Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin micronutrient that contributes to the maintenance of normal bones and muscles.* It is used to support the normal function of the immune system and the process of cell division.* Vitamin D also is required for the normal absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorous, and normal blood calcium levels.* All of these things are very much needed to support anyone who competes at any level, or indeed compete with themselves to keep improving times or weights lifted!
There is a huge amount of monitoring and research undertaken in athletes to try to figure out what diet will give them the edge over their opponents. Despite the special attention given to the diet of athletes, some micronutrient deficiencies do appear. It was generally believed that if athletes, or indeed anyone follows a balanced diet, they will not require supplements, however, this idea is definitely too simplistic, especially in relation to vitamin D.
Requirements for vitamin D are no different from those of the general population, however anything that limits the amount or quality of sun exposure, can compromise vitamin D levels. It is important to remember that one of the factors that has the greatest influence on vitamin D levels is exposure to sunlight. Research to date suggests that certain athletes are at risk for suboptimal vitamin D status, which may increase risks for stress fractures, acute illness, and suboptimal muscle function. Suboptimal vitamin D levels appear both in athletes who mainly train indoors, and at higher latitudes, and in those who train outdoors at lower latitudes.
The other thing to bear in mind is that vitamin D activity is related to the adequate presence of other nutritional factors and it is very important to know the status of other nutrients, like magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in bone mineralization and the maintenance of normal bones* due in part to its positive influence in the synthesis of active vitamin D.
Low vitamin D status could negatively impact the health and training efficiency of athletes. Of course, to move our bodies we need a functioning nervous system. Vitamin D affects the central and peripheral nervous systems. Vitamin D receptors are present throughout the brain, including the primary motor cortex, which is the region that coordinates movement. Vitamin D controls the production of serotonin and dopamine which are crucial for muscle coordination and for avoiding a condition called central fatigue. A high proportion of serotonin and dopamine affects exercise performance due to its effect on the general feeling of tiredness and perceptions of effort. If you have ever had vitamin D deficiency you will know how exhausted you feel all day long and even the simplest of tasks such as walking upstairs can wipe you out, as well as cause awful pelvic and bone pain.
During the recent COVID pandemic we all became more aware of the risks of having low vitamin D levels and the impact on our immune system. The insufficiency of vitamin D in athletes is associated with a higher frequency of diseases, including common colds, influenza and gastroenteritis. In athletes, the incidence of respiratory diseases is higher (especially at the elite level), suggesting that low levels of vitamin D may favour the vulnerability of these professionals to upper respiratory tract infections, while individuals with sufficient levels of vitamin D show a lower risk of infection.
If you are active and living in the UK, but train indoors and don’t get regular sunshine you should consider taking vitamin D all-year-round.
Altruvita Vitamin D is from cholecalciferol and provides 500% of the adult daily requirement for health.
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