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Why Athletes Need Vitamin D

January 31, 2011

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Taking in the “sunshine vitamin” is a bright way to improve athletic performance. A study from the American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM] suggests that vitamin D can improve reaction time, muscle strength, speed and endurance in athletes who are deficient in the nutrient.

Although this “sleeper nutrient” is often neglected, it is especially desirable for young athletes. According to nih.gov, adolescent males and females both require 600 International Units [15 micrograms] per day. Vitamin D also has a symbiotic relationship with calcium. Your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium [read more about the two nutrients here]. Since calcium is crucial for bone health, a deficiency of vitamin D can contribute to injuries. Reports nytimes.com, “In a Creighton University study of female naval recruits, stress fractures were reduced significantly after the women started taking supplements of vitamin D and calcium.”

Lack of vitamin D may also impair muscle power. In a test group of adolescent athletes, those with the least amount of vitamin D rated lower in vertical jumping ability [read the article here].

The best source of vitamin D is the sun, whose ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D synthesis when they strike the skin. It is naturally present in relatively few foods. Most athletes don’t get enough, says John Anderson, a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, on nytimes.com.

Further research suggests that “adequate vitamin D intake reduces risk for stress fractures, total body inflammation, infectious illness and impaired muscle function.” Sounds like great motivation to get your daily recommended dose.

Sources:  nytimes.com, livestrong.com, acsm.org, nlm.nih.gov
Photo:  suntan.com

Sarah Gearhart
Sarah Gearhart
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