It’s no secret that vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients in the human body, but did you know that it may offer health benefits beyond immune system and bone strength support? Recent studies have claimed that the “sunshine vitamin” may help support athletic performance and cardiovascular health too, something that all of us – especially athletes – can benefit from.
Why Vitamin D is Important
Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced in your body when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Because an overwhelming number of people don’t get enough sun throughout the year (up to 85% of us may have low vitamin D levels, according to Dr. Mercola), supplementation is important in order to maintain good health.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
There are a number of ways this essential vitamin supports and maintains your health:
- It helps maintain bone health and strength
- It helps support brain health, as well as your immune and nervous systems
- It may provide support for healthy insulin levels
- It promotes cardiovascular health and healthy lung function
While everyone needs to maintain healthy vitamin D levels to ensure the benefits above, there are a couple other benefits that people with especially active lifestyles may also see as a result of proper D levels and supplementation.
Vitamin D for a Performance Boost & More: The Studies
A recent study conducted by researchers at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland and presented at the annual conference of The Society for Endocrinology shared some interesting findings concerning athletes and vitamin D supplementation. The general results concluded that vitamin D has a positive effect on performance, may help people avoid injury as a result of exercise, training or overexertion in competition, and may even support cardiovascular health by helping to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
The Dr. Rath Foundation breaks down the study conclusions in this way:
The study followed 13 healthy adults matched by age and weight, each of whom were given either 50 micrograms (2000 IU) of vitamin D per day or a placebo. The researchers found that those supplementing with vitamin D had lower blood pressure compared to those taking the placebo, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their urine. High levels of cortisol may raise blood pressure by restricting arteries, narrowing blood vessels and stimulating the kidneys to retain water.
In the fitness test, the researchers observed that the group taking vitamin D supplements could cycle 6.5km in 20 minutes, compared to just 5km at the start of the experiment. Notably, therefore, despite cycling 30 percent further in the same time, the vitamin D group also showed lower signs of physical exertion.
Athletes can benefit, but so can the rest of us! Whether it’s running for enjoyment, playing an occasional game of basketball or going dancing, regular supplementation with vitamin D can help keep your heart healthy and give your performance a boost.
An article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in January 2016, mentioned a number of other studies that concluded performance could be supported with proper vitamin D supplementation. A 2015 study that appeared in the American Journal of Sports Medicine takes a look at the vitamin D levels of a number of the members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The findings are as follows:
Vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least one bone fracture. Players who were released during the preseason due to injury or poor performance also had significantly lower D levels than those who made the team.
This study isn’t the only one making conclusions about a possible relation between vitamin D levels and injury, however. A 2011 study of players for the New York Giants that was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine found the following regarding injury and lower vitamin D levels:
There was an alarming percentage — 80.9% of players — with abnormal levels. No player had a vitamin D level greater than 50 [ng/mL] … In terms of injury prevention, 18% of players sustained a muscle injury in the previous season. These players all had statistically significant lower vitamin D levels than those players who did not suffer muscular injury.
Professional sports teams aren’t the only ones taking steps to make sure athletes maintain healthy levels of vitamin D. The University of Southern California (USC) makes a habit of checking its athletes’ D levels on a yearly basis. The WSJ article states that “more than one-third of 223 USC athletes tested for a study published in 2015 has insufficient vitamin D levels,” (Source) and that’s with the high level of sun in California! The athletic department and various coaching staffs have begun to offer food and snacks that are fortified with added vitamin D, such as cereals like Frosted Flakes and other items like D and calcium-fortified orange juice to help maintain healthy D levels on a regular basis.
The Bottom Line
While the jury may still be out over whether low vitamin D levels have a relation to frequent injury, it’s definitely a possibility. Maintaining proper D levels may help you stay healthier in the long run by helping you avoid injuries, supporting bone strength, and promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. And remember, this isn’t just good news for athletes – it’s pretty fantastic news for all of us! The weather is getting nicer, so get out there and get some sun whenever you can.
Have you noticed any extra boost in your performance while supplementing with vitamin D? How are you working to maintain healthy D levels? We’d love to hear your story. Please leave us a comment below.
And don’t forget that Natural Healthy Concepts carries a wide range of vitamin D supplements from the brands you know and trust. You can browse and order your favorites here.
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