I figured this topic is appropriate since the summer is rapidly approaching and we all want our beach bodies!
I understand that with the summer approaching we also wind up with increasing temperatures and direct sunlight. BUT that’s not all bad and that is what today’s blog post is about, so lets get started!
We all know that we need Vitamin D and it is important, but for most of us that’s as far as our knowledge extends, so what else?
Vitamin D is one of two vitamins the body makes on its own. The liver, kidneys, cells and other parts of the body are involved in a conversion process, converting two forms of Vitamin D in the active, useable form 25-Dihydroxyvitamin D, a steroid hormone. Any remaining Vitamin D gets stored in our fatty tissue for future use (another important use of fat!)
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in plants and can only enter our body through the foods we consume. The main one we have all heard of is Vitamin D3, which is derived from the sun, animal products or supplementation. According to Michael F. Holick, The director of Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University, approximately half of all Americans are chronically deprived of Vitamin D.
37th Parallel - Vitamin D deficiency line
Northern climates in the USA are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency due to the weakness of the sun for approximately half the year. But the reality of it is, even in the sunny Southern California, most people do not spend enough time outside in the sun to get enough Vitamin D. In addition, relatively few foods provide vitamin D.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Immune Defense - Vitamin D boost the activity of cells that fight bacteria and viruses all year. This is in part why the in the winter months, we experience more colds, flu and respiratory problems as there is less sunlight available to us.
Improve bone strength - calcium requires vitamin D in order to build stronger bones. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium’s absorption from food and supplements.
Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Prevents Vitamin D Deficiency
Reduces Cancer Risk
Lower Blood Pressure
Improves Your Mood
Manages Alzheimer’s Symptoms
Heals Skin Disorders
Promotes Eye Health
Can Cure Depression
Improves Brain Function
Manages Seasonal Affective Disorder
How is Vitamin D relevant in Sport Performance?
Increasing Vitamin D levels has shown to pride multiple musculoskeletal benefits. It helps to increase muscle protein synthesis, improves concentration of ATP (adenosine triphosphate - our short-term energy supply), increases strength, jump height, velocity and power and overall physical performance.(1) Additionally, increased levels of vitamin D decrease muscle protein degeneration and reverse myalgias.(2)
More recent studies have shown that vitamin D has immunomodulatory effects, with increased vitamin D levels reducing inflammation.(3) After intense training periods our body experiences inflammation (heightened with lower levels of vitamin D) - this inflammation is theorized to be one of the potential causes of “overtraining” or “overreaching” syndrome.(4)
Vitamin D is also a powerful secosteroid hormone providing many skeletal and extra skeletal health benefits. Musculoskeletal injury prevention and recovery are potentially affect by an adequate supply of circulating levels (and storage of) Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and it is super important to have an adequate supply for many of the benefits listed above, we can see why outdoor training is beneficial to us. Given the lengthy time spent indoors for the majority of jobs in todays society, spending enough time outdoors (in the sun without sunscreen blocking the ability to uptake vitamin D) will help us to stay fit, healthy and injury free.
Bartoszewska M, Kamboj M, Patel DR. Vitamin D, muscle function, and exercise performance. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2010;57(3):849-861
Ahmed W, Kahn N, Glueck CJ, et al. Low serum 25(OH) vitamin D levels (<32ng/ml) are associated with reversible myositis-myalgia in statin-treated patients. Transl Res. 2009;153(1):11-16
Willis KS, Peterson NJ, Larson-Meyer DE. Should we be concerned about the vitamin D status of athletes? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008;18(2):204-224
Larson-Meyer DE, Willis KS. Vitamin D and athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2010;9(4):220-226