Special to WWFHA, pro-staffer Genevieve Masson, MSc, RD, CD in Nutrition
Days get shorter and rainier as fall progresses. Do you feel like you are missing something? Vitamin D maybe?
For a long time scientists, thought vitamin D was nothing more than a good partner of calcium for bone health. Thanks to an increased interest in vitamin D research, we now know that vitamin D is involved in a broad range of functions, many of these being essential to athletes. We now know that vitamin D has a key role in muscle strength and recovery after an effort. Being deficient in vitamin D can make your muscles weaker and smaller as well as increase your risks of being sick, more specifically developing upper respiratory infections such as the common and frustrating cold. So all good reasons to boost your vitamin D levels!
The vitamin D is often called the “sun vitamin” because our skin can produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Kind of like a plant, we need a certain level of sun exposure to maintain our normal functions. However, the sun is not strong and present enough from October to April in the Seattle area to ensure sufficient vitamin D synthesis. If you spend most of the daylight time in an arena, at school or work, it is even worse!
Some foods naturally contain vitamin D such as fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardine, herring), egg yolks and sun-dried mushrooms. Milk, some yogurts, margarine, orange juice and breakfast cereals can be fortified in vitamin D. However, the current levels of fortification are generally insufficient to maintain an optimal vitamin D level in the blood.
The best way to make sure vitamin D levels are sufficient is to have blood levels tested multiple times annually. This test can be expensive and is not always covered by insurance companies. So what to do if you don’t have access to tests? Studies show that most Americans are vitamin D deficient. Many sports nutrition experts recommend taking daily 2000 IU (“IU” for International Unit) of vitamin D3 (better absorbed than vitamin D2) from October to April. You can easily purchase these supplements at your local pharmacy or online.
Don’t wait for spring to come back to boost your vitamin D levels.
Burke, L. and Deakin, V. (2015). Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th ed.): McGraw-Hill Education (Australia) Pty Ltd.
Close, G. (2017). « You are Vitamin D deficient – or are you ? ». http://www.closenutrition.com/?p=590