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Vitamin D in Sports Performance

An image depicting an athlete jogging through a burst of sunlight

Athletes are often working to find every possible way to improve their performance. After all, when you are an athlete, small differences can lead to big success. Many people are surprised to find that vitamin D plays an important role in athletic performance.

This is particularly interesting given what is known about vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been called a worldwide epidemic with 42% of people in the United States alone suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Let’s take a look at how vitamin D can affect sports performance.

How Vitamin D Affects Athletic Performance

There are actually a number of ways that vitamin D affects sports performance. This is not surprising given that existing research has shown that vitamin D is responsible for a number of important processes within the body.

Muscle Strength. For athletes, the strength of their muscles is extremely important in how well they execute. Vitamin D actually has a number of contributions to muscles. First, it is necessary for healthy muscle growth. However, it is also imperative for muscle functioning as it regulates the contractility of muscles.

Athletes who are deficient in vitamin D may have increased muscle weakness and suffer more injuries. Research found that higher levels of vitamin D are associated with lower occurrences of muscle injuries in sports as well as better overall performance.

Bone Strength. We all know that calcium consumption is key for developing bones; however vitamin D also plays an important role in this process. Vitamin D essentially helps your body to be able to effectively absorb calcium. Without healthy levels of vitamin D, even people who get enough calcium may be unable to maintain healthy bones.

For athletes, a broken bone can spell up to a year out of action. As the foundation of our body, our skeletons are critical for athletic performance. While muscles do the work, skeletons comprise the frame. Thus, having healthy bone density is important for athletes. Studies have confirmed that athletes with low vitamin D levels are more likely to suffer fractures.

Fatigue and Sickness. A common sign of vitamin D deficiency is fatigue. For athletes, this can cause a number of problems. If you are suffering from fatigue, you may not engage in as much training while you also may get less from your training than if you were well rested. This can have a negative impact on performance over time.

Additionally, the effect of vitamin D on the immune system is well known. Vitamin D promotes immune health with people who have adequate vitamin D intake getting sick much less frequently. Athletes put a strain on their bodies and need greater immune protection.

Athletes & Vitamin D: What to Do

If you are an athlete wanting to achieve your best, you may want to assess your level of vitamin D health. Vitamin D deficiency can put a damper on your athletic abilities and even lead to troublesome injuries while getting enough vitamin D can help keep your body in top shape.

Vitamin D deficiency can particularly be a problem for athletes during the winter months as the primary source of vitamin D is the sun. Many athletes supplement their vitamin D health during the winter months by sending extra time in front of a sun lamp than they do in the summer. Assessing your vitamin D health may allow you to optimize your sports performance.