Vitamin D is made by your body when sunlight hits your skin, so consider taking your training outside because science is now linking it to increased muscle strength, as well as injury prevention…
The Doctor Says Get Outdoors
Doctors are deliberately vague about how much sun we need to get our Vitamin D, because it depends on where you in the world, but most agree 10-15 minutes skin exposure at midday, with no sunscreen a few times a week is good enough. Sounds simple, but in reality, most of us spend too much time indoors eyeballing screens to hit that target. A 2009 study published in the Archives Of Internal Medicine found that 83% of Americans were Vitamin D deficient, compared to 55% in 1988.
‘Vitamin D supplements had a positive effect on bench press and leg press one-rep max scores’
Get Stronger With Sunshine D
A 2018 review of Vit D studies in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has found that optimal levels are linked to muscle strength. It points to a 2015 study, which tested the bench press and leg press one-rep max scores of people taking Vit D supplements and found a significant positive effect. Other studies have seen increased grip strength in people getting enough Vit D. Of course, it could be possible to hit optimal levels of Vit D through sunlight and foods…
Nature’s Vit D Stores
There’s disagreement about how much Vit D you need daily. In 2011 the US Institute of Medicine recommended 600 IU for most of us, but then the Endocrine Society upped that to 1,500 IU. Whatever the optimal level, the chances are you’re not catching enough rays, but you can turn to food sources in your diet. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are good sources (both have 400 IU in 85 ounces), while a large egg has 10 IU, and a cup of milk has 98 IU.
Even Athletes Need More
Think that being active and fit means you’re unlikely to be Vitamin D deficient? Think again: a 2015 study in Sports Medicine of athletes with an average age of 22 found that 56% were deficient and the risk was worse in those who played a winter or spring sport, or lived further north. In the UK, Rugby Super League winners Leeds Rhinos have been working with nutritionists to lift their own levels. As BetterYou’s Greg Weatherhead says: ‘Looking at the players results, the majority’s vitamin D levels were optimal (equal or higher than 100nmol/L) due to recent sun exposure, which is good news as vitamin D is essential for strengthening bones and immune function. However, a third of the players had suboptimal levels, which needed to be improved.’
‘Royal Marines recruits who were Vitamin D deficient had 68% more stress fractures’
Prevent Injury With Rays
It’s well known that Vitamin D is vital for bone health, and there are few physical challenges that stress test your skeleton better than training for the UK’s Royal Marines. So, scientists ran a study of recruits to test a link between Vitamin D and stress fracture risk. They discovered that those deficient (less than 20ng/mL) had a wincingly 68% higher incidence of stress fractures.
Faster And Better
Because Vit D isn’t controlled by the World Doping Agency, science has looked into the effects of giving athletes elevated doses. One Journal Of Sports Science study gave sportspeople 5,000 IU of Vit D every day for eight weeks and discovered that they were able to jump significantly higher, and sprint faster too. Of course, care has to be taken not to take too high a dose of Vitamin D because it becomes dangerously toxic. Another study into 80 American Football players found that 77% were deficient, but that players with lower Vitamin D levels were more likely to be released from the team early after injury or performance problems.
Whatever your sport or gym goals you’ll be doing yourself a favour if you get Vit D on your side…
WHAT NEXT? As well as stress fractures, The Royal Marines know a thing or two about survival skills – RSNG’s former Royal Marines Commando Sean Lerwill reveals what you absolutely have to pack when getting the ‘F’ out of here…
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
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