As an athlete, it’s important that you’re getting the right nutrients to not only keep you healthy, but to also fuel your body when you’re active, and one of those key nutrients is vitamin D.
Research on the relationship between vitamin D and athletes continues to develop, and while many studies have pointed to vitamin D’s role in bone health, studies have also examined its impact on performance and immune function. Athletes with suboptimal vitamin D levels may not perform at their best.
It’s estimated that over 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D insufficiency, with causes including limited sun exposure, lack of fortified nutrition, skin pigmentation and malabsorption, so it’s important to make sure your body is getting the amount it needs.
What are the Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency for Athletes?
When comparing vitamin D status among athletes, researchers are finding similar numbers to those of the general population, although results depend largely on the type of sport (indoor vs. outdoor) and geographical location. Those in colder climates with less sun exposure are at greater risk. This means athletes who train indoors or have limited sun exposure during the winter months and do not supplement have to rely on their bodies’ vitamin D stores, putting them at risk for deficiency.
Vitamin D: Additional Benefits to Athletes
Not only is vitamin D important for bone health and preventing stress fractures, but it also influences muscle function. A study on elite ballet dancers found that dancers who supplemented with 2000 IU/day vitamin D had improvements in vertical jump (7% higher) and an increase in isometric strength (18%). The dancers who were receiving supplementation maintained better physical health than the control group.
Along with potential performance benefits, vitamin D also plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Athletes with heavy training volumes have higher demands on their immune systems than recreationally active individuals. This makes elite athletes more likely to miss playing or competition. In athletes with optimal vitamin D levels, severity scores and days missing play or competition are significantly lower than those with vitamin D deficiency.
How to Keep Your Vitamin D Levels Sufficient
There are some whole food sources that contain vitamin D naturally; cod liver oil, salmon, and egg yolks are some whole food sources of vitamin D, with one egg yolk containing about 44 IU.
Vitamin D is also fortified, or added to, beverages like milk, non-dairy milk alternatives, and some fruit juices and cereals. Athletes who do not achieve regular sun exposure need supplemental vitamin D or a combination of dietary intake and vitamin D supplementation to maintain optimal levels.
As an athlete, it’s recommend that your vitamin D levels should ideally be checked on an annual basis. If deficient or insufficient, athletes should be supplementing with vitamin D to help potentially improve performance and immune function. Consider 1,000-4,000 IU/day from a reputable company such as Klean Athlete.
Our Klean-D 5,000 IU contains natural vitamin D3, providing targeted support for athletes who train indoors or receive limited exposure to natural sunlight.