sources of iron, or a supplement, will rectify the problem. If there is any other underlying cause, then it needs to be identified and treated.

    Good luck! image 


  • My diet was,I thought, ok but maybe I underestimated. Since my GP visit I'm taking an Iron Tablet and have added a protien shake as well as checking my diet thoroughly. What does 1.2-1.7g per weight mean? is it 1.2 or 1.7 x my body weight. I would like to know more about dietry stuff but in laymans terms ,if possible, as some of it goes over my head. Can you point me in the right direction to get some?

  • yep. 1.2g -1.7g of protein for each kg of body weight. so you are correct 1.2 x your weight.

    Sounds like Sarah is more on the right track though. I'm sure your gp will be able to advose you the best.

    That formula for protien is a sloping scale. It says long distance runners (anything above 3km) and athletes should have between 1.2g and 17g of protein per kg of weight daily. So u take the bottom end 1.2 as i' definately no athlete,

    I think the extra shake is a great iway of supplementing your diet.  

  • The typical UK diet is more than adequate in protein, even to compensate for an increase in requirements due to distance running. So for that reason, a protein shake is unlikely to be needed. Certainly not for the iron problem! A drink of milk will give you additional protein, if you really feel the need for it, and it's much cheaper than buying a branded protein shake!

    If you want an easy read on sports nutrition, the Anita Bean book is a great start. 

    As to iron in the diet - do you eat meat? Meat (particularly red and offal), poultry, and fish are excellent, well absorbed sources. Fortified breakfast cereals (most of the big brands and supermarket's own are fortified) are good sources of iron, as are leafy green vegetables, lentils, beans and pulses. The vegetarian sources aren't as well absorbed, often containing compounds that inhibit absorption. Eating them with a source of vitamin C will enhance uptake. Also, avoid drinking tea around meals or the time you take your supplement - the tannins in it will also inhibit absorption.

    I hope that helps image

  • Thanks Sarah,

    I will check out the book you mentioned. The protein shake was to get a bit more to aid repair to any damage that may have been caused by the statin medication, apparently it blocks an enzyme co q10 that is important for muscles and energy, I'm not exactly sure what it does. I think I may also have just thought my symptoms were just 'aches and pains' and ignored them for a bit probably making the problem worse. I have done a lot of what you suggested diet wise and have seen minor improvements and have done a bit of swimming and a couple of rpm classes in the gym but am itching to go for a run! You seem to know a bit about this stuff. If I exercise too much too soon would I'm guessing that it would slow down the rate at which I replenish my iron levels?


  • Joe VolcanoJoe Volcano ✭✭✭

    Been on statins for about 8 years now and I get quite bad twitching in the calf muscles. Have toyed with mentioning it to the gp but never got around to it. I was on simvastatin most of the time but got switched to lipitor (atorvastatin) 80m last year. Neither of them specifically mentioned muscle twitching on the leaflet but both mention muscle weakness and breakdown in the worst case.

  • Joe,

    does it affect your running at all? In my case, as I have recently had some life changing events, when I noticed the symptoms I put them down to anxiety and ignored them, but I got progressively weaker culminating in me having a blood test and a discovery of low iron, which probably added to the problem. I haven't heard of a link between iron and statin levels. I was advised by my GP to stop taking the statin, so I wouldn't recommend doing anything without consulting them first.

  • Steve - there are no specific recommendations for iron requirements for endurance athletes (professional or otherwise image ), but it's likely that they are higher than for the general population. What sort of distance do you cover, and what dose of supplement has your GP prescribed? 

    Exercising whilst anaemic is generally considered safe, unless there's an underlying cause for which exercise would be contraindicated. It would probably be the case that that you can't exercise with the same intensity or for the same duration as you would be able to, if you weren't anaemia - your body will self-limit due to the reduced capacity to carry oxygen to your muscles. Listen to what your body tells you, and ease up if you need to. 

  • I generally run 5 miles in about 40 Min's a couple of times a week and also do circuits at the gym and also 5k runs 20k cycles then 5kruns from the gym but about a month before my 'wobble' I started running 13 miles instead of one of the 5's. My GP has put me on ferrous fumarate 305mg one twice a day. the symptoms do seem to be improving very slowly but it's strange how they come and go. I have some tests on next Monday to find out if there's an underlying cause.

  • Joe VolcanoJoe Volcano ✭✭✭

    sb67, not that I'm aware of, I try to just ignore it. Running is going reasonably well and no way would I come off statins as I have some fairly serious underlying ticker probs. Good luck with the tests.


  • Cheers Joe

  • This week hasn't been too bad physically, managed RPM and body pump on consecutive days at the gym. I was in agony the day after the RPM but it eased by the evening and I done the body pump. I think my symptoms are improving, at least the muscle twitches are and I met someone who also is experiencing bad side effects, she used to instruct at the gym but cant now. Bit nervous this weekend as I've got to have endoscopes in my stomach to find out what has happened. I've been looking at my diet and eating more green stuff than ever! also making a point of eating red meat and liver.

  • Statins are helpful only in some cases from what I have read...


    There is no noticeable benefit when prescribed to women of any age.

    There is no evidence that men under 65 should take them uness they have already had a heart attack and very little evidence that men over 65 get any benefit at all.


    Try reading the book "The Great Cholesterol Con"   it makes for very interesting reading.

  • I might check that book out Barry, thank you for the link.

    I have had some endoscopic tests which revealled multiple ulcers in my stomach, which surprised me as I have had no digestive problems, anyway that would explain my iron loss. One month on from starting iron supplements I still have alot of the same symptoms and still unable to run!!! Back to my GP to try to get to the bottom of it all.






  • I have recently had a blood test and found my heamaglobin levels are ok at 158g/l but my serum ferretin level is only just in the limit at 22ug/l. I was at 14 ug/l and have been on iron for 7 weeks and it has gone up by 8ug/l. I was wondering if anyone knows the optimum level for a runner as I am still getting symptoms. My GP has told me to carry on with supplements for another 2 months and have another blood test. Things are improving very slightly but I am dying to run again!!!

  • I think optimal levels aren't really known but a lot of what you read says you should aim for 50ug/l.  I know I do better at this level.  The top end of the "normal" range is something like 200 so there's plenty of scope for improvement.  I'm currently working on building mine back up.  There are no shortcuts, it just takes time.  I'm eating a lot of black pudding - try adding that in along with your supplements. 

  • Cheers Rubbishrunner, I love black pudding and didn't think of that! I guess I just have to be patient but I seem to take one step forward and two back and find it frustrating, I'm 45 and I guess age isn't on my side as well !

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