Trouble losing body fat? Is anemia and low-oxygen delivery to blame? |

There is more to body fat than how much fat you have. Although there are several contributing factors, bad diet and exercise are two of the biggest players.

Is it possible to lose body fat without a calorie deficit? The simple answer is yes—you can lose body fat without dieting, and you can even lose body fat without exercising. However, people who report significant fat loss without dieting tend to suffer from low-level anemia, which is characterized by low red blood cell count. Therefore, low-level anemia may be a contributing factor to fat loss without dieting.

Anemia and low-oxygen delivery to the muscles are two conditions that have been associated with difficulty losing body fat, but there is more to the story than meets the eye.. Read more about how to gain weight with anemia and let us know what you think.

The body need two things to generate energy: oxygen and glucose. Tolerance to exercise, ability to shed weight, athletic performance, and general health all suffer when neither is present in adequate quantities.

The first will be discussed in this article: oxygen. Why is it essential, and how may subclinical oxygen delivery issues affect your health and fitness?


Many individuals turn to the newest diet, fancy new workout equipment (such as kettlebells), or the supplement with the most fresh promises in their quest for a leaner, better-looking, and healthier body (i.e. Acai berry).

However, if you don’t look at key physiological systems that aren’t functioning correctly, your progress will be undermined, rendering the newest new trend virtually useless.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler,” stated Einstein. It’s time to go back to fundamentals when it comes to achieving fitness and cosmetic objectives.

The Basics of Cell Physiology

Most individuals who have a recollection of biology class in high school will recall hearing about mitochondria. Instead than making you cringe at the prospect of repeating a high school lecture, here’s all you truly need to know.

Mitochondria are the body’s main energy generators. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary fuel source for most of the machinery in our bodies.

Mitochondria are so essential that if enough of them fail, nothing else in your body, including organs, glands, muscles, and our brain, will function correctly. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a characteristic of aging and many chronic illnesses.

Mitochondria need two things to generate ATP: oxygen and glucose. The mitochondria will not generate enough ATP to power our body’s activities if neither of these two substances is present in adequate quantities.

This may have a direct effect on our exercise tolerance, weight loss ability, athletic performance, and general health. We’ll look at the first of the two fuel sources, oxygen, in this post.

Over 150,000 health & fitness professionals certified

Save up to 30% on the leading nutrition education curriculum in the business.

Gain a better grasp of nutrition, the authority to teach it, and the capacity to convert that knowledge into a successful coaching business.

Find Out More


The Basics of Red Blood Cell Physiology

A red blood cell’s main job is to carry oxygen throughout our bodies. As a red blood cell travels through our lungs, it picks up oxygen molecules and transports them to the rest of the body. The red blood cell then returns to the lungs to begin the cycle all over again.

Our red blood cells will not be able to transport or supply oxygen to our cells if they are not working correctly. Mitochondria, once again, cannot operate effectively without oxygen.

To give an analogy, consider a high-performance sports vehicle, such as a Ferrari Enzo. To get maximum performance, these vehicles need the best grade fuel available. They’ll still run if it’s less, but their performance will decrease significantly.

The same may be said for our bodies. If your blood isn’t carrying enough oxygen, your body’s cells will still function, but not as well as they would if you had enough oxygen.

You may take all the fancy vitamins, tweak your post-workout nutrition drink, and follow the most up-to-date training regimen in the world, but none of it will help if your cells aren’t receiving enough oxygen.

In medical terms, this is referred to as a lack of oxygen.

Anemia, a disease referring to a quantitative and/or qualitative deficit for red blood cells to transport oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs, is diagnosed in traditional medicine as a reduction in their capacity to carry oxygen to cells.

Iron deficiency, vitamin B12/folate deficiency, excessive blood loss (i.e. heavy menses, gastrointestinal bleeding), medicines, certain chronic or genetic diseases (i.e. thalassemia), and so on may all cause anemia.

Anemia is caused by three major factors:

  • destruction of red blood cells,
  • loss of blood,
  • or a lack of capacity to generate enough healthy red blood cells.

Is it possible to have sub-optimal oxygen supply even if you don’t have anemia? Yes, absolutely.

Diagnostic criteria are problematic.

A diagnosis is just a name given to a collection of agreed-upon indications, symptoms, and/or laboratory criteria that indicate physiology gone wrong. In other words, there is a diagnosable disease when physiology deviates too far from normal.

However, one of the major issues in medicine today is that diagnostic criteria are often focused on ill individuals rather than healthy people.

Decreased oxygen delivery is being assessed.

Since we aren’t discussing anemia here, let us assist you in identifying sub-optimal physiology that causes your body to be unable to transport oxygen to the cells, limiting your capacity to achieve your health and fitness objectives.

Below is a table of blood chemistry markers, normal reference ranges for those markers (the ones your doctor may use to check for illness), and optimum ranges for those markers (the ones that look at health).

Markers for Blood *Reference Points The Best Reference Range
Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen throughout the body (Hgb) 12.1-15.1 g/dl in females 13.5-14.5 g/dl in females
  Males had a blood sugar level of 13.6-17.7 g/dl. 14-15 g/dl in males
Hematocrit is a measurement of the amount of red blood cells (Hct) 36-44 g/dl in females 27-40 g/dl in females
  41-50 g/dl in men 40-48 g/dl in men
RBC 3.8-5.2 for females 3.9-4.5 for females
  4.4-5.9 for males, 4.4-5.9 for females 4.2-4.9 for males, 4.2-4.9 for females
MVC 78-98 85-92
MCH 28-34% 27-32%
MCHC 32-36% 32-35%
RDW 11.5-14.5 percentage point <13%
Iron ug/dL (40-155 ug/dL) a concentration of 85-130 ug/dL
TIBC 250 ug/dL to 460 ug/dL ug/dL (250-350 ug/dL)
Ferritin 18-300 nanograms per milliliter 10-122 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)
Transferritin 15-55% 20-35%

* Information taken from Because most laboratories do not utilize these numbers, your results may differ.

Here are some broad recommendations that only apply if your blood test falls within the laboratory’s reference range. If it’s not within the laboratory’s reference range, you should see a doctor.

You should consider a reduced oxygen deliverability owing to low iron if your hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cells, iron, MCV, MCH, MCHC, and ferritin are all below the optimum reference range, but transferrin is above the optimal reference range.

If this is the case, dietary iron supplementation may be required, but only after consulting with a competent medical practitioner.

If your hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cells are all below the optimum reference range, but your MCV, MCHC, and MCH are all above it, you may be suffering reduced oxygen deliverability owing to a lack of B12, folic acid, or both.

If this is the case, dietary B12 and/or folic acid supplementation may be required. In addition, digestive function should be evaluated, since this pattern is often caused by inadequate absorption capacities.

There are many more patterns, but they are beyond the scope of this essay and require a more in-depth analysis. We’ll deal with them another time.


People with blood levels that are within the laboratory reference range but outside of the optimum reference range are often seen in our practice with reduced oxygen delivery.

Indeed, this is one of the first patterns we look for because if it is there, everything else we do for the patient will be of little therapeutic benefit as long as the patient’s cells are not receiving oxygen.

One of the two basic components required for effective energy generation at the cellular level is oxygen. The less oxygen supplied to cells, the worse they will perform.

There are a number of reasons why oxygen delivery may be reduced, two of which have already been mentioned. Other processes must be checked out and a medical expert consulted.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

The gym is a place of torture for many people; a place where you feel like you are never going to be able to lose the last few pounds of fat. And you may be right, because many people do their best to avoid going to the gym all together.. Read more about low hemoglobin and rapid weight loss and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anemia make it hard to lose weight?

Anemia is a condition that can make it hard to lose weight. Its not the only thing that can cause this, but its one of the things that can happen.

How does anemia affect oxygen delivery?

Anemia affects the oxygen delivery in the body. It is caused by a low number of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of the bodys tissues.

Can anemia cause low oxygen levels?

Yes, anemia can cause low oxygen levels.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • iron deficiency
  • how to lose weight with anemia
  • anemia and weight loss
  • can anemia cause weight loss
  • low ferritin weight gain

Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.