Creatine, glutamine, BCAAs, protein powder – the list of popular sports supplements goes on and on. These all provide various benefits, but there’s another amazing supplement that’s worthy of your attention. It will not only enhance your sports performance, but it’ll make a massive difference to your life outside the gym too. Introducing – vitamin D3.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist or a medical practitioner. This article lists research outcomes resourced from scientific studies on the subject and my own experiences, however I cannot be responsible for individual health outcomes. If in doubt contact your GP.
As soon as the summer last year ended and the weather turned into a gloomy British autumn, I found myself getting ill every three weeks. Not only was it annoying, disrupting my work and training, but I began to worry about the long-term impact this may have on my health.
I’ve made my diet healthier, I was getting as much exercise as usual, I made sure to get enough sleep, but nothing was helping. A friend suggested that I should start taking vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) to help me boost my immunity.
It turned out to be great advice. Supplementing vitamin D not only prevented me from getting sick, but turned out to be beneficial in many other ways. Almost as soon as I began taking it, I started feeling better and became more resilient to the constant gloom. I became more resistant to infections and felt genuinely well, rather than cold and weak like before.
The greatest change brought about by vitamin D supplementation was in my mood. Even though it was a busy, stressful period for me I felt calmer and happier with life in general. No supplement I have tried before has made such a visible difference to my wellbeing and since the positive effects are significant, it’s a piece of news worth sharing.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D impacts a variety of processes in the body:
- Maintenance and development of muscle mass and strength and the musculoskeletal system and bone density.
- A sufficient amount of it is necessary for effective functioning of the nervous system, including keeping balance and determining the reaction time.
- Maintaining an adequate vitamin D level in the athlete’s body is also important due to its role in mobilising the immune system and preventing infections, to which athletes are particularly prone.
- Vitamin D regulates the balance of a range of hormones in the human body.
Being vitamin D deficient means that these processes cannot be conducted efficiently. This results in lower levels of psychological well-being, longer recovery times, higher probability of sustaining injuries and potentially, as in my case, getting sick all the time.
But surely my body will just make enough while I’m outdoors?
Vitamin D is produced in the body from cholesterol provided there is enough exposure to sunlight (UVB rays). However, it is not clear how much time you should be spending outdoors throughout the year and you’ll need different lengths of exposure depending on your race. These, as well as many more factors, will affect the dose of UVB rays that you’ll actually get and most often it’s not enough. Additionally, spending long periods of time in the sun may lead to development of skin cancer.
According to one study (see reference no. 2 below) “88.1 % of the world’s population has inadequate vitamin D levels“. This doesn’t mean that most people are deficient, but the majority don’t have the optimum levels.
Another paper focusing specifically on athletes presented similar outcomes (see reference no. 1 below). “Reduced levels of vitamin D have been observed in organisms of athletes, of various gender, age, and practiced discipline, inter alia among gymnasts (83%), basketball players (94%), dancers and long-distance runners.
More frequent incidence of this vitamin deficiency was observed during the winter months, as well as among athletes who train indoors or after sunset.” Does that sound familiar?:)
Numerous studies indicate widespread occurrence of vitamin D deficiency, including among athletes (for further statistics and study outcomes that haven’t been directly quoted in the post see the bibliography at the bottom of the page). Considering the significant benefits of maintaining an optimal level of vitamin D in the body its regular supplementation is well worth considering.
How much vitamin D should I supplement?
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D in supplement form can vary greatly between sources. The graph below consolidates most of the available information on the dosing (based on recent research literature review, see reference no. 3 below) and can also help you determine whether you may need it at all.
The dosing that has benefitted me as described above has been 4000 IU of vitamin D3/day for 6 months. If you’re already taking vitamin D supplements let me know how they work for you! For more articles on nutrition check out the Nutrition tab here.
Which supplements do you take on a regular basis?