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Can Vitamin D Make You A Better Athlete?

Vitamin D is getting a lot of positive press of late and justifiably so. This very important vitamin is involved in several physiological processes such as bone health, immune system function, and blood pressure control. Now new research is pointing to the benefits that vitamin D may have on athletic performance.

First, let me begin by giving a brief introduction on vitamin D. As I stated above there are many functions to vitamin D and when you begin to count the number of benefits, you may begin to wonder is there anything this fat-soluble vitamin does not do. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. This in turn helps with bone development and growth, nerve signaling, immune function, blood pressure, and muscle strength and mass. In addition, it may also help to fend off certain types of cancer along with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

The human body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun. In addition, limited amounts are provided by our diets. However, vitamin D deficiency is rampant throughout the world especially in northern latitudes where sunlight is more limited especially during winter. Interestingly, these deficiencies are also being discovered in warmer climates, namely the Middle East, Australia, and Hawaii. Therefore, it seems we are producing far too little of this vitamin regardless of where we live. How do you find out what your vitamin D levels are? Ask your doctor to test your levels the next time you have a blood panel done. The current clinical vitamin D levels are as follows:

Deficient: <20 ng/mL

Insufficient: 20 ? 32 ng/mL

Sufficient: >32 ng/mL

So, what impact does all of this have on athletic performance? The following are some findings from several studies conducted over last several years regarding the impact of vitamin D on athletic performance:

- Ultraviolet light improved athletic performance

- Athletes performed better in summer months compared to winter months

- Improved performance and decreased injury rates in ballet dancers

- Faster recovery after intense exercise

- More pre-exercise vitamin D equals less post-exercise muscle weakness

While more study needs to be done it appears that optimal vitamin D levels provide several benefits to athletic performance. With the majority of people being deficient, with the approval of your doctor supplementing with vitamin D is probably a good idea. In addition, you can get vitamin D from a few foods such as salmon, mushrooms, cod liver oil, fortified dairy, fortified cereals, and fortified orange juice. In fact, if faced with the choice of supplementing versus consuming the fortified dairy, cereals, and orange juice, go with supplementing so you don?t get all that extra sugar and lactose.

See you all next week.

Chris Kendrick, CSCS

DiVerge Fitness?Move Yourself!