Benefit of Vitamin D on Performance
The study involved 103 college athletes from three different southern US NCAA athletic programs. A baseline level of vitamin D was determined for each athlete. Levels of vitamin D are considered adequate when serum levels are greater than 75 nmol/L. Insufficient is considered to be between 50 and 75 nmol/L while deficiency is at serum levels below 50 nmol/L.
Southern US athletes were used as they will received, on average, more sunlight per day than northern athletes. Human skin uses sunlight to create vitamin D.
For the test subject in the study, 9% had a deficient level of vitamin D, 23% were insufficient and 68% had adequate serum levels.
Once a baseline level was determined, data was collected using four physical tests — one-rep squat max, shuttle run, triple hop for distance and the vertical jump. These tests showed the agility, explosiveness, speed and strength of the athletes. Those athlete with lower vitamin D levels were found to be significantly lower in performance scores in every test.
The study’s authors concluded: “These findings demonstrate that even athletes living in the southern U.S. are at risk for vitamin insufficiency and deficiency and that maintaining adequate vitamin D status may be important for these athletes to optimise their muscular strength and power.”
Other Benefit of Vitamin D Studies
This new study adds more information to other research that has shown a strong correlation between athletic performance and the benefit of vitamin D in athletes. The journal PLOS One published a study that showed vitamin D level were strongly linked to better muscle strength, sprinting capacity and VO2 max in pro soccer players. The best example I have found is the 2015 study found in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Professional football players who had higher vitamin D levels were more likely to sign a contract in the NFL. Overall, the better football players were found to have optimum levels of vitamin D.
With the recent studies being done on athletes with lots of exposure to sunlight, it is now quite apparent that even athlete who would normally be expected to have good vitamin D levels, do not realise they are deficient. The benefit of vitamin D means all athletes should aim to get exposure to sunlight as well as eat foods like egg yolks, fatty fish (also high in omega-3 fatty acids) and vitamin D fortified milk and cereals.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 daily International Units (IU) for most adults. Many sports dietitians recommend athlete to take higher amounts. Some suggest levels as high as 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily.
The benefit of vitamin D for athletes has been shown to be quite compelling. Those in sunny areas will likely get the amount they need but a supplement can prove to be helpful.
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About the Author
Jacques Delorme has coached for more than 25 years at all age levels and is a certified coach in five sports. He has a strong background in sports nutrition including certification as a Youth Athlete Nutrition Specialist and a Football Nutrition Specialist. He is the Nutrition Advisor for the Regina Thunder Football Club and Sask Volleyball.
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