Studies show that 77% of the population is vitamin D deficient. Without vitamin D, your body can’t respond accurately to physiologic and pathologic processes. It allows calcium to be absorbed efficiently, prevent bone breakdown, improve muscle building, and regulate our cell’s functions. You’ll likely experience muscle weakness, pain, impaired balance, increased risk of fractures, and decreased physical performance if you’re deficient.
Interestingly enough, the most documented cause of deficiency is from a lack of sun exposure. The sun is our greatest source of vitamin D which can be a problem during the winter months. Fortunately, there are some food sources of vitamin D:
· Natural sources: salmon, fatty fish, egg yolks,
· Fortified Sources: cereals, milk, and orange juice.
Keep in mind, absorption is only about 50% effective from diet. Much of the vitamin is lost during digestion. Due to this, a combination of supplementation, diet, and sun exposure is recommended.
So how much is too much?
· Consult with your doctor first and follow their recommendations for supplementation.
· Toxicity of vitamin D is rare and often unlikely.
o Because your body is constantly using it, it doesn't build up quickly in the body.
· It's been stated that taking 10,000IU a day would take months or even a year to cause toxicity.
How can it help an athlete?
· Promotes muscle growth and strength.
· Minimization of stress fractures.
· Keeps bones strong and less likely to break with any stress put on them during a workout, game, etc.
· Reduces the risk of cancer, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and any autoimmune or infectious disease.
Vitamin D is embedded in a lot of our body functions. Since it's not a vitamin we readily get in our diet, it really should be supplemented. It's good to maintain an adequate baseline since vitamin D is used up very quickly in our bodies. Remember that toxicity is rare, so as long as you stick to a maintenance level, you'll be optimizing your body's performance. It’s important to get vitamin D from your diet and sun exposure, but to make sure you get enough, be sure to supplement!
Ogan, Dana, and Kelly Pritchett. "Vitamin D and the Athlete: Risks, Recommendations, and Benefits." Nutrients 5.6 (2013): 1856-868. Web.
Hamilton, Bruce. "Vitamin D and Athletic Performance: The Potential Role of Muscle." Asian Journal of Sports Medicine Asian J Sports Med 2.4 (2011): n. pag. Web.
Bio: Kristen Peterson is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist currently working in nutrition counseling and studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer. She aspires to work with weight loss and help clients reach their goals. She also maintains a blog filled with nutrition information and healthy, tasty recipes: www.kpcreations.com