Nutrition is a vital aspect of performance optimization for runners and athletes. When it comes to recovery from intense exercise, there are a number of things to consider.
Recently, some studies have demonstrated the importance of Vitamin D for runners in enhancing their performance and recovery.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that is gaining increased attention from those interested in sports nutrition. It is crucial for helping our bodies absorb and maintain adequate levels of calcium and phosphate, which are needed to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy and strong.
Humans can absorb Vitamin D naturally through exposure to sunlight, while various protein-rich foods, including egg yolk, fish and dairy products also contain the vitamin D.
Studies revealed that high-level of athletes have Vitamin D deficiency.
Often, this is caused by a lack of awareness that sun exposure is the main source of Vitamin D, but also with our healthy fresh foods which are lacking nutrients due to the soils depletion and chemicals.
Anything that limits the amount or quality of sun exposure can compromise Vitamin D levels. Athletes that primarily train indoors are particularly more at risk
Dietary factors are also important. Very few food sources naturally contain the vitamin D, and the exceptions are often foods that athletes tend to avoid, such as fatty fish and red meat.
Many athletes are also prone to under-fueling, which can increase the risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Why Is Vitamin D Important For Runners?
Vitamin D is critical for keeping runners’ bones, teeth, and muscles healthy and strong.
Having proper Vitamin D levels in runners, reduces their risk of injury, improves muscle strength, and helps recovery.
Improving our Vitamin D status gives our body a better chance of adapting skeletal muscle functions following strenuous exercise.
Muscle power and force in marathon runners are also linked closely to vitamin D levels. Vitamin D supplementation can provide an important boost during recovery from endurance running.
What Are The Risks Of Vitamin D Deficiency For Runners?
Deficiencies in this area can affect endurance and strength, as well as increase injury risk, and bone fractures.
Deficiency in Vitamin D can also increase the risk of muscle myopathy, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
And it turns out that long-distance runners are particularly at risk.
Vitamin D Supplementation For Athletes
Being able to get all of your Vitamin D from the sun and your food is ideal.
But if that’s not possible, or if we are hitting high mileages each week and want to cover our bases, one alternative option for boosting Vitamin D levels is supplementation.
Taking Vitamin D supplements can increase strength, improve physical performance and reduce the risk of injury, especially for those with particularly low levels of the vitamin D.
Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation
A recent study into the effects of Vitamin D supplementation on the skeletal muscles of endurance runners (all of whom were ultramarathon competitors).
The study monitored how runners’ bodies responded to supplementation over a 3-week period.
It was found that 3 weeks of Vitamin D supplementation had a positive effect on serum 25(OH)D levels in endurance-trained runners (this is how Vitamin D levels are measured). Using Vitamin D supplements also caused a marked decrease in levels of post-exercise biomarkers like troponin, myoglobin, creatine kinase, and lactic dehydrogenase.
Essentially, Vitamin D supplementation works. The study concluded that supplementation could play an important role in the prevention of skeletal muscle injuries following exercise with eccentric muscle contraction in athletes.
Type Of Vitamin D Supplement We Should Take
With the big benefits of Vitamin D supplementation, we may be wondering how to integrate this practice into your recovery routine.
The most commonly recommended type of Vitamin D supplement is Vitamin D3. This is the natural form of Vitamin D that our body produces from sunlight.
Many medical professionals have suggested that Vitamin D3 works just as well as D2.
D2 is also referred to as calciferol, and it’s derived from irradiated fungus. But Vitamin D2 supplementation has lower stability, bioavailability, and absorption than D3, and its effects on muscle strength are limited, it is still used by many.
Nutritionists and doctors recommend taking the Vitamin D3 supplement to support the body, muscles, bones with better absorption.
Vitamin D Dosage Recommendation
Taking 400-1000 IU of Vitamin D daily is a relatively risk-free way to reduce the risk of suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. However, this is a dosage that is recommended to the general population. For athletes, higher dosage may be required.
Generally, 2000-6000 IU of daily Vitamin D is the amount recommended for athletes.
As an endurance sport, long-distance runners are likely to require something towards the top end of that recommendation when recovering from intense sessions.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Vitamin D Supplementation?
Well-managed, moderate Vitamin D supplementation is generally pretty low-risk. However, it’s important to be aware of some of the potential problems that may arise.
Vitamin D Toxicity
Using an excessive amount of supplements can result in Vitamin D toxicity, which causes hypercalcemia (a build-up of calcium in the blood). This can lead to nausea, vomiting, anorexia, frequent urination, and in severe cases, altered mental status or kidney failure.
Vitamin D toxicity can sometimes arise due to improperly manufactured supplements, but usually, it’s a result of unintentional consumption of extremely high doses. To take the normal recommended dosage of Vitamin D3- 2000-6000 IU, will avoid toxicity.
Endurance runners and athletes can be at risk of suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, due to factors like dietary choices, training conditions, and under-fueling. If you fall into this category, refer to this list when considering taking Vitamin D for recovery:
Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels reduces the risk of injury, improves muscle strength and helps recovery.
Ensure you are absorbing 30+ minutes of sunlight each day and eating protein-rich food before resorting to supplementation.
Refer to a medical professional to get blood test, when making any decision regarding supplements.
Make sure you take a suitable level of supplementation depending on the intensity of your training and your level of Vitamin D (2000-6000 IU daily is often the amount recommended to athletes).
Beware of Vitamin D toxicity and other potential health risks.
If you take these factors into account and exercise caution when using Vitamin D supplementation, you may find that this practice can boost your ability to recover quickly and perform better.
Maintaining strong Vitamin D levels is crucial for maintaining bone strength, improving physical performance and reducing the risk of bone or muscle injury. Follow the advice, and use this nutritional knowledge to your advantage.
Good Vitamin D3 Supplements, Good Muscle and Bone Density and Strength, Enjoy Great Runs!