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Unless you're spending the winter months in a warm locale and getting plenty of exposure to sunlight, you're probably deficient in vitamin D this time of year.
What's the big deal, you may ask? Well, vitamin D plays a large role in athletic performance. Sufficient levels of vitamin D are needed for normal bone formation because of its role in helping the body use calcium, which is especially important for growing athletes to prevent injury and aid in development.
Vitamin D is also necessary for normal muscle production and strength. A lack of it can lead to muscle weakness, reduced range of motion and increased physical frailty. And although vitamin D's positive impact on muscle strength applies to people of all ages, it is especially important for athletes focused on injury prevention and strength increases.
Plus, it's not a coincidence that the vast majority of cold and flu outbreaks occur during the winter, when people have less sun exposure and lower levels of vitamin D. According to Professor Carsten Geisler, of the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, without vitamin D in the blood, our bodies' immune cells won't activate to detect and kill bacteria and viruses. (Learn more about the importance of vitamin D for athletes)
Hard workouts, practices and games put the central nervous system under constant stress. So athletes are more susceptible to illness, especially in the winter. Avoid potential setbacks from illness and injury and boost your performance by arming yourself with a vitamin D supplement this winter. Vitamin D is available in pill or liquid form, but the latter is preferred for better absorption.
There's debate among researchers about how much vitamin D is too much. On the low end, 10,000 IU (international units) per day seems to be the point of diminishing returns, although some studies suggest that as many as 30,000 IU per day can be taken without toxic effects. For most winter residents, supplementing with 2,000 to 4,000 IU every day provides enough vitamin D to reap its health benefits.
Note: Check with your doctor before taking any supplement, and get a blood test to determine your vitamin D levels before using a supplement. Always take a vitamin D supplement with a meal that includes fat (vitamin D is fat soluble).