Vitamin D is best known as the mood boosting sunshine supplement but there are other reported benefits about this vitamin that may interest those who are looking to improve athletic performance.
When talking about Vitamin D, its important to realise that Vitamin D is no ordinary vitamin. Firstly, it is the only Vitamin that your body is able to make itself and when your body gets vitamin D, it turns that Vitamin D into a hormone. This hormone is referred to as active Vitamin D. This active form of Vitamin D is not only a hormone, but also a secosteroid. Since we are mentioning the word steroid along side athletic performance, it is important to explain that steroid hormones are substances made from cholesterol that circulate in the body and begin to work at distant sites by activating genetic protein transcription. Basically, both Vitamin D and testosterone set in motion your genome, which is the genetic material of life. Although, testosterone and vitamin D are different; in that testosterone is a sex steroid hormone and vitamin D is a pleomorphic steroid hormone.
Vitamin D is a completely safe vitamin that is made naturally by the body and as the majority of people are likely to be deficient in this vital vitamin, many health agencies recommend supplementing. If you are vitamin D deficient, medical literature suggests that the right amount of vitamin D can make you faster and stronger, whilst improving your balance and timing. So lets take a look at some of the studies surrounding this area.
Improved Athletic Performance
One of the first notable studies to look at is a study performed on Russian athletes. Russian researchers used ultraviolet sunlamps on the front and backs of athletes in the hope that it would improve performance. The two groups trained the same for the 100-meter sprint but one group was given extra exposure to UV lamps and the other was not. The test group was small but the findings proved very interesting to the athletic world as the study reported that the group using the UV lamps lowered its sprint time by 1.7%
A separate American researcher, Rosentswieg conducted a study to test the effects of UV light on 23 college women and recording differing improvements in muscle strength after one and five hours of exposure to UV light.
Another American researcher, named Cheatum found that by exposing participants to six-minutes of UV light on each side of the body during his tests resulted in an increase in the speed of 15 college women during a 30-yard dash.
The above tests use UV rays which stimulate the production of Vitamin D, however as UV rays have been linked to eye damage and skin cancer, Vitamin D supplementation allows us to harness these benefits safely.
More recently, researchers tested a small group of teenage athletes, and found that those with the lowest levels of Vitamin D did less well at vertical jumps; suggesting that a lack of vitamin D may impair muscle power.
Injury and Illness Prevention
Vitamin D, specifically Vitamin D3 is also thought to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, as it helps your body absorb calcium more effectively. This increase in calcium absorption also leads to an increase in bone density which means stronger bones and less fractures. When you combine this with the improvements to muscular help with Vitamin D provides, you have a reduced risk of sporting injury.
Vitamin D is also known to improve your immune system and a strong immune system will keep your body fit for exercise; That's less days off work and less missed training days.
Why Supplementation is Crucial
Although there is no set Recommended Daily allowance for Vitamin D, a strength of 5000iu is thought to provide a sufficient daily dose for optimum functioning. Put simply, it is extremely difficult and can be expensive to get to this level of iu if we rely on sun and food sources. Lets face it, the UK doesn't see much sun and the dangers of UV rays are highly publicised.
The rise in athletic ability that vitamin D may give you is ultimately dependent on how deficient you are to begin with. However, when you combine the many other benefits of Vitamin D supplementation, its difficult to see why any one who is looking to improve overall health and performance would not give it a try.