Training and proper nutrition are key to improve athletic performance. But there is another factor which is often overlooked: vitamin D.
Vitamin D has several benefits:
- preserve bone health,
- boost immune system,
- regulate blood pressure,
- preserve muscle strength and function.
Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin, as it can be produced in the skin with sufficient exposures to sunlight.
Since our modern lifestyle likes to keep us indoor, vitamin D deficiency is a wide-spread problem affecting both athletes and the general population.
As an athlete, you must be especially careful to boost your immune system.
The role of vitamin D
Vitamin D is a micronutrient with several functions in your body. Let's list the most important ones.
- Bone health: vitamin D increases your intestine's ability to absorb calcium and phosphorous, which contributes to the preservation of the correct concentrations of these two elements in your blood. Calcium and phosphorous are crucial in the formation and preservation of strong bones. Without a sufficient quantity of vitamin D, your bones become thin, fragile, or deformed, which can lead to osteoporosis.
- Immune system: vitamin D helps your immune system to fight off infections and diseases. It is proven that vitamin D reduces risk of respiratory infections, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer.
- Muscle function: vitamin D has a key role in muscle strength and coordination. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to muscle weakness and increased risk of falls.
- Brain function: research shows that vitamin D may have a role in supporting cognitive function and may help in protecting you from neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.
- Mood: vitamin D has a role in mood regulation and may help reduce risk of depression.
A healthy immune system also requires vitamin C. For best effect, be sure to select a natural source of vitamin C!
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is quite common in Europe, especially during the winter months, due to the lack of sunlight.
Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D for most people, and during the winter months, when the days are shorter and the weather is colder, people tend to spend more time indoors and have less exposure to sunlight. As a result, vitamin D deficiency increases.
Since foods are generally low in vitamin D, it might be a challenge to overcome vitamin D deficiency.
Several studies have shown that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Europe is high, ranging from 30% to 60% depending on the country and the population group studied.
To prevent vitamin D deficiency during the winter, it is recommended to consume foods high in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods, as well as to consider taking vitamin D supplements.
Side effects of vitamin D deficiency
Since vitamin D is so important in your body, vitamin D deficiency may lead to several unwanted side effects, such as:
- bone disorders, such as rickets, bow legs, knock-knees, osteoporosis;
- muscle weakness;
- increased risk of chronic disorders, such as autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disorders, certain types of cancer, diabetes;
- increased risk of infections, such as respiratory infections;
- mood disorders.
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is produced in the skin with sufficient exposure to UVB sun rays. This is your body's main source of vitamin D.
To produce vitamin D in the skin, it is not only about the length of the exposure but also the potency of the sun rays.
Depending on your country, 15 minutes of moderate exposure during spring and autumn may suffice to fulfill your daily needs for vitamin D.
By moderate exposure we don't mean lying under the sun in your bathing suit. A simple walk is enough, and you only have to expose your hands and face.
But in wintertime, the sun rays are too weak to enable vitamin D synthesis in your skin.
You can also provide your body with vitamin D with food. Unfortunately, most food contains very low quantities of vitamin D.
The foods that contain the highest amounts of vitamin D are:
- milk and dairy products.
Vitamin D is also increasingly being added to foods. We are talking about foods enriched with vitamin D.
Of the naturally vitamin D-rich foods, fish is the best. Only 100 grams of salmon or 100 grams of sardines covers 320% or 220%, respectively, of your daily needs.
To satisfy the recommended daily intake of vitamin D with egg yolks, you should consume 30 to 40 large egg yolks per day, which is not realistic, let alone healthy.
Do I need a vitamin D supplement?
In short, yes.
But before you use any dietary supplement, you should make sure you can't satisfy the need for a specific nutrient with a healthy and balanced diet, regardless of whether you need it because of a medical condition or increased needs due to physical activity.
In most European countries, vitamin D supplements during winter are practically a must.
Using a vitamin D supplement makes sense throughout the year if you spend a lot of time indoors or if you use too much sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen protects you from skin cancer, but it also prevents vitamin D production in your skin.
Do I have to take vitamin D with fat?
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it needs a source of fat for your body to be able to absorb it.
This is why many vitamin D supplements often recommend to take it during a meal that contains some fat.
Vitamin D3+ 4Endurance Pro already contains a source of fat in the form of coconut oil, which is why you don't have to take an additional source of fat.
Vitamin D is an essential micronutrient to preserve your general health and well-being.
Vitamin D is crucial for your bone health, immune system, and mood. It may also reduce the risk of certain chronic disorders.
You can get vitamin D from food or with sunlight exposure.
Nevertheless, many people suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which is why you should consider using a vitamin D supplement.